- Built-in GPS, multimedia, full QWERTY keyboard, design
- No camera, not 3G, BlackBerry Maps application is very basic
The 8800 adds built-in GPS to a device already packed with features. Combined with the design overhaul, this sleek and stylish BlackBerry is definitely a winner.
Price$ 899.00 (AUD)
BlackBerry has long been synonymous with business and substance, but with the release of the 8800, its clear RIM has decided that business and substance can also be achieved in style. At just 14mm the 8800 is the thinnest BlackBerry ever released and offers all the functionality of previous units, but adds built-in GPS to an already impressive array of features.
Despite the design overhaul and addition of a number of entertainment functions, the 8800 is foremost an email device, and it supports the standard RIM push e-mail technology that BlackBerry handsets are well known for. It allows access of up to ten email accounts simultaneously and supports many popular ISP email accounts as well as Microsoft Exchange and IBM Lotus Domino. The email application of the 8800 is similar to previous units, and each mailbox is automatically synchronised whenever you read, send or delete emails on the handset itself. Unfortunately, emails are still date stamped with the time they are downloaded to your handset, rather than the time they were actually sent. For personal email, such as POP3 accounts, setup is a simple process of entering your email address and password and letting the 8800 do the rest. The 8800 also supports instant messaging clients such as AOL, ICQ, MSN, Google Talk and Yahoo!.
As a mobile phone, the 8800 is a well equipped device, offering voice activated dialling, conference calling, speed dialling and call forwarding. For voice calls, the 8800 was clear, though not as crisp or loud as some regular mobile phones. The hands free speakerphone function also worked quite well in our tests, but background noise was an issue, and again, volume could have been louder. RIM has also included some PDA-like functions; a calendar, address book, alarm clock and to-do list are all included as standard applications. The lack of a stylus and touch screen may limit the 8800's use as an organiser, but the QWERTY keyboard and intuitive trackball should be fine for most users. Like most smart phones, 8800 users can synchronise their calendar, address book, email and task lists between a desktop PC and the phone using the bundled BlackBerry desktop software. The 8800 also has Bluetooth 2.0.
The 8800 is the first BlackBerry to feature built-in GPS. The popular SiRF Star III GPS receiver wins a place here; the same receiver is used on almost all stand alone GPS units, including the likes of TomTom, Navman and Garmin. We weren't able to test the 8800's turn-by-turn navigational features, as RIM doesn't have the Australian maps available yet, but we were able to get a satellite fix in about a minute or so. The default mapping application included on the 8800 is BlackBerry Maps. When maps are available, it will find street-level maps of most locations, but it's quite a basic piece of software. It can't search via postcodes, for example, and there is no 3D view. According to RIM, the Australian maps will be made available in coming weeks via a free over-the-air download, as you need them. Regardless, if you intend to use this for turn-by-turn navigation, our advice is to download and install one of the many third party mapping applications that should be available shortly, such as TelMap.
The 8800 includes a media player that supports most common file formats including MP3 and AAC audio and MPEG4 and H.263 video. Unfortunately, the headphone jack is 2.5mm rather than the standard 3.5mm. Video isn't anything to write home about, as the small screen makes it less than ideal. Photos on the other hand looked quite sharp and vibrant. Oddly enough, the 8800 doesn't include a digital camera like the BlackBerry Pearl 8100. Content is stored on either the 64MB of flash memory, or a microSD card (not included). The latter is easily accessible underneath the rear cover and conveniently users don't have to remove the battery to swap the microSD card.
The candy bar style 8800 shares many design features with its baby brother, the BlackBerry Pearl 8100. It has the same attractive, shiny black and silver finish, as well as the incandescent pearl-white trackball for navigation. Once again, we're not sure how the trackball will hold up after a few months of use. It doesn't feel strong or sturdy and accuracy is an issue. The phone measures 114mm x 66mm x 14mm and weighs a comfortable 134g.
The improvement in design does have one compromise; the 8800's QWERTY keyboard is much smaller than previous models, so typing does take some time to grasp. We weren't able to achieve speeds as fast as we did on the BlackBerry Pearl 8100, or the , both of which have more space between the keys.
The 8800 includes a 1400mAhr Lithium-Ion battery and it provides up to 528 hours of standby time and five hours of talk time, according to RIM figures. With medium usage, we managed to squeeze about three days out of the 8800, which is a fairly good result. The 8800 is charged via a standard mini-USB cable, or the included AC adapter.
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