BlackBerry devices are hitting the market place at a staggering rate – nine new devices were introduced just this year alone. The newest wave of BlackBerries are tending to be ‘upgrades’ to the Pearl, Curve and 8820 series devices. The newest feature – that has potential to be a ‘killer’ feature is WiFi. While not new on Smartphones – this is revolutionary for a BlackBerry.
Recently, I had the chance to take a look at the new 8820 for ATT. This is essentially the trusted 8800 (which has replaced the 8700 series) as the staple of Corporate America.
The 8820 is dressed in Corporate ‘Black’ attire and sports the trackball (as do all the BlackBerries.) If you are in the market for a BlackBerry – this might just be the device for you. Read on for a comprehensive look at the new BlackBerry 8820. About RIM
Research In Motion is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of innovative wireless solutions for the worldwide mobile communications market. Through the development of integrated hardware, software and services that support multiple wireless network standards, RIM provides platforms and solutions for seamless access to time-sensitive information including e-mail, phone, SMS messaging, Internet and intranet-based applications. RIM technology also enables a broad array of third party developers and manufacturers to enhance their products and services with wireless connectivity to data. RIM’s portfolio of award-winning products, services and embedded technologies are used by thousands of organizations around the world and include the BlackBerry(r) wireless platform, software development tools, radio-modems and software/hardware licensing agreements. Founded in 1984 and based in Waterloo, Ontario, RIM operates offices in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. RIM is listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market (Nasdaq: RIMM) and the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: RIM).
Here are the features and specification on the BlackBerry 8820 from the RIM web site:
The new BlackBerry 8820 is the first WiFi-enabled BlackBerry device that also supports GSM/GPRS/EDGE data coverage! The built-in 802.11a/b/g Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) support enables additional data coverage by utilizing existing wireless networks at work or at home. Add to that the ultra fast data rates provided by WLAN connectivity and you have a robust device that doesn’t compromise on core functionality and features.
The BlackBerry 8820 features complete functionality, including*:
Corporate data access 1
Wi-Fi support so you can connect to virtually any Wi-Fi network**
64 MB of memory and expandable memory via microSD card
Full QWERTY keyboard
Dedicated Send, End and Mute keys, a trackball navigation system, plus user definable convenience keys
Speakerphone and Voice Dialing
High capacity battery
Bluetooth(r) capability for hands-free dialogue via headsets and car kits
Stereo headset capable
Integrated attachment viewing
Compatibility with popular Personal Information Management (PIM) software
High resolution, light sensing screen that adjusts lighting levels automatically for ideal indoor and outdoor viewing
Easy email integration with your business and/or personal email accounts
Corporate data access 1
Size and Weight
4.73 oz/134g (Weight)
Stereo headset capable
Integrated earpiece/ microphone
Headset, hands-free and serial port profiles supported (Bluetooth(r) technology)
Supported video formats: MPEG4 Part 2 Simple Profile, H.263, WMV
1400 mAhr (Removable/ rechargeable lithium cell)
Approximate Battery Life
528 hours or 22 days (Standby time)
300 minutes or 5 hours (Talk time)
Expandable memory – support for microSD card
64 MB (Flash memory)
RIM(r) wireless modem
Tethered modem capability 1
Works with BlackBerry(r) Enterprise Server for Microsoft(r) Exchange
Works with BlackBerry(r) Enterprise Server for IBM(r) Lotus(r) Domino(r)
Works with BlackBerry(r) Enterprise Server for Novell(r) GroupWise(r)
Integrates with an existing enterprise email account
Integrates with existing personal email account
Integrates with optional new device account
Password protection and keyboard lock
Support for AES or Triple DES encryption when integrated with BlackBerry(r) Enterprise Server 2
Optional support for S/MIME
Wi-Fi: 802.11b/g 3
Wi-Fi: 802.11a 3
North America: 850 MHz GSM/GPRS networks
North America: 1900MHz GSM(r)/GPRS networks
Europe/Asia Pacific: 1800MHz GSM/GPRS networks
Europe/Asia Pacific: 900MHz GSM/GPRS networks
The BlackBerry(r) 8820 smartphone works with your organization’s BlackBerry(r) Enterprise Solution to provide enterprise class functionality, including:
Advanced security features
Push delivery of data from corporate applications
Remote address look-up
Wireless synchronization with corporate PIM tools
Single mailbox integration
The BlackBerry 8820 smartphone also gives you Wi-Fi access**, which means that if your organization has deployed the BlackBerry Enterprise Solution, you can securely access all your corporate data over Wi-Fi networks, onsite or off. Your BlackBerry services will deliver the same functionality as when you’re connected to the mobile network.
