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jkOTR review- BlackBerry 8830- why I did it

FrontThe excitement of June 29th has come and gone and today I, like many others, am reflecting back on my decision to tread into new territory by purchasing a phone the likes of which I have never used before.  Unlike all the others who picked up new phones yesterday I chose a different route by passing on the iPhone and picking up a BlackBerry 8830 World Edition phone.  Like all mobile device purchase decisions this one was driven by need for me, and I resisted the cool factor and went with the device that I feel will serve me better in the long run.  Here then, is my story.

Back_2I’ve already mentioned the ugly events that left me with no working phone on my Verizon account, which is my primary business account and has been for years.  Getting a new phone was not an option rather something I had to do, and do quickly.  I researched the options available to me on the Verizon network and found pretty slim pickings to replace the dead xv6700.  It quickly became apparent to me that I either had to purchase another 6700 or look in a new direction to get another phone with similar capabilities.  I have been keeping an eye on the BlackBerry front for a long time, after all they are a bastion in the corporate world since they make good phones and great email machines.  This describes my needs perfectly so I looked long and hard at the various BlackBerry devices that Verizon offers and it didn’t take me long to settle on the 8830.  The specs of the phone are impressive:

Network:CDMA/ GSM
Bands: 800/ 900/ 1800/ 1900 MHz
OS: BlackBerry
CPU:  312 MHz xScale
Memory: 64 MB
Expansion:  microSD
Display: 2.2 inches (320×240)
Camera: No
Talk/ Standby time: CDMA- 3.7 hours/ 216 hours; GSM- 5 hours/ 384 hours)
Size: 4.4 x 2.6 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 4.6 ounces

You can see from the specs that what sets the 8830 apart from all other smartphones (and BlackBerries) is the dual network mode.  The 8830 is designed to work in the US on the CDMA network which means fast EV-DO connectivity but it also accepts a GSM SIM card for traveling abroad.  The phone will auto-switch between the local CDMA network and the GSM network during those times insuring connectivity and phone usage is possible from just about anywhere on the globe.  It’s like getting two phones in one and quite unique.  While I don’t travel abroad now as much as I have in the past it’s still a nice feature to have on the phone in case it’s needed.

EmailThe dual network operation while nice is not the primary reason for selecting the 8830, the main reason was the great email interaction that BlackBerries are famous for.  I live in email and the ability to work it just like on my desktop is a big plus for me.  I have a hosted Exchange Server with MailStreet that I am quite happy with and prior to pulling the trigger on getting a BlackBerry I researched and discovered that I could add a hosted BlackBerry Enterprise Server to my existing Exchange setup for $9.95 per month.  This BB server hangs off my Exchange Server so I have the best of both worlds and a native BB solution for my corporate email.  Since the 8830 has the latest firmware (4.x.x.x) once I got the phone the entire configuration and initial syncing process was all automatic and happened totally from the phone itself over-the-air.  The entire BB environment was created and the initial syncing took about 20 minutes over EV-DO, which was quick since I have over 4,200 contacts in my database.  Once that process completed the 8830 started doing its thing, and doing it very well.  Email appears instantly on the device and I can do virtually anything with it that I can do on my desktop, and everything instantly appears back on the server side.  It’s quite impressive to watch happen and I’ve been playing with this a lot.  I read an email on the 8830 and Outlook on the desktop instantly shows that I’ve read the email.

I am still getting used to the BB operating system but I can tell you so far it is very intuitive and extremely fast.  No lags no matter what I do and I am impressed with how streamlined it is.  That doesn’t mean it skimps on options, on the contrary I am finding that virtually every aspect of the BB experience is user-configurable.  It’s pretty heady stuff, actually.

KbOn the hardware side of the 8830 there are a few things to note of import.  The QWERTY keyboard is excellent and I adapted to it very quickly.  The keys have a curvy top which make it hard to hit the wrong key and the keyboard is a joy to use.  The 8830 doesn’t have a scroll wheel on the side like most BlackBerries, RIM decided to put a little trackball on the front of the device just above the keyboard.  This is a great way to interact with the interface as it makes it possible to go anywhere on the screen very quickly, and pushing down on it does the equivalent of a mouse click.  I am still getting used to it but it’s already a boon to productivity for me.  All the other buttons on the phone are pretty standard fare and there are a plethora of key shortcuts that I am just learning.  These make it possible to pretty much anything with just a tap or two and I’m already seeing the benefit of that.

The 8830 has a microSD slot which is significant as this is the first BB that has decent multimedia capablities.  I haven’t had time to play with this very much but it handles music, video and photos and since the screen is gorgeous this is pretty cool.  I don’t consume much multimedia on my phones but it’s nice to have it there just in case.

So far I am happy with the purchase decision and with how well the BlackBerry works with the server.  The only irritating thing I’ve run across so far is how the OS handles POP email accounts.  In addition to the main account you can integrate up to 10 POP or IMAP email accounts on the device and I have two of those configured.  Each POP account adds its own icon to the main screen so you can interact with each email account separate which is handy.  The problem is that while email retreieved to each account is accessible under this account email icon the OS also dumps those emails into the main email inbox.  This does make it easy to work with all of your email from various accounts in one place it also means that these POP emails are put in both places.  There may be a good reason for that but I haven’t had it long enough to figure out what that might be.

