Cingular Wireless recently began offering the BlackBerry 8800, its latest cellular-wireless handheld, and only the second model from RIM to offer support for playing video and MP3s.
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I received one of these late last week, and so few reviews have been writen about it I thought I’d share my first thoughts on it.
Sort of a Big Pearl…
The 8800 is in many ways a full QWERTY version of the recently-released BlackBerry Pearl, right down to the trackball in place of the traditional Blackberry jog dial.
The trackball is exactly what it sounds like — a small rubberized ball mounted in a socket allowing it to rotate freely, which is used to provide directional input in place of a directional pad.
I’ve only had a limited amount of time so far to get used to the trackball method, but I’m finding it a bit awkward for navigation. There’s a tendancy to overshoot the target, since the ball lacks a way to accurately gauge how far you’re moving. There’s not the simple one click, one move tactile response of a pad or even a jog dial. It does, however, allow you to press inward to select things.
…But Not Exactly
No mistake, though, the 8800 is not a direct copy of the Pearl with a different keyboard. It dispenses with the Pearl’s in-built camera in favor of a much more useful feature: GPS.
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The 8800 includes a true internal GPS receiver, suitable for navigation and all sorts of location-based services. Including, no doubt, keeping an eye on wandering business users and wayward devices.
Pity that RIM didn’t include Google Earth in the standard software package the way it has on some previous models, but Cingular would likely have frowned on that, since this carrier would rather users subscribe to their TeleNav service if they want maps.
One thing that does concern me is that they keyboard seems a bit soft for my taste: squishy, and with little in the way of tactile response.
Overall, my early impressions of the BlackBerry 8800 are fairly positive.
How things come out in the end depends on a number of factors, though, including whether the trackball turns out to be more value than it is trouble, how usable the keyboard is in extended duty, and whether the device can perform adequately as a multi-purpose terminal as well as a business email device.
I’ll have a full review of this device out in a few weeks.