The first thing one notices about the 8820 is the visual similarity to the rest of the BlackBerry lineup. The new ‘Family’ look is apparent in the 8800, 8300 and 8100 series devices. The trackball is the same size and front and center of the device. The glossy finish is present in a black color on the front and back and chrome accents on the sides and top.
The 8820 is definitely sleek and sexy. Those who are used to the hard, tough and rubberized finish to BlackBerry Devices might find the 8820 a little ‘fancy’ compared to their old device. The 8820 is slippery – every surface is smooth and it feels like it could slide right out of your hand. When I looked at one of the first 8800 devices many months ago, it felt like there was some ‘give’ in the sides – like the build quality may not have been up to RIM’s previous ‘tough’ devices. I don’t feel that at all on this device – it is very solid and seems to be quite sturdy.
The 8820 is designed to fit very nicely in one’s hand. The size is comparable to the Motorola Q. It is wider than a Treo, but almost as narrow as a Q. It seems bigger to hold, however than the Q – that might just be an optical illusion. It is definitely bigger than the BlackBerry Curve and much bigger than the svelte Pearl.
The screen is wider than the Pearl and the same size as the Curve. There is a lot of space around the screen which makes me wonder why RIM didn’t put an even bigger screen in this device.
On the front of the device, under the screen, there is the trackball – front and center – with the ‘Escape’ or ‘Back’ key to the right and the ‘Menu’ key to the left of the trackball. To the left of the Menu key sits the familiar ‘Green’ phone key which places calls or accesses the phone menus and to the far right is the ‘Red’ end or cancel key.
The 8820 is designed so that it can gain quick acceptance in the corporate world – that means that no camera is included. It does have Media features which are quite good – but no camera means that some in the consumer market might steer towards a more full featured smartphone.
The biggest addition to the 8820 is WiFi – which is great for the corporate user as well as the consumer market. I will go into the Wifi features in detail later in the review, but it is very easy to configure and connect to wireless networks and Hot Spots with the 8820. WiFi is used for Web Surfing and some downloading – but email and Carrier features seem to use the slower EDGE or GPRS networks (more on that later.)
The top of the 8820 has a dedicated on/off button on the left-hand side and the traditional BlackBerry ‘Mute’ button on the right-hand side. There are Volume up and Volume down buttons along the right hand side of the device. Along the left hand side you can find the mini-USB charging port (The 8820 can charge off an AC adapter, the PC or the car,) a 2.5 mm earphone/headphone port (I wish it was a full 3.5 mm version so traditional headphones could be used without an adapter) and a dedicated ‘Convenience’ button which is by default set to the Voice Command program but can be programmed for any of the features..
The 8820 is designed with a full QWERTY keyboard. Each key can also double for a number or symbol with a push of the ALT key. The keys are very close together – no spacing like on the Q, but they are also bigger and easier to push than the Treo keys. The keys are contoured with flat faces and rounded sides.
One very nice feature is the inclusion of the Micro SD card which sits in a dedicated slot under the back cover of the 8820. While this might be a little inconvenient, it is certainly better than the placement under the battery (which how the 8100 is designed.) In reality, I find that once I insert a memory card it stays there. If you frequently swap out your memory cards, you might find the placement inconvenient.
The 8820 as an Email Device:
BlackBerry devices are known for their email capabilities and the 8820 certainly excels in this area. The 8820 can handle up to 10 personal email accounts and also works with the BlackBerry enterprise Server for all your corporate email needs.
BlackBerry Internet Service BlackBerry Internet Email(tm), part of BlackBerry Internet Service(tm), allows users to access up to ten personal and corporate email accounts (such as Yahoo!(r) and Microsoft(r) Exchange) from a single device
Wireless synchronization (optional setting)
Messages deleted on your handset will be automatically deleted from your email account.
Messages read on your handset will be automatically marked as read in your email account.
Messages sent from your handset will appear in the ‘sent items’ folder of your email account.
Account configuration features include:
With BlackBerry Internet Service you can also create a special BlackBerry email address just for your device The device you are using has already been set up with a special address that looks like this: (name)@att.blackberry.net
BlackBerry Enterprise Server
Users can also select the BlackBerry Enterpriser Server option Users can use this option to associate the BlackBerry Pearl with a Microsoft(r) Outlook, IBM(r) Lotus(r) Notes(r) or Novell(r) GroupWise(r) work email account and to take advantage of advanced wireless data synchronization capabilities If a system administrator has provided an enterprise activation password, users can set up email using this option by selecting the I want to use a work email account with a BlackBerry Enterprise Server option in the setup wizard of the handset If the user does not have an enterprise activation password, contact the system administrator.
