Blackberrys are not toys. You will not find a Blackberry with a digital camera. You will not find a Blackberry that plays back music. Blackberrys are serious devices that are designed to keep people in touch via either voice or email. However, Blackberrys are addictive, which is why they are often referred to as "Crackberrys." The 8700 series devices, primarily the “c” model available from Cingular, are Blackberry’s most advanced models yet, making them even more "Crackberryish." The quad-band 8700c is the first broadband Blackberry, operating on Cingular’s EDGE network in the U.S., which results in even faster email downloads. The 8700 also has twice as much internal memory as any other Blackberry. But RIM (Research in Motion) has introduced a little amusement into the 8700 — it can play MP3 ringtones. We’d like to be a fly on the wall as you attempt to explain 50 Cent rapping to alert you to an incoming business call!
*Also check out our review of the RIM Blackberry 8700g which runs on the T-Mobile network.
Features and Design
Blackberry’s raison d’etre is its secure push email, either from your individual POP3 or IMAP account or connected through Blackberry’s Enterprise Server for Microsoft Exchange and all other major email server programs. For the sake of brevity, we’ll assume that you have at least a passing familiarity with Blackberry’s rich font of email and PDA features, benefits, and its intuitive interface and controls. The 8700c contains all these usual Blackberry attributes, so we’ll concern ourselves with how the 8700c compares to other Blackberry models. If you need more basic Blackberry info, see Blackberry’s own site (www.blackberry.com).
The 8700c has a few extra features that set it apart from both previous Blackberrys, with full QWERTY thumbpads, and the new “NURTY” keypads (an expression we just made up). QWERTY keypads cleverly compressed into and around a standard numerical array found, such as included on the new 7100 series models. One prominent advantage of the 8700c over other Blackberrys is its copious 64 MB internal memory, which enables you to download and store more ringtones, applications, and (horrors!) games from Cingular’s online store.
While fattening up its digital storage capacity, RIM has trimmed the 8700c’s waistline. At 4.3 x 2.7 x .77 inches, the 8700c is nearly a half inch trimmer than the 7700-series models, and almost a quarter inch trimmer than the 7500 and 7200 series models. This may not sound like a substantial difference, but anyone who’s had to maneuver around their belt clipped Blackberry to get their hand into a pants pocket or wiggle the phone out of a suit breast pocket will appreciate the 8700c’s heroin chic thinness. For folks with hands smaller than an NBA player, the thinner 8700c is also a bit easier to palm and operate with one hand.
In return for this handier size, however, the keyboard keys have been smashed closer together when compared to other full QWERTY models. While still roomier than the keyboard on other popular QWERTY PDA phones such as the Treo, 8700c’s tighter thumbpad does raise the chubby thumb/typing mistake ratio.
The 8700c is also squatter than all other Blackberry models, which means a little less LCD screen real estate. But the 8700c’s 320 x 240 pixel LCD is far brighter and more colorful than previous Blackberry models. It also includes RIM’s light sensing technology, which brightens or dims the display and thumbpad backlighting depending on