My Love / Hate Relationship With My Blackberry

There is no perfect piece of equipment on the planet. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. It kind of reminds me of the words of a managing partner I used to work with. He’d say, “Ellen, there’s no great copier, they’re just different colored and more or less expensive pieces of c **p! Take your pick.” Well, my search for the perfect smart device continues. My latest arrival is the Blackberry 7130e. I’ve been using it a few months now. Enough time to give you the straight scoop — at least from my perspective — on how it performs.

I wanted to stay with my Sprint service, because I’ve found it highly reliable. I had no such luck with Cingular or Verizon. I find that this is a very individualistic experience, and your satisfaction with a particular carrier will vary based on where you live, and where you travel. But again, my experience with Sprint has been comparatively better. That meant that the number of smart phones available to me were limited. For a variety of reasons I’ll not go into here, I decided to go with Blackberry instead of Treo.

What I like about the Blackberry:

1- Even though I am hard of hearing, I can hear callers clearly. This was a problem with two former cell phones, which I had to replace. And I should add that even with an earpiece it was a problem with the other units.

2- The fidelity is very good according to those I talk to.

3- I like the fact that I can have multiple ring profiles, each customized as to volume, tones for different types of alarms, etc, and that I can switch between them extremely easily.

4- I like the fact that I can arrange the icons on the screen as I want.

5- Love the Bluetooth.

6- Extremely easy set-up. Very easy to add software later.

7- Synchronization works reliably every single time. No hassles. I’m so happy to have returned to the Palm operating system. My Compaq IPAQ, which used the Windows operating system, was a nightmare in the synchronization area. Two different times, despite the settings, it overwrote my contacts in Outlook with nothing!! Good thing I had a backup.

8- It holds a charge longer than previous cell phones or PDAs I have used.

9- No cradle. Just a USB cable. Ok, that sounds funny, but the ultimate downfall of my IPAQ was the eventual failure of the cradle, not the PDA itself. Not relying on a cradle means one less thing which can go wrong.

10- A big bone of contention for me was that the IPAQ would not bring over all of the information I had in my Contacts and wanted. I couldn’t search by or within category, for example. Trust me, when you have almost 3,000 contacts, you want to be able to sort them out on occasion. My contacts include all the notes I have in the text area, which means I have directions readily available to all of my clients’ offices.

11- Dialing extensions is a no-brainer. When I have a phone number with extension in Outlook, the Blackberry dials the main number, and pauses with the extension filled in, ready for me to press “enter” to select it. I can also just program in a pause using the good old reliable comma (“,”) so that I don’t have to even hit enter at all.

12- Email comes over relatively quickly and flawlessly. I can decide whether to delete on the handheld only, or on both the handheld and PC upon synchronization, which is a timesaver.

What I dislike about the Blackberry:

1- The placement of the keypad letters don’t match the telephone. So when you have to dial by name to reach an extension on a vmail system, unless you have the number equivalent of each letter memorized, it doesn’t work. What were they thinking?

2- While I’m bitching about the keypad, let me mention that each key represents one of two possible characters. They have an “intuitive” way of typing which anticipates, based on the combination of keys pressed, what words you are trying to spell. Maybe it works for John Q. Public, but I can tell you it’s a nightmare trying to get it to work properly in a legal environment. [Yes, telephony consultant Jonathan Stiller — you can find him in the Entrepreneur’s Club listings — you were right!] As an alternative, you can set the keyboard to work with one touch for the first letter, and two touches for the second. That works slowly but accurately. Problem is that it got turned off, and I can’t seem to find the command anywhere to turn it back on. And I have gone through the help repeatedly and it doesn’t tell me the simple keystroke combination to turn it back on.

3- Ok, while I’m bitching about the Help screens, let me say it is sorely inadequate. Despite the index, the information I find never seems to answer the question I have.

4- I HATE the track wheel. Actually, if I could come up with a stronger word than HATE, I would use it. To select what action you want you have to push in (click) the track wheel. Try doing it with one hand, unless you have big manly hands. Instead of the click the track wheel will roll and you will get a different selection or action entirely. It’s simply maddening.

5- Likewise, one must click the darned track wheel unnecessarily, in my humble opinion, several times to finish and confirm selections. For example, it’s not enough to put in a telephone number and click, then a screen comes up and you need to click again to confirm you want to dial the number.

6- The fact that there’s no touch screen is a severe impediment. And a big waste of my time. Especially given the clunky trackwheel which rarely gives me the desired action — inevitably moving up or down when I just want to click it on the selected item.

7- The fact that there are no voice commands, particularly for dialing, is a severe impediment.

8- I greatly wish it took an SD card for additional storage capability. It needs this option.

9- Deleting emails is a hassle. It’s strictly one at a time. When I am not on the road but out of the office, all I want is the telephone, calendar, rolodex, and the ability to send an email if I must. I don’t want to have to individually clean up the 150 – 250 emails I receive each day. Ok, sure, it will automatically delete them after a certain number of days. But the minimum increment of days is 30. You do the math. There should be a much shorter increment option, like 5 days.

10- While we’re on the topic of emails, I have to say that some twinkie-eating pepsi-drinking programmer who was obviously too high on caffeine and sugar while writing the code at 4:00 a.m. really missed the boat in organizing email from oldest to newest in terms of where your cursor is when you open the inbox on the Blackberry. Scrolling up through several hundred emails before I can see if the one I’m “waiting for” has come in, is maddening to say the least. And a huge time waster.

11- Yet another beef regarding emails is that I can’t seem to do a mass delete like I can in Outlook. No apparent click / shift-click capability exists to remove everything from point A to point B. That would help a lot in keeping things lean and mean.

12- This point about what I hate is right up there at the top of the heap. When I am trying to make a call and a reminder pops up, it totally interrupts the look-up or dialing, and I have to stop and respond to the reminder (e.g. dismiss or open) and afterwards start calling or looking up the address all over again. It also interferes with the use of the keypad if a reminder pops up while a call is in progress. Hey twinkie eating programmers, can’t you figure out how to stop a reminder from popping up until a call has ended? This has happened several times when I was in the process of retrieving my vmail messages, and the last time I almost threw the *!@!* Blackberry out the car window! (Ok, maybe my frustration level with equipment nonsense could stand a little medication therapy!)

13- I’m still trying to figure out why some reminders have the ability to snooze (but 30 minutes is the only option), but most are either open or dismiss. That’s maddening as well.

Ok, that’s it for now. I’m sure there’s more that I’m just not remembering. When it comes to me, I’ll add onto this post. Overall, despite what it sounds like, I’m reasonably happy with the Blackberry. But there just might be a Treo in my future. My search for the perfect convergent device, a/k/a smart phone, is never ending.

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