Email setup was a snap. I used the BIS (BlackBerry Internet Service) and had my email up and running very quickly. The BlackBerry was not able to automatically configure my IMAP account, but I was able to very easily input the settings and get that working perfectly.
When email arrives, the LED in the upper right hand corner flashes red. Simply navigate to the messages icon and there is your email. A simple push on the trackball and a click of reply and you can easily type in your reply. One more click of the trackball and you send your email. It could not be easier.
The full keyboard is great on the 8820. The feel of the keys is very good – the shape of the keys allows for quick and accurate typing. Although, I find that my emails are just as quick using the Sure-Type keyboard on the Pearl, I must say that it is nice to use a full keyboard and not have to wonder if the right word will be displayed. I found it quite easy to type with one hand, or holding the device with my left hand and typing with my right or using the traditional ‘two thumb’ ap roach.
The 8820 as a Phone:
I found the call quality of the 8820 to be generally very good. I always had strong signal and never had a problem hearing callers. Callers on the other end told me that my voice sounded fine and clear. The 8820 is a full featured phone. You can make conference calls, use call forwarding, set individual ring tones and pictures for your contacts, access your call log – pretty much everything you need a phone to do.
My only issues were with the ATT network which is a little spotty where I live.
The 8820 also includes Voice Signal’s speech recognition ‘Voice Command’ software which worked quite well. Simply say ‘Call X’ and the Voice Command software confirms your selection, asks you whether you want ‘home’ or ‘work’ or ‘mobile’ and places the call. No voice training was necessary. You can also customize voice commands – for instance, if my friend Martin has a mobile and a work number, I can say ‘Call Martin Mobile’ and it will automatically dial the correct number.
When a call came in, a simple press of the Green phone key or the trackball answered the call. The 8820 also has an excellent speaker phone option which was loud and clear.
The 8820 as a PIM (Personal Information Manager)
All your PIM needs can certainly be handled by this phone. Since this is primarily a business device (that many consumers will use) it handles calendar, address book, tasks, memos and attachments with ease.
The Calendar program is very easy to use and quite powerful. It easily Syncs with either Outlook or most other popular programs and it can import your data from a .csv or tab delineated format. It was easy to navigate to the date wanted with the trackball. Click the trackball and you can easily navigate down to put in the subject of the appointment, change the date, time, duration, set alarms and set recurring appointments.
The address book can also import your information from Outlook or other programs and can also import Vcard files. I found that it even imported the pictures that I used with my contacts from Outlook. One of the nice features of the BlackBerry address book is the ability to highlight your contact, then push the menu key and scroll to send them an SMS message, email them or call them. The BlackBerry software makes these tasks very intuitive.
Tasks and memos can also easily be imported and were easy to use on the 8820. The nice amount of real estate on the screen and the bright, self adjusting light of the screen coupled with clear fonts made reading memos and tasks quite nice.
The BlackBerry 8820 is capable of viewing attachments in most formats – PDF’s, Spreadsheets, Document and PowerPoints (albeit scaled down) but it cannot edit these files or open them in any other form than from attachments. For most business users, this is adequate functionality.
The 8820 is not designed to be a multi-media powerhouse. That being said, it does handle many multi-media tasks beautifully. Click the ‘Media’ icon and you immediately have a choice of launching the music player, picture viewer, video player or the Ring Tones of the phone.
Music can be loaded using the desktop manager software onto the Micro SD card (to save space) into the Music subdirectory. A Roxio Media Manager program is now standard with BlackBerry devices and it does a great job of converting and copying music on the 8820.
To play your music, simply navigate to the music and play a single song, play all of your music, shuffle your songs and even show the playlist on the screen. There are no audio controls except for volume – but music sounded very good on the 8820 – certainly rivaling the sonic quality of pretty much any MP3 player.
The 8820 ships with a sample video which was remarkably smooth on the 8820. Getting my own videos to play was easier than previous BlackBerries thanks to the Roxio Media Converter. While the 8820 does support several different video formats, most videos had to be converted to work properly on the 8820. Getting a DVD to play involved first using ‘Ripping software’ then importing and converting with the Media Manager – but it worked just fine.
Assigning your MP3’s as ringtones was very easy, provided you have the song copied in the ‘Ringtone’ folder on either the Micro SD card or the device itself.
