Thursday, March 13, 2008

Now I Know Why They're Called "CrackBerries"

For the last year or so, I've been using a BlackBerry to check email and. surf the Web. The little handhelds from Canadian company Research In Motion have carved out quite a niche for themselves in the cutthroat smartphone market on the strength of their push email capabilities and also their ability to be deployed by corporations and governments to keep their employees connected.

In fact that was the original intent of the BlackBerry in the first place. It has only been in the last two or three years that BlackBerries have transitioned from the business/government sector to widespread usage by ordinary consumers. Usually in the smartphone world it's the other way round. As a result, the BlackBerry has developed quite a following amongst business and personal users. This following is quite vocal about their devices, almost to the level of Mac Addicts, andmembers of BlackBerry Nation often refer to their phones as "CrackBerries" because like the heavily addictive form of cocaine, BlackBerry users tend to become dependent on them at first use and can't go more than a few minutes without pulling the thing out of their pockets and checking it.

Sadly, it seems that I, too have fallen under the spell of the CrackBerry also. Since getting the BlackBerry 8100 also known as the Pearl due to the white trackball on the keyboard, I spend at least 2 hours a day checking email, reading blogs, and surfing web site. Part of this is due to the fact that my Net access at home is down until further notice, and the 'Berry has been invaluable in helping me to stay online. My email is constantly pushed to me as it arrives, I can look stuff up on Wikipedia in no time and services like Google and Yahoo are only a key stroke away.

Being an unrepentent geek, I've used smart phones running kinds of platforms. Symbian, Palm, Windows Mobile, I've used them all, but the BlackBerry OS is one of the best out there. Palm? They haven't upgraded their OS in almost 5 years. That's an eternity in the tech world. Their once dominant position in the PDA/Smartphone battles was lost years ago when they allowed Microsoft to pass them with Windows Mobile. They even showed how little they cared about their own OS when they decided to put WinMobile on their Treo phones. I had a Treo phone running the Palm OS, the browser was slow and ugly, the thing kept hard resetting for no reason at all, and the battery life was 2 days whether I used the phone or not. Back in the day, I had numerous Palm PDAs and I always liked how stable they were and the plethora of free apps availab le. Palm barely registers in that market anymore. Windows Mobile, not bad if your hardware has a processor that can chew through all the bloat. I had two Win Mobile units. Both had nice screens and blew away the Palm OS in terms of looks, but unlike the Palm, they took up to three minutes to boot up, Pocket Internet Explorer was slower than molasses in January, and the battery life wasn't much better. What about Symbian? What about it? Unless you're in Europe and are running a Nokia phone, you'll hardly even know that OS exists. I will admit to being of the few idiots who bought a first gen NGage, the electronic taco model, which ran Symbian and it was ok, but not earth shattering.

The BlackBerry OS is fast, lean and mean, reliable, and very stable. On my Pearl with its Intel 312 Mhz processor, the OS runs like a scalded dog. Apps launch quickly and easily, and unless a reset is needed, the device turns on and is ready to go in less than 15 seconds. There's a growing amount of software available, and while the native browser won't set the world on fire, Opera's Mini browser is very fast, renders pages beautifully, and runs like a charm even on T Mobile's mediocre EDGE network.
There's also a very large and supportive community of BlackBerry users at such sites like HowardForums.com and BlackBerryForums.net that answer even the newbiest question.

That said, there are a few bad spots about the BB. The messaging system does not play nice with HTML emails, but the next major upgrade for both the handhelds and the servers will clean that up. My Pearl's battery life is not great, but then again, I'm using the thing 4 hours a day on the data side. The current version of the OS does not allow apps to be run from memory cards, the camera is meh, and because every scrap of data has to go through RIM's system, there exists the chance of rare, but still annoying service outages. but those aren't total dealbreakers for me. Compared to the other smartphones out there, BlackBerry is the best choice for me. I can even blog from it! So let me introduce myself. My name is Pierre and I'm a CrackBerry addict.
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

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