Friday, May 4, 2007

So Many BlackBerries, So Little Time

Is it just me, or does it seem like the average lifecycle for a product is getting shorter, and shorter? I don't mean that new products are introduced, and then quickly replaced before you can make it to the front of the line at Best Buy (although this certainly is sometimes the case). What I do mean is that as soon as one product has been introduced, another one is released so quickly afterward, you can never really feel like you've got the best of the best, the latest and greatest, the cream of the crop.

Don't get me wrong, this is a good thing. If technology develops that quickly, imagine what possibilities the future holds! But sometimes, it would be nice to catch my breath and enjoy a new gadget before the "next best thing" hits the market, and I feel like yesterday's news.

I started working on my portable messaging article for here's how! magazine a few months back, and the BlackBerry Pearl was the latest and greatest that RIM had to offer, and the only BlackBerry model with multimedia capabilities, and an integrated camera. Fantastic! I played around with this model, and LOVED it. Then, in April, out came the BlackBerry 8800, a more business-oriented unit. So I snagged this one and took it out for a test drive. Now, Rogers Wireless has announced that an even NEWER, even sexier, BlackBerry Curve will hit the Canadian market in June. Geesh. I can't keep up.

I guess it's not so much about shorter product lifecycles as it is that there's more customization of products today then there has been in the past. Nevertheless, in any area of technology, there's pretty much something for everyone.

Anyway, here are a few highlights of the BlackBerry Pearl, 8800, and Curve, the former two of which I've had plenty of hands-on with:

PEARL: This model incorporates a SureType keyboard, which takes some getting used to (i.e. it's annoying if you don't have any patience!) Once I got the hang of it, it was actually quite neat. How it works: The keyboard attaches three letters to each number key, just like a standard phone would. Then, just hit the button associated with the letter you want ONCE, and the phone will intelligently adjust to the proper words as you type. Here's a tip: don't look at the screen while you're typing. Otherwise, you'll feel the need to constantly correct it, and you'll get a headache the size of Mt. Everest! In my tests, SureType was sure enough with standard words probably about 95% of the time, which is pretty impressive. It insisted once that when i wanted to type "she", I really wanted to say "age". But that was about the only time it didn't get it right. If the SureType does fail to input the incorrect word, you can simply revert back and fix it.

Another good thing about this keyboard input method is that it's even designed to learn new words or letter combinations and add them to a custom list. Before long, "marketnews" was a recognized term in my list. Phone numbers and passwords are inputted via the standard MultiTap method (hitting the 2 key three times for the letter "C" and so on).

Probably the biggest improvement between this model and previous-generation models is the trackball for navigation. It sort of looks like a little Pearl, and glides every which way for scrolling through a list of e-mails, documents, menu functions, and Web pages. It's worth it to get this model just for that feature!

8800: The instant I saw this device, I new it was made more for the business customer than the younger crowd. Not to say it isn't sleek and downright gorgeous (although some in the office didn't like the glossy black finish), but it foregos a lot of the "fun" features, like an integrated digital camera. And it reverts back to a standard QWERTY keyboard. This model also incorporates that neat trackball and adds GPS navigation. For a full review of this model, stay tuned to the June issue of here's how! magazine!

CURVE: Although it hasn't hit the Canadian market yet, the Curve appears to integrate the "best of both worlds". Like the pearl-coloured Pearl, it's finished in a lighter shade (silver and chrome, to be exact) rather than BlackBerry's traditional black. Like the 8800, it employs a standard QWERTY keyboard. It's integrated digital camera is a leg-up on the Pearl's: it features 2 MP resolution instead of the Pearl's measly 1.3 MP. And of course it also includes the new trackball (arguably the best improvement on all three models!)

It'll be interesting to see which model will fare best in the market. Let me know which model YOU'D choose?

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