The music player is pretty basic. Aside from standard stop and play functions, you can create playlists as "folders" and shuffle and repeat songs within a certain folder. It also displays some track information, such as title, artist, and album art if available. As we noted in our BlackBerry Pearl review, external player controls would have been nice, rather than having to press the Menu key first and then choose to skip a track or go back to the previous song. There's also an option to set a song as your ringtone. You can continue to play music as you use the device's other programs, and if you happen to get an incoming call, the BlackBerry 8800 will pause the music and pick up where you left off after you hang up.
For videos, the player has play and stop buttons, and you can fast-forward and rewind clips by clicking the trackball and scrolling right or left. There's still no full-screen mode, but since player controls only take up minimal space of the bottom of the 8800's spacious display, we're less forgiving of this fact than we were with the Pearl.
In addition to moving pictures, the BlackBerry 8800 has an image viewer that lets you peruse your favorite photos. However, there is no camera on the 8800, so you'll have to get your images onto your device another way, whether it's via USB, multimedia message, and so on. As of this writing, RIM has no plans to offer a camera-equipped version of the 8800, in an attempt to appease customers who don't want or can't have camera phones. While we certainly appreciate this precaution and understand it's a growing trend among businesses (for security reasons), we still would have liked the option of having a model with a camera.
Road warriors will certainly appreciate the integrated GPS feature. There aren't a whole lot of smart phones out there that have this feature, so the BlackBerry 8800 certainly holds the advantage there against the likes of other popular smart phones, like the T-Mobile Dash, the Motorola Q, and the Samsung BlackJack. There's no need for a Bluetooth GPS receiver or the hassle of an extra gadget. All you need is the help of a location-based service, such as TeleNav GPS Navigator, and you can get color maps and text- and voice-guided driving directions right on the BlackBerry 8800, as well as points of interest and other navigation tools. We had TeleNav installed on our review unit, and it worked like a charm (see Performance for more), but be aware that if you choose TeleNav GPS Navigator, this is an add-on service from Cingular that will cost $9.99 per month for unlimited trips or $5.99 for up to 10 trips; check out our full review of TeleNav for more information.
Another Cingular-specific offering is push-to-talk capabilities. Plans start at $9.99 per month, and with it, you can instantly see the availability of your contacts before calling them and make individual or group PTT calls. As far as other voice features, the RIM BlackBerry 8800 offers a speakerphone, voice-activated dialing, smart dialing, conference calling, speed dial, and world roaming. The phone book is only limited by the available memory (the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts) with room in each entry eight phone numbers, e-mail addresses, work and home address, job title, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a photo to a contact as well a group category, business or personal.
Wireless options are pretty much limited to Bluetooth 2.0, which you can use for headsets or hands-free kits. There is no A2DP support for Bluetooth stereo headphones, but the 8800 can be used as a wireless modem for your laptop. Though RIM has hinted at adding Wi-Fi to future devices, it doesn't start with the BlackBerry 8800. Even more bad news, the device doesn't work on Cingular's 3G network so you'll have to settle for EDGE speeds when surfing the Net. While we're on the subject, the BlackBerry's browser supports full HTML Web browsing.
Of course, we cannot forget what makes BlackBerrys famous in the first place: e-mail. The RIM BlackBerry 8800 offers the famed push technology and can sync with your company's BlackBerry Enterprise server with support for Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, or Novell GroupWise to deliver corporate e-mail in real time. All in all, the device can support up to 10 accounts, including POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail accounts, and there is an e-mail wizard on the device to guide you through the setup process. An attachment viewer is also onboard to open popular file formats, such as those from Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Corel WordPerfect, as well as PDFs, JPEGs, GIFs, and more. Other messaging options include text, multimedia, and instant messaging, although the IMs are once again limited to the proprietary BlackBerry Messenger client.
Finally, the BlackBerry 8800 includes a number of PIM tools for the business users, including a calendar, a tasks list, a memo pad, an alarm, and a calculator.
We tested the quadband (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; EDGE) RIM BlackBerry 8800 world phone in San Francisco using Cingular Wireless service, and call quality was decent. Voices sounded a bit muffled on our end, and our friends reported the same results. It's nothing that prevented us from carrying on a conversation, but things certainly could have been better. Surprisingly, sound quality greatly improved when we activated the speakerphone. Everything was clear, and volume was more than adequate. We also had no problem pairing the 8800 with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.
As far as the GPS functionality, the 8800 was adequate, and we were certainly impressed by the strength of the GPS receiver. From a cold start, it took the unit about two minutes to lock onto a satellite fix and held steady as we drove around the city. It accurately tracked our location on a free drive. On a planned trip, TeleNav provided us with accurate but sometimes convoluted driving directions. On a couple of occasions, we knew there was a more direct route than the one that was presented to us. Still, for a mobile professional heading to a client meeting in a new place, this could be a huge timesaver.
Music playback sounded OK through the phone's speakers, though there was tinny tone to some songs. Video performance was quite good with clear image quality, although there was some pixilation during action sequences as to be expected. The BlackBerry 8800 did falter a bit in the arena of Web browsing. After spending time with a number of 3G-enabled smart phones, the EDGE speeds of the BlackBerry 8800 seemed pokey, and we began to lose our patience waiting for pages to load--call us spoiled if you will.
Overall, the BlackBerry 8800 delivered responsive and solid performance. The BlackBerry 8800's battery is rated for 5 hours of talk time and up to 22 days of standby time. In our tests, we were able to get 7.5 hours of talk time on a single charge.
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