Well, it’s not really BlackBerry, they’re being dubbed “Berry” and come in Straw, Blue, Grey and Grape flavors. Somewhat more appropriate than the CrackBerry moniker their data addicted parents have given theirs. For $20, kids can have a similar device, capable of storing phone numbers, email addresses, schedule data while offering functions like a phone, calculator and password protection. Sakar sent me a StrawBerry unit to play with, and while I’m not a kid, I’ve been told countless times I act like one, so I should qualify for this overview.
The Berry runs on two AAA batteries that are not included, but a phone line for making calls and a hands free earpiece are included. That’s right, the Berry can act as a phone as well; it just requires a landline instead of a mobile service carrier. The experience is pretty good, kids love to have their own things, and a small portable phone has a certain coolness to it. Kids will be able to talk on the phone while keeping their hands free to do homework, errr, online chat. The top piece slides off, making for a tiny tote-able phone. The dialer doesn’t actually connect to the phone book, but what do you want at this price point?
The really funny thing about the Berry is the keyboard is better than the keyboard on some PDAs I’ve used. The Straw model has a number pad that doubles as a text entry system, similar to that of a cell phone. I found it to work as expected, a little tedious at times, but most kids have more patience than I do. The Berry comes with a small manual that gives explicit directions on how to operate each function and input data. There’s a little bit of a learning curve, the interface is pretty limited. But overall I’m sure most users will get up to speed within 20-30 minutes, possibly with a little help from mom or dad.
Overall this is a fun toy/tool that for $20 is worth the investment. Hey, it even comes with a one year warranty, that’s better than what palmOne offers on some units. The Berry’s are being unveiled at the CES on January 6th and will see retail stores at that point. For the budding PDA enthusiast, you would do well to start here with the basics.