A few years ago, when we were thinking of changing network provider and upgrading our mobiles, I decided to take a look at the legendary Blackberry.
I say “legendary” advisedly, not only because the Blackberry is famous (famous in the same way that Marmite is famous, having fervent admirers and equally fervent detractors) but also because it played a central role in Lucy Kellaway’s excellent Martin Lukes column in the Financial Times, of which we were fans.
In those days, you could usually get hold of a Blackberry only by signing for a monthly paid contract with one of the big network providers. So when we saw some reconditioned 7290 models on sale SIM-free on eBay, I bought one.
To tell the truth, I was a little disappointed because there was very little I could do with it. This is because the Blackberry was above all intended as a superb email machine but in order to operate as such it needs to be properly set up and you can’t just bung a PAYG SIM in it as you would with any common or garden mobile.
There was another problem but, not having met any Blackberries before, I didn’t realize it at first. This is that some essential components, including the browser and the email client, are missing.
Undaunted, however, I put a spare SIM in the Blackberry (you’ve probably realized that I am the sort of tiger who has spare SIMs lying around the place) and used it for phone calls and for sending and receiving SMS. For this sort of work it does a good job.
I like the look and feel of the Blackberry. It’s quite unlike the usual mobile phone—or was when I bought it. Nowadays, many handsets look like Blackberries because the design is so well liked but when it first appeared, its style was unique. I find it very pleasant to handle.
An important claim to fame was its QWERTY keyboard which was luxurious compared with the traditional set of multi-press buttons on most mobiles. Admittedly, the keys are rather small and close together, making it seem an intricate exercise to type an SMS or an email but, as with most non-trivial activities, practice improves performance. Also, the small size makes it just about possible to operate it one-handed, holding the device in your palm while typing with your thumb.
I discovered that you can download software that allows you to back up your data to the PC and synchronize your contacts and calendar with Outlook Express or—bizarrely—with a Yahoo online account. This means that I could, if so minded, write my travel blogs on the Blackberry’s memo pad and transfer the text to the PC as I do with my Nokia 9300.
I recently got the 7290 out again to house the SIM that I have assigned to receive SMS comments to this blog and I was once more charmed by its eccentric but practical qualities. The significance of this is that the time has come to think about what should replace my trusty Nokia 9300 which, though superb, is beginning to show its age. These days there is a bewildering variety of handsets on the market and sifting through that lot in order to find the ideal machine is no easy task. I have certain requirements that must be met but even with these satisfied there remains a lot of choice.
One possibility is a new Blackberry, because the modern models are so sophisticated that beside them, my little 7290 looks like a pterodactyl beside an eagle. One question to answer is: could I put up with the tiny keyboard after having become used to the large keyboard of the 9300? In the hope of deciding that, I have written the whole of this post on the 7290, including several paragraphs in the middle one-handed.
The jury is still out on this question, but the Blackberry certainly has possibilities, not to mention the fun and kudos of using a device forever associated with the legendary Martin Lukes. In the end, I took the plunge and ordered a Blackberry Curve 8900 from Orange. It is supposed to be delivered today, before noon. I am looking forward to setting it up and discovering its possibilities. If I am happy with it, I may end my longstanding allegiance to Nokia and become a Blackberry fan.
Either way, I will let you know how I get on with my new toy.