Blackberry Thoughts - Week #1

As you may have noticed, this blog is about mobility in general but focuses mainly on Windows Mobile.
I have no intention to change that in the near future, but I do have a confession to make…

For almost a week now, I’ve been secretly using Blackberry 8800 as my personal phone…
(there… I said it! Now you know!)

It may sound like a lame excuse, but I’m doing it for a reason (which relates to my real work), believe me.
(I didn’t switch sides, I will never throw away my good old Treo 750, I will continue to develop Windows Mobile tools.)

The thing is, that even though I’m still a Windows Mobile addict, I must be honest about this Blackberry stuff and say – it’s pretty good!

And so, I have decided to add some of my Blackberry thoughts to this blog.
Nothing fancy, just my personal thoughts about the user interface, and the way the device works for me…

Here’s some of my first impression thoughts about the Blackberry 8800:

Size and design:
A bit too wide in my opinion, but the device is pretty skinny (similar to Motorola Q9).
It looks fancy and in high quality. Not like the BOLD, but still nice.
The 8800 has a very good keyboard. Better than the Treo750, and better than the Qwerty keyboard of the TyTN. I don’t know the reason, maybe it’s those goofy keys, but I can type really fast with the keyboard, which is nice for mails and notes.
Well, what can I say, simple, efficient, smooth, addictive, fun, cool, pure joy.

Phone quality:
The phone quality is better than the WinMo devices I’ve used in the past.
Using both the speakerphone and the car speakers (with Bluetooth) works very good and I like it.

Phone features:
In terms of phone features, the 8800 has a nice call log which I use a lot.
I can start dial from almost all the main windows which is important.
It is similar to the call log I have in the Treo 750 with a great lookup mechanism (you type few letters and the lookup uses the numbers and the letters to look for the relevant matches) – basic but very useful.

Mails & Messages:
Interesting concept; all the messages are in the same location.
Same inbox list for SMS, Mails, Messengers, etc.
Not sure I like it, since I consider my mails to be less important (and require less real-time attention) than my SMS, so in general I think it’s a disadvantage.

One thing I did like a lot in the inbox folder: If the mail I’ve just composed is not sent – I immediately see it in my inbox in pending status.
It’s something small but amazingly important for me: In Windows Mobile you need to check for you “outbox” messages to see if something was not yet sent.
I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to check my sent items, outbox, etc.
Switching folders is a burden!
If it was sent – great, if not – I need to be aware of that and the better way is to simply present it in the main view I’m using – which is the inbox.
Obviously someone in RIM thought carefully about this point before developing this feature – and came up with a great solution.

User Interface in General:
This is something I find brilliant and annoying at the same time.
On one hand - perfect simplicity, easy to know your way around.
On the other hand, everything looks like notepad, text based user interface… WAP based phone…
It saves screen place but it looks U.G.L.Y.
Using the trackball is huge. It's perfect when I look through long lists such as mails, contacts, just wonder around my endless lists with this cool toy.
But what about menus and shortcuts? the Trackball is far less accurate than a dpad navigation, I often find myself moving back and forth to look for the relevant menu item (e.g. delete a mail...).
Since it's all presented as long textual lists, I find it a bit annoying.
What I miss is a visual indication in the menus, separators, icons, colors, etc.
In windows Mobile – you can use the dpad to navigate through items based on visual instincts, and after a while, even count your clicks; 2 clicks down for this, 4 clicks left for that – with a trackball you cannot do it, you have to read the text instead.

That’s it for today, all in all - a very good first impression, but still a lot to learn towards next week’s thoughts.