As of August 2005 I have joined the ranks of the Blackberry toting corporate types. I had a Blackberry device years ago (~1999) that I mostly used as a 2-way pager – it was OK but once inter-carrier SMS text messaging became available with cell phones I saw no point in carrying two devices. Since then I had largely grown to despise the device – simply because they tended to be used by annoying corporate types as a tool to ignore people in meetings. In the past year or so I have been finding myself away from the office a fair bit, including international travel and would find myself coming home to a backlog of 100+ email messages per day. I needed a way to stay in touch (mostly in between meetings – not DURING them) with e-mail. A couple of people fueled my desire for a Blackberry – the first was Scott who kept mentioning that his new company had a deal on Blackberries and that he was thinking of getting one – the second was a client of mine who was testing the Blackberry and let me play with the device. Within 2 hours of playing with one I bought one, and within 6 hours after that I was up and running with Blackberry Enterprise Server service on my Microsoft Exchange e-mail account. Here is what I have determined so far:
- Blackberry Enterprise server makes the device VERY useful. It keeps everything in perfect sync between my Exchange in-box, my calendar and my contacts.
- The Blackberry 7290 device that I use is Quand Band GSM and will work just about everywhere in the world where there is GSM service.
- Cingular’s $65/Month (on top of a voice plan) Blackberry International plan provides me with unlimited data usage in just about any country I would ever need to visit. I cannot find a less expensive way to have “always connected” e-mail while travelling around the US and internationally.
- The device is awkward as a phone. Thats OK though. I mostly interested in it for data. Its probably fine for someone who wants to carry a single device that is mostly used for e-mail and sometimes used for voice. I prefer a phone for regular voice use though.
- The keyboard is just OK. Its better than using T9 on a phone device but I find myself keeping messages short because its not as pleasant to use as a larger keyboard.
Bottom line – if you are a Microsoft Exchange user the Blackberry is an amazingly powerful device that will keep your e-mail, contacts and calendar in sync with your Exchange account in real time. I tested it briefly with POP and IMAP and its OK but it REALLY shines with Exchange keeping all of my PIM information in perfect sync while on the road. The new Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 looks pretty slick and I will keep an eye on that for the future but for today the Blackberry suits me just fine and I can certainly see why it has achieved a slang name of the “Crackberry” by people who have used it!