Opera_miniWeb browsing is good with the EV-DO network and the WAP browser works pretty well.  I have installed the Opera Mini 4.0 Beta and while the interface isn’t tweaked for the 8830 it works very well.  I need to learn the key shortcuts to get really good at working with Opera.  I have no complaints about the browsing so far.

It’s is nice to finally get some hands-on time with the BlackBerry platform.  I have played with devices from time to time and I could see how good the platform is at creating a mobile productivity workhorse.  You can open all typical Microsoft Office documents and PDFs sent as attachments although you can’t edit them on the handheld.   There is a third party application that is very pricey that adds that capability.  Call quality is excellent and the 8830 has the loudest speakerphone I’ve ever heard on any device.  I will continue to integrate the 8830 in my daily routine and add my thoughts from time to time.  So far so good.  :)



21 Responses to “jkOTR review- BlackBerry 8830- why I did it”

  1. kristathomas

    Hi James – I know this is an old post, but I am wondering if it is possible to sync the 8830 with an Entourage set-up without using enterprise server. Anyone have any experience with that?

  2. Hi Mike, the best thing you can tell your IT is to install a blackberry server on your exchange server… this is free for first 2 users and after this is 100$/user… and this is really nice for the BB users to have this ! Cause you can sync everything from your blackberry to your server !

    Have a great day !


  3. Do do you still like it after using it for a few months? I’m seriously considering getting an 8830, as I’m up for my new-every-two with Verizon.

    Do you sync your contacts and/or calendar with your Macbook via bluetooth? I’m really hoping this will work, as well as bluetooth connection with my Ford Sync.

  4. Hi Guys,
    I recently purchased a Blackberry 8830 but my IT dept is telling me that we would need to restructure our backend infrastructure and it would cost over $20K..So they made a decision to only support treo.

    Any suggestions? Is there anything I can do to sync up with my work email??



  5. A quick note, I just upgraded from the 8700 to the Curve on ATT and it is a wonderful, if incremental upgrade. You can hide those unwanted email icons very easily by pressing alt and clicking the item you want to have hidden. You can then show all easily enough as well.

  6. Scotty


    I am so happy you got the blackberry! I’m confident it will work better for you than an iPhone.

    I’ve been having a blast showing off my wedding photos on my iPhone, everyone loves the pinch effect, but I’m a newly wed so I’ve got photos to show off. ;-)

    I’ve watched one TV show on it so far, iTunes auto-syncs my unwatched episodes from my various season tickets into the iPhone so I don’t need to use up bandwidth on the iPhone. I’ve also got several unwatched video podcasts synced as well. After I watch them they get auto-removed from the iPhone. The Blackberry is much more professional, no videos/podcasts, no distractions.

    I’ve synced over Dirty Dancing and it does great demo, The iPhones video quality is stunning on the sharp display and the built in speaker really pumps out the sound, at least as loud as my Motorola A1200’s speaker. The Blackberry is again too professional to allow you to carry around movies to distract folks with.

    I synced in a couple play lists of music and the cover flow with touch screens is wonderful for selecting music to listen to and the audio quality is top notch. People have asked me “But it has no card slot” I just point out that with 8GB built in why do I need a 2GB card? With all other phones a 2GB card is larger than the built in memory, it is expansion for them.

    The Safari browser really does make the web accessible in your pocket and T-Mobile’s HotSpot works seamlessly with it. I’ve stopped into Starbucks for a C Monster and 3G bandwidth a couple times today. On monday my commute to and from work is via a bus with onboard wifi hooked to 3G so I will have 3G with out the 3G battery drain. Your car doesn’t have this so the Blackberry is a much better choice for you.

    I don’t need tethering because I have the XU870 for my Macbook Pro. When I need it I have roughly 200KBps of HSDPA. Your Blackberry is non-Rev A EVDO with tethering and the USB should get you 100KBps to 112KBps, the iPhone’s lack of tethering would have driven you nuts.

    I never could get all of my far flung email accounts hooked up to my 7125 Verizon BB. I’ve hooked everything up to my iPhone (most accounts hosts were natively supported, took less than 5 minutes to hook up 10 accounts) and the constant stream of email is getting a bit much. Maybe I’ll get accustomed to it in a couple days, not having to poll all of it is certainly a change for me. And the slick touch interface to them is making it feel like I’m on the command deck of the Starship Voyager from Star Trek, especially when I’m zooming and panning around in PDF’s, DOC’s and XLS’s attachments in my email using just my fingers. It even keeps track of the various places in each attachment I left off so I can come right back zoomed/panned and on the correct page as I skip around in my emails. The blackberry’s built in email program won’t compete with your Fuji TPC with Outlook: keeping peace in your gadget bag.

  7. Greg H

    Does anyone know if I could place the sim card from an cingular phone in the 8830. My work phone is from cingular and my personal phone is from Verizon. I would very much like to plug my sim card into the 8830 and use it while traveling on business and switch back to Verizon mode for personal use. Thanks, Greg

  8. James,

    I’m glad to see two things on jkontherun, Kevin’s usage of the Macbook Pro and NOW your BLACKBERRY badge! Woot!

    I visit BlackBerryforums regularly to check the latest OS upgrades, and BB devices. Currently I use an 8700 at my company, having graduated from the Treo 650 and PP6700. Ok reason why I’m writing…

    I’m going to upgrade to the 8830 in August (I think…) but want to research it a little further. WHat do you think of this consumer’s review of his 8830, in particular the ISSUES section about half way down the page? I’m not certain what he’s talking about concerning the GPS??? You didn’t mention the GPS in your review so I was disappointed not to get more insight.

    If you find a way to tether the 8830 via BT, let us know. Right now it’s not doable on the 8700, as you must hardwire directly via tether chord.

    What OS version is on the device 4.1 or 4.2? If it is indeed 4.2 then I believe you can tether via BT.


  9. James,

    I’m considering a move to this phone from my Treo 700p when the BB becomes available on the Sprint network (international travel being the driving factor). Anyway, on the Exchange sync aspect does the BB software sync over Tasks and memos?

  10. Sounds pretty good! I was considering a Blackberry when I wanted to upgrade my MDA, but I had heard that it didn’t have a very good browser experience. Around that time, I kept hearing about how the N95 has a great browser and a great camera, so that was really what clinched the decision for me. Though I gotta say, after following all of the iPhone goings on, and checking one out in person (my brother bought one), I am very tempted to get one, too! I’m trying very hard to wait it out, though, since I am not keen on moving to AT&T, and I’m still under contract at T-Mobile anyway. Hopefully the multi-touch iPod comes out this fall for the holidays; that would be awesome. :)

  11. Aaron the Blackberry sync’s well with Outlook. I use to have the Apache 6700 and a couple months got the BB and haven’t looked back. Its very fast when you press the buttons etc. I have Outlook 2007 and Vista Business on my Q1P and sync with my BB using the Blackberry Desktop software to sync and works very well. I have even been able to set it up to sync over bluetooth from blackberry to the Q1P. Also like James said to setup the tethering its very easy which I use every day for my work on the road.


  12. Aaron Walker

    Hey James.

    Since I am not getting an iPhone either, I have been thinking about a Blackberry because I really want a PDA phone and currently the AT&T choices are pretty slime. I have the E62 which I really don’t like but I didn’t want to go for the 8525 either since I really do like the front side keyboard (the ONLY thing I like about my E62). So Blackberry looks interesting.

    Problem is, I don’t *need* it for work, more for personal stuff but I am so hooked on having PDA functionality since my Palm III days. I have no need for an exchange server at this point but want a phone that is still a real PDA type of device. (I know the E62 is *supposed* to be a PDA like phone but the reasons it falls short are too numerous to list and would be very off topic.)

    So how does the Blackberry sync with Outlook? Will it sync my e-mails like a WIndows Mobile device or should I keep waiting until the iPhone hysteria passes and AT&T remembers that not every one of their customers wants an iPhone?

  13. James, thanks for the follow-up on the categories.

    I’ll let it swirl around in my head for a while. Fortunately I don’t of necessity have to get a new phone, but have been thinking a good bit about it of late.

  14. Great review, very useful, but boy are you muddying the waters here for me. I have a Q with which i’m happy (great phone/ OK everything else) but i’m watching closely for what’s next. Must admit i’m leaning on going back to a touch screen so was waiting for Verizon to replace your 6700 as a canddidate, but watching these Blackberries, like you. So why can’t you edit docs on a major business unit? I don’t get his about function-minded company’s. Guess we all have to keep supporting Data-viz. So, would you keep us appraized about how you find living without the touch-screen? Thanx

  15. Jason Johnson

    James I expect you will be very happy with the blackberry. Where I work we are currently at 150 blackberries on our blackberry enterprise server and our users love them. Especially after we finished our migration from Nextel to Verizon. For a corporate environment I think they are hard to beat (though I just picked up a 3125 for personal use).

  16. One thing I neglected to mention that is important is that Verizon allows you to tether the BlackBerry as a modem right out of the box, nothing else required. I have not tested this yet but I will. Tethering allowed under either USB or BT.

  17. Thanks Bruce. I use Entourage on the Mac side which works with the Server pretty well. I have to admit I don’t work with categories on the Mac side so I’m ignorant on how well Entourage utilizes them. It does not interfere with the categories however, as I use them extensively on the PC side in Outlook. The BB also maintains them and many apps can filter on existing categories which is quite nice.

  18. James, this is an excellent writeup. I have been thinking about going the BB route myself, although I must that the iPhone is a huge temptation for any geek. You’ve given me something to think about with this writeup.

    Sorry about your bricked 6700.

    By the way, since you also use Mac and Win, does the hosted exchange keep both in sync with your BB? I have been trying out Plaxo, trying to get it sync the Mac and Win and my Dash and so on, but have found that it does not cleanly handle the fact that Outlook “categories” translate into separate Calendars in iCal. Do you have a work-around for this? I suppose the easy thing is to just forget about categories and lump everything together but that goes against the GTD methodology.