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My BlackBerry is a Raisin

August 11, 2010 4 comments

Is it possible to really like a mobile device? Nah.

People with Androids and iPhones seem enamored enough. But the rest of us, not so much.

After having owned and used a Palm Pilot, Palm III, Palm IIIc, Palm V, Palm VII, Palm VIIx, Treo 600, Treo 650 and Centro, I decided to make a switch. The new Palm Pixie seemed flimsy, and although Hewlett Packard had acquired Palm, I thought it would be too long before a better device came out. And the Palm operating system had become stale.

So I took the plunge into Blackberry. Why not iPhone? Simple. I wanted to stay on Verizon’s network. Verizon, for whatever faults it has, has always provided good support.

Since everyone else in the business world that doesn’t have an iPhone seems to have a BlackBerry, I joined that crowd. Now I’m wondering, what is the big deal? The BlackBerry is a mediocre system. What I’ve learned:

1. In 2010, it is still a horrible chore to switch platforms if you hope to keep a database of contacts and preserve your calendar. Retail store help is universally ignorant of any sort of practical understanding of how people actually use devices. Once you transfer data from one device to another, you’ve got weeks and months of corrections and de-duplications to do, one contact at a time.

2. The Blackberry desktop sync software is pathetically primitive and slow, actually a little worse than Palm’s ancient application, and it doesn’t come with a nice organizer app for the desktop like the venerable Palm Desktop. And, BlackBerry Desktop simply doesn’t capture everything you’ve entered into an application it does purportedly sync with like Address Book on the Mac. Or it takes every iCal entry and puts it twice on the device. Or something else goes wrong. Moreover, it does not capture photos from the BlackBerry and move them to your computer. I do give it credit for being Mac compatible.

3. Whereas Palm offered free online help in the form of chat sessions with a person, Blackberry has no free support unless you go through the carrier. Otherwise you pay BlackBerry $60, or are on your own with an incomplete instruction booklet or a confusing online knowledge base. For one problem I encountered you get back a matter-of-fact message: no fix. I’m afraid to download the updates when advised by BlackBerry — the first two times I tried it wouldn’t load or install and I don’t want to wipe out the device.

4. The BlackBerry device itself is only so-so. I don’t know why, but I expected a dramatic increase in speed and spiffiness when I unwrapped my BlackBerry Tour 9630. I give it high marks for battery life, solid construction and good looks. The screen is bright and sharp. But some of the software is inferior to my humble, discontinued Palm Centro. Switching between phone calls is an exercise in faith. The browser seems several generations old. The messaging and dialing interfaces are due for an update.

5. While the keyboard is good, there is no dedicated <.> button. If there is a way to lock the shift or supershift buttons, I haven’t figured it out.

E-mail, of course, is the BlackBerry’s strong suit, and I have three accounts coming into mine that keep me up to date when I’m on the go. But I’m still searching for the device that’s a good phone, good organizer and good e-mailer all in one. I’m stuck with the BlackBerry for a year. I’m getting used to its limitations and finding new little things to both love and hate.

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