The 8820 can connect to ATT Media net and it also support streaming XM radio which is available by just clicking on the icon from the applications menu (and then subscribing, of course.) It was very cool to listen to Satellite radio on the 8820.
There are many free games, however, which can be downloaded from the BlackBerry Help bookmark in the web browser. I found Solitaire, a fishing game and several others which were easy to install, fun to play and looked great on the BlackBerry screen.
Many have said that the BlackBerry browser has been eclipsed by Opera Mini and the iPhone browser. I found that the BlackBerry browser loads text first and quickly adds the graphics. Opera Mini is now available as a free download for the 8820 – so it might be worth looking into. Web pages that took close to 30 seconds to fully load on a Windows Mobile phone with a 3G connection too almost half as long to load on the BlackBerry when using the WiFi connection. When not on a WiFi network, I found the EDGE connection to still be faster than both a Palm and Windows Mobile 3G connection for web browsing..
Setting bookmarks was very easy as was putting in an address to go to.
One nice feature of the BlackBerry is the availability of free ‘Push’ web services like weather, Reuters news and others. The BlackBerry will periodically go online and update the content and push it right to your phone.
I found the trackball great for web browsing – it was very easy and intuitive to move up, down, left or right on the screen using the trackball.
The 8820 comes with built in WiFi – a new feature for BlackBerry devices. The first step was to click on the ‘Set Up WiFi’ icon and begin searching for networks. My two wireless networks were found with no trouble at all. I connected to my secure network, input my pass key and I was up and running.
It was very easy to save my profile for future browsing and then connecting was even faster. The 8820 even allows you to prioritize your wireless connections for the future. If there was ever a problem with my WiFi connection, I just hit the menu key and selected ‘Wifi Diagnostics’ to discover the issue. Tasks like performing a Site Survey or doing a DNS lookup were just a menu button, scroll and click away.
Most of the time, the WiFi connection was fast. It was not, however, that much faster than the traditional EDGE connection. It was faster, but I though it would be even faster than it was. I spoke with a BlackBerry Rep who told me: ‘Carrier content such as ATT media shop is typically accessed via WAP. Unless the carrier supports UMA, this content would be accessed via EDGE only.’ When I asked about the lack of a real difference in speed between WiFi and Edge this is what she said: ‘The BlackBerry solution is designed to be very efficient with data (via compression and formatting that streamlines Web pages for the device), so depending on the type and size of the page, you may not see much of a difference between EDGE and WiFi.’
Bundled Software and Accessories:
The BlackBerry 8820 come very nicely equipped – much nicer equipped than pretty any other smartphone. In the box, you get the Phone, AC charger, USB charging/Data cable, an earbud headset, stereo earphones with a Microphone, a holster, manual and CD with a great video tutorial.
Software is pretty standard issue. BlackBerry does have lots of free downloadable add ons from the BlackBerry Home page or Help page of the web browser. News readers, Push content, games and free wallpaper and ringtones can easily be found if you look for them.
One other software feature I was not able to try out is ATT’s Push to Talk feature which is included on the 8820. For those who are accustomed to this feature, I am sure they will appreciate its inclusion on the 8820.
The BlackBerry 8820 is a very capable Smartphone. Email is tops – better than any other device made. Web browsing was very pleasant and quick(especially using WiFi)and there is enough multi media content to satisfy most users. The lack of a camera is understandable from a business perspective, but it would be nice to see this offered as an option for consumers.
As a phone, the 8820 was quite capable as it was as a PIM. The addition of a built in WiFi made this a very useful device.
The 8820 also felt a little ‘big’ in my hand but that is mainly because I use a Pearl as my primary device.. It is wide and certainly noticeably heavier than both the Curve and the Pearl. It is, however, not really much bigger than the Motorola Q even though it feels wider and heavier.
The screen is gorgeous, the trackball is hands down the best means of navigation on a Smartphone today and the OS is far less buggy than Windows Mobile and just as intuitive (if not more so) than the venerable Palm OS – may it rest in peace.
For me, I continue to stick with the Pearl -but really like the WiFi feature of the 8820. If you need a full keyboard or you need a business oriented BlackBerry without a camera, I would not hesitate to upgrade to the 8820.
Final Grade: A
Pros: Great BlackBerry email, good phone features, good call quality, easy to use and powerful PIM features, fully QWERTY keyboard, built in WiFi
Cons: Feels a little ‘plasticy.’ No camera, 2.5 mm headphone jack needs an adapter for most headphones
The BlackBerry 8820 is available for $299.00 after rebates and with a 2 year contract from www.att.com. It can be found for less on Amazon.com or Wirefly with their contract restrictions and clauses.