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RIM BlackBerry Buying Advice Guide
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Image:Blackberry_Logo.JPG Welcome to the BlackBerry Buying Advice Guide!

In the past, the RIM (Research in Motion)-produced BlackBerrys had typically been used by businesspeople as a means of contact in and out of the office.

As the BlackBerry devices moved from simple two-way pagers to fully-functional phones, people outside of the office started to gain an interest. So much, in fact, that roughly 20% of global mobile phone sales are BlackBerrys (1).

The BlackBerry is used as a cross between a mobile phone and a PDA. Many high-profile people use BlackBerry phones, such as Barack Obama (2), and The Queen (3) (4).

This guide covers:

  • Pros and Cons of getting a BlackBerry.
  • The different BlackBerry phones on the market today.
  • How to go about purchasing a BlackBerry phone.
  • Recommended Applications (Free and Paid).

Contents

So you want a BlackBerry?

So you think you've made up your mind on what type of phone to get, and you've chosen a BlackBerry. Congratulations! This section will look at the Pros and Cons of owning a BlackBerry, and will either re-assure you of your choice, or scare you away! First they will be listed, and then they will be explained in detail.

Pros

  • Push e-mail.
  • PIN.
  • BlackBerry Messenger.
  • Ability to manipulate OS (if required).
  • Good back-up services.
  • Browser is pretty decent.
  • OTA (Over-The-Air) downloads.
  • Large variety of themes.
  • Phone call options.
  • Tethering.

In detail

Push e-mail

Set up and e-mail account on the BlackBerry, and your e-mail is automatically pushed to you. With this feature, you will never need to check your inbox again.

PIN

Every BlackBerry has a PIN, i.e. an 8 digit hexadecimal code. Each PIN is locked to its representative phone. BlackBerrys can message each other using the PIN directly; the PIN can also be used to message other BlackBerry users through the BlackBerry Messenger feature. Some software, when purchased, will only be licenced for one BlackBerry, and this is where the PIN is used as a safeguard to ensure that software is not illegally passed on to other users.

BlackBerry Messenger

One of the main features of BlackBerrys, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) is an instant messaging service, whereby messages can be exchanged between BlackBerry users either by dedicated discussion, or in chat rooms. As well as offering text-based messages, other things such as pictures, emoticons (smileys) and voice notes can be sent over to other users. Other files may also be sent. BBM also offers text-based conferencing between users. 'Pings' can also be sent. Similar to a 'nudge' on Windows Live Messenger, this feature causes the other user's phone to vibrate, in order to get their attention if required. As of BBM version 5.0, users can add each other using a QR Code 2D (matrix) barcode, which is unique to each phone.

An example of a QR Code 2D (matrix) barcode. Whilst this barcode actually directs to TSR's homepage, other barcodes can contain other information. For example, a PIN, for use with BBM.
OS Manipulation

Updates are often released for the operating system (both official and unofficial). Hybrids have also been produced, which contain OS files from different phones and operating systems, usually offering enhanced features. Whilst OS 5.0 has recently been released, OS 6.0 is currently in development (as of July 2010), and offers enhanced features, a new web browser, and a faster system performance.

Back-up services

It is very easy to back-up parts of the phone, or even the whole thing. There is a feature of Desktop Manager that enables full system back-up, and there are also applications available that offer back-up of things such as e-mails, SMS messages, pictures, and more. Some of these applications will are discussed here.

Browser

The BlackBerry Browser offers an extensive range of options. It has an 'identification' feature that makes browsing just that bit more efficient. Select the option 'BlackBerry', and compatible websites will display their streamlined versions of their websites, making browsing the web quicker. Choose 'Internet Explorer' and websites will display their full websites. But if the BlackBerry browser isn't for you, it is possible to install other browsers for use.

OTA Downloads

Want to download an application that isn't in the App World? Can't find your USB cable? Don't worry! Over-The-Air downloads on BlackBerrys allow wireless download and installation of themes, games, applications and more! Just point the browser to the OTA link, and it'll download for you, wirelessly.

Themes

There are many themes currently available. They not only offer different fonts and colours for the phone, but also different features for the home page. Some themes cost money while others are free. Examples of themes are iBerry, a theme which turns your phone into an iPhone, and a Windows 7 theme that tricks you into thinking you're using Windows Mobile.

