BlackBerry 8830 Review: 6 Months Later, Would I Buy It Again?

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While this won’t be an exhaustive review, you either love or hate Blackberries. This 8830 was an upgrade to my 7200 series. The 7200 had a GREAT keyboard, the thumb friendly scroll wheel, and INCREDIBLE battery life and all sorts of other fancy, schmancy stuff. It did, however, have a very poor screen that was hard to see. So, I upgraded to the 8830. Here is what I was attracted to:

  • Great Looking Screen
  • TrackBall
  • Narrower Form Factor

6 months into owning the 8830, I have more complaints than I thought I would have. Here goes a section by section look at the device:

Phone: As a phone, the 8830 is good. The integration with the addressbook is very good. I like having all of my phone numbers in one place. Is it better than my old Treo? I am not sure. It is certainly a big step up, as a phone, from the 7200 series. The inclusion of a speakerphone is good (although the volume could be a little louder), and the connectivity options (bluetooth) are better than in the 7200 series, but the phone call quality seems improved (and this is surprising since my old BB was on Verizon, and my new one one Sprint and I think Verizon’s voice network is significantly better). So I attribute the better defintion and ability to talk longer without significant ear fatigue to be a product of the phone. I think that the BB 8830 gets a B+ on phone call quality, and an A on addressbook integrations. It gets a C on playing well with Bluetooth headsets, however. I have a Moto H700 and a Jawbone, and neither has reliable connections with my BB. The handset form-factor is much improved over the 7200 series. Overall Phone Grade: B

E-Mail: E-Mail on the Blackberry is fine…mostly. For various and sundry reasons that have more to do with Sprint and with my company’s exchange server, I can’t connect directly to my corporate e-mail account, so I have messages sent to my Blackberry e-mail address as well as my corporate address, so I don’t have comfortable synching. So that is a problem, but I don’t attribute it to the BB. My other issue is that I have about 5 or 6 active e-mail addresses, and although the BB handles up to 10, the setting up of all these accounts is very slow and painful, and forget working out signatures for each. It is hard. To complicate matters, I manage all of these e-mail addresses through GMail. GMail and BB have a complicated relationship, mostly because both want to leverage their strengths. BB wants to leverage its real-time, proprietary messaging infrastructure, and GMail wants to provide a similar mobile and web management experience. They aren’t terrific together, and if I were to start this again, I would stake advantage of the BB device strengths and not have all my e-mail coming through GMail, or I would pick a different device. I need to do a little more exploration on making these things work together. But here is my major complaint with the BB: it doesn’t handle HTML e-mail. I would say that 40-50% of e-mail that I get that I want to read is in the form of newletters, or web-group e-mails, or what have you, and these are almost unreadable on the BB. I hate this. I have a very powerful handheld device that can render complex images, handle web pages, and can’t do an HTML e-mail? Ridiculous. Really, really, really ridiculous. I know that there is a BB software update in the works but this is an afterthought, and I am really disappointed in the existing experience. On the flip side, I have been using the GMail app on the BB and find that it is very good. It doesn’t render HTML e-mails faithfully either, but it strips out the text and presents it in a readable fashion. I find myself using the GMail App more and more and wish that I could just replace the BB e-mail with GMail completely. So, kudos to BB for having great real time e-mail deliver. Boo for your handling of HTML. I may be being a little harsh here, but I feel like the e-mail could use a fair bit of improvement. I use my BB for 40% of my e-mail, so it needs to be ROCK SOLID, and I don’t get the feeling that it is. Overall E-Mail Grade: B-

Web Browsing: The browser that ships with the BB8830 is garbage. It is REALLY rotten. It isn’t really any better than a WAP browser. Boo! Hiss! Get the torches! Really, I am very disapponted with the long term performance of this piece of software. It is slow, it renders pages very awkwardly. For example, many pages that are tabbed result in a long list of non-clickable images of the tabs. Very frustrating. Also, the speed is very slow. I know that it trying hard to make things work, but the speed, even on Sprint’s EV-DO network (which provides reasonable speeds) is so slow as to be useless. Long story made short, I have switched exclusively to Opera Mini (see my earlier post on Opera Mini on

Mobile Ambition). The downside to that is there is no way t configure Opera Mini as your default browser, so if I click on an e-mail link, I end up in the disappointing BB standard browser. Uggh. Using the trackball with browsing is pretty good, especially on Opera Mini. Overall Browser Grade: D

The keyboard on the 8830 is pretty good. The keys are easy to get to by feel and have a satifying “click” response when you touch them. I consistently get confused/fat-fingered by the SHIFT and ALT keys. That is a little frustrating and I feel like it is an ergonomic/layout problem, but it could be that I am just not able to map my brain to this keyborad. Your mileage may vary. Strangely, I feel like this keyboard is more likely to be inadvertantly dialed by keys in your pocket, or by a curious toddler (I have a 3 kids, 5, 4, and 2 and Daddy’s phone is a desired object). I know that I can lock the keyboard, but I never had to do that on my last BB, so it is a little frustrating that this keyboard like to dial when I am not watching, but other than that it is very good. This would have gotten an A if it weren’t for the SHIFT/ALT thing. Overall Keyboard Grade: A-

Apps, Etc: There are a ton of apps for the BB. A lot of them are terrible, but, conversely, a lot of them are wonderful. I really like
Sprint Navigator, Yahoo Go! 3.0, Opera Mini and the Google Apps. I don’t use many others, so my experience is a little limited. Overall Apps Grade: A

PC Synching: When I was using Outlook, the synching features were stellar. I never had a problem. That gets an A. But, when I switched to using
GMail, Google Calendar, and managing my contacts through Plaxo and Google, I haven’t synched with my PC…which is fine. The only drawback is phone numbers. As I add new contacts into Google, they don’t get into my Blackberry address book…which is just a killer. So my BB address book is 5 months out of date. Can anybody help? Overall PC Synching Grade: Depending on your circumstances it is either an A+ or an F

Media Support: One of the big advances of the 8000 series of BB was supposed to be media support, and I have listened to a little music on my BB, and watched the video that came with the phone. So, when push comes to shove, since there is no iTunes, Pandora, Rhapsody client, and there is no support for streaming audio or video (as I understand it, the BB can only play media that is resident on the device, so there is no streaming available, which is the way that most mobile media is delivered) so most regular mobile media services don’t work. And, the closed nature of iTunes means that I can’t make my BB play well with my music collection. (That is a major downside to working with iTunes, but I find that the iTunes inerface and iPod synch to be so compelling that I accept is limitations, albeit begrudgingly.) So, if I were a real tech guy who wished to play with files all day and whatever, I might be happier with the BB, but as my teachers always used to say, the BB has a lot of unrealized potential. Overall Media Grade: C+

Would I Buy The BlackBerry 8830 Again? I think that I can comfortably say no. And much of it has to do with the browser, the lack of web-based synching and media support. (There is also the issue of a $39.99 data plan on top of a huge voice plan that frustrates me, but I won’t attribute that to the BB) The BB wants you to check in with your PC everyday. And, frankly, I want all my data accessible all the time so that if I don’t want to synch, or don’t have the opportunity to synch, I am still up to date. I know that there isn’t a perfect solution, but the BB seems to be more geared to big corporations and places that are forever tied to their PC. I want my mobile to share data with my PC (wirelessly) and have enough oomph of its own to be my PC Lite when I want it to be. The BB isn’t there yet. My Treo, weirdly enough, felt closer to this. Maybe the iPhone is the answer? Who knows. Let me know what you think.

Blackberry 8830 Overall Grade: B. Would I Buy It Again? No.

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