REDFLY for the BlackBerry — Not the Solution You Were Looking For

REDFLY BB BOLDThe REDFLY from Celio is a product like no other, and can be a good fit for road warriors. The REDFLY is built to do only one thing, extend the screen and add a full keyboard to supported smartphones. The little laptop has no memory, no storage and no processor; it uses those on the connected smartphone. All it does is display the phone screen on the 8-inch display of the REDFLY, and makes the keyboard and trackpad available to interact with the phone.

I was impressed with the original REDFLY when I tested it over a year ago. That model worked with Windows Mobile phones, and I found it worked very well. That is important, as a special device like the REDFLY built to do one thing has to do it well. I was excited to hear a new version was available to work with the BlackBerry, as that would be the perfect target audience for the REDFLY. An evaluation unit arrived late yesterday, and in just a short time I must say this is not a solution I would recommend to BlackBerry owners.

There are some road warriors who are now leaving the laptop at home, using the smartphone for all computing needs while traveling, and the REDFLY is aimed directly at these folks. While it is now possible to do many things on the phone that previously would be done on a laptop, there are still some times that a bigger display and keyboard would be great to have in the bag.

That’s the theory, anyway, and this new model that works with some models of BlackBerries falls short. The problem is in the interface of the BlackBerry itself, and it falls so short the question must be asked why should Celio even produce this REDFLY model. The problems with this model are two-fold, the terrible interaction with the BlackBerry interface and the horrible display rendering. Since those are the two basic functions of the REDFLY, you understand why I question producing this model.

There is a trackpad that is impossible to use with the BlackBerry Bold Celio sent for testing. The Bold is not designed to be used with cursor control, and the trackpad is erratic to use as a result. I quickly found the only way to interact with the phone interface was to use the arrow keys on the REDFLY, hardly the desired method.

Worse than the interface interaction, I found the BlackBerry screen rendering on the big 8-inch display of the REDFLY to be unusable. I can explain all day why that is, but these photos do it simply and clearly:

These are not special cases, this is the display quality I found in all apps I tried. I admit I gave up after ten minutes, as I found the display to be unusable for any practical purpose. I realize that the BlackBerry is not designed to work with the REDFLY, and that is the reason for the lousy experience. But I have to question, given how well Celio gets the REDFLY to work with Windows Mobile phones, if the limitations of the BlackBerry are too great then why does this model even exist? I respect the folks at Celio, and still believe the Windows Mobile REDFLY is a great mobile solution.

I should point out that the REDFLY has two display modes. The pictures above were taken with the REDFLY set to stretch the screen as big as possible. You can turn off the stretching, but when you do that only a third of the REDFLY screen is used. The resultant display is only slightly bigger than that of the phone itself, which totally defeats the purpose.