Phone Calls

Not only is the call quality excellent (depending on reception), but BlackBerry allows the use of applications whilst on the phone. Need to write something down, but don't have pen and paper handy? Open the memopad whilst taking the phone call and type the notes in! Calendar and contact details can also be accessed during a phone call. BlackBerrys also offer the feature of putting people on hold. On the phone but have another incoming call? You can put the first call on hold and answer the second! A very useful feature when waiting for that important phonecall. The QWERTY keypad is on most of the BlackBerrys - almost every character on the keypad can be assigned a speed dial number. That's over 20 speed-dial numbers!

Tethering

It is possible to tether a BlackBerry to a computer. Tethering enables your phone to act as a modem for your computer, i.e. you effectively have mobile internet. This is very useful if you're out and about a lot, but want to use you're laptop for internet browsing.

Cons

  • Application range.
  • Cost of games.
  • Services require BlackBerry data plan.

In detail

Applications

The range of applications in the App World is no-where near as large as that in the Apple App Store.

Games

As BlackBerry has always been known as a 'businessman's' phone, games aren't really the BlackBerry's speciality. The majority of games cost money, and average at £2-£5 each.

Data plan

A BlackBerry data plan is required to use the major BlackBerry features; PIN messaging, push e-mail and BlackBerry messenger. This is explained in more detail here.

Phones

This section looks at the different BlackBerry models currently on the market today. It looks at what the phones are good at, and what they're bad at. At the end of this section is a comparison chart that compares the models in terms of specifications and features.



Pearl

The BlackBerry Pearl is a hybrid between a BlackBerry and a 'normal' phone. While feeling and looking like a standard handset, it contains all of BlackBerry's features. Generally, the Pearl has a SureType keypad; a cross between the standard mobile phone keypad, and a QWERTY keyboard. The Pearl has generally been considered as the 'low-range' of BlackBerrys.

8100 Series

The BlackBerry Pearl 8110

The BlackBerry Pearl 8100 series offers some of BlackBerry's best features, while still saying affordable for the consumer market.

Likes
  • Stylish.
  • Affordable.
Dislikes
  • Lack of Wi-Fi.
  • No 3G.
  • 2.5mm headphone jack instead of usual 3.5mm. (Pearl 8100)
  • Camera is pretty average.

9100/9105 (Pearl 3G)

The BlackBerry Pearl 3G

Small but stylish, this phone is perfect for those who want high-end features combined with an old-school keypad.

Likes
  • 3G.
  • Screen is a good resolution.
  • Small and stylish.
  • Optical trackpad is flat and very responsive.
  • GPS.
  • 3.2 megapixel camera.
Dislikes
  • Screen is small.
  • SureType keypad may not be for everyone.




Curve

The Curve phones offer full QWERTY keypad and a decent-sized screen. They are the most popular range of BlackBerry handsets, and are generally seen as 'mid-range', in-between the Pearl and Bold handsets.

8520/8530

The BlackBerry Curve 8520 (Also available in purple)

This model offers fewer features than the other BlackBerry phones, but still has mass appeal as a cheaper alternative with good features of its own. Good for people on a budget, this phone strips out certain features to save on the cost, such as GPS, 3G, and a camera flash.

Likes
  • Optical trackpad is flat and very responsive.
  • Good for people on a budget.
  • 3.5mm headphone jack.
  • Stylish.
Dislikes
  • Lack of 3G.
  • No flash on the camera.
  • No GPS
  • Camera is only 2 MP.

8900

The BlackBerry Curve 8900

Attractively designed, this phone is great for e-mail and messaging with the QWERTY keyboard, but is disappointing with the lack of 3G.

Likes
  • Wi-Fi.
  • GPS.
  • Sharp display.
  • QWERTY keypad.
  • 3.2 megapixel camera.
  • 3.5mm headphone jack.
Dislikes
  • Trackball - can often get stuck and hence can be unusable for short periods of time.
  • Lack of 3G.

Bold

With 3G and a powerful processor, the Bold range is considered to be the 'high-range' of BlackBerrys.

9000

The BlackBerry Bold 9000

This a feature-packed phone that has a lot to offer.

Likes
  • 3G.
  • Wi-Fi.
  • GPS
  • Bright Screen
Dislikes
  • Camera isn't the best.
  • Can often be sluggish during use.

9700

The BlackBerry Bold 9700 (Also available in black)

This phone offers the best of BlackBerry, and is top-of-the-range with the included 3G and GPS.

Likes
  • 3G
  • Wi-Fi
  • Optical trackpad is flat and very responsive.
  • Screen is good resolution, and large.
Dislikes
  • Keyboard seems soft during typing; doesn't click as much as other BlackBerry handsets.

Storm

The Storm range offers a good touch-screen experience, whilst also offering BlackBerry features. The screen itself is not touch-sensitive, but instead is pushed in, in order to offer a touch-screen encounter.

9500/9530 (Storm 1)

The BlackBerry Storm
Likes
  • The Touchscreen, which is good for slow, accurate typists.
  • GPS.
Dislikes
  • No Wi-Fi.
  • Camera isn't the best.
  • Interface can sometimes be buggy.

9520/9550 (Storm 2)

The BlackBerry Storm 2
Likes
  • The Touchscreen, which is good for slow, accurate typists.
  • Wi-Fi.
  • 3G.
  • 3.5mm headphone jack.
Dislikes
  • On-screen keyboard may not be for everyone.
  • Heavy.

Comparison Chart

Please note that information for this section has been taken from here.

How to buy a BlackBerry

This section will compare buying a BlackBerry on PAYG and contract.

Things to do

The first place you should check before buying a BlackBerry is your current network provider. If you are currently on PAYG and want to move onto a contract, ring them up and tell them you want to go on a contract, but you're not sure whether to stay with them or leave them. They will transfer you to their retentions department, and should give you a decent deal. For example, with Orange, I managed to get a £30 a month deal for £20 a month.

Note that if you want BBM, Push-email and certain other features on your BlackBerry, you must have a data plan. Usually these can be bought alongside the phone, whether on contract or PAYG. Make sure you speak to whoever you are buying from to double-check.

PAYG

Pros

  • You are in control of what you spend.
  • No credit check.
  • Less choice of deals on handsets.

Cons

  • Phones are very expensive.
  • For BlackBerry services (Push e-mail, BBM etc.), BlackBerry data plan is still required. Usually costs between £5 and £7.50 per month. Speak to your network provider on purchasing of the phone.
  • Generally, minutes and texts are more expensive than on a contract.
  • Can be easy to run out of credit.

Contract

Pros

  • Phone is free; if not, the cost is heavily subsidised.
  • Minutes and texts are included.
  • Generally, when buying a BlackBerry with a contract, a data plan is already included. Check this with the store/provider before spending cash.
  • Minutes and texts are cheaper than PAYG.

Cons

  • Tied to pay a fixed sum for a certain length of time (generally 18 or 24 months).
  • Could end up paying more for things you don't use (excessive minutes/texts).
  • If the package deal isn't very good, it could be easy to go over the minutes/texts and run up a huge bill.
  • Might not be able to get one if your credit rating isn't very good.

Recommended Applications

BlackBerry App World is the official store for BlackBerry applications. Whilst many applications can be downloaded from here, others can't. Applications below may or may not be available from the blackBerry App World.

Please note: FREE - application is free. PAID - application must be purchased. BOTH - application is available as a free version or a bought version.

For applications that are BOTH, the link will direct to free version.

Applications

FREE - dexrex - Backs up SMS messages.

FREE - Google Sync - Allows back-up of BlackBerry calendar and contacts to Google servers. Two-way sync with Google allows editing of details online, to synchronize with BlackBerry.

FREE - CrunchSMS - Offers more options than the native SMS application.

BOTH - BerryBuzz - Enables customisation of the phone's LED for notifications and alerts.

BOTH - BerryWeather - Weather application.

BOTH - Quick Launch - Pop-up bar for BlackBerry for shortcuts.

PAID - BeeJive - Multi-protocol Instant-messaging application that can connect to Facebook, Windows Live Messenger, Google Talk and more!

FREE - Facebook - Official application for Facebook on BlackBerry.

Games

BOTH - Pixelated - puzzle game.

FREE - Ka-Glom! - puzzle game.

FREE - Number Cruncher - puzzle game.

BOTH - Bubble Defense - puzzle game.

There are thousands of games available for BlackBerry phones. Check the BlackBerry App World for the best of the rest.

Useful Links

The Official BlackBerry website

BlackBerry App World

Conclusion

I hope this page has been useful. If you are having any doubts, or wish to contact me about anything in this article, feel free to do so by sending me a Private Message. The link to my profile is at the bottom of this page.

Happy BlackBerry-ing!


This page was created by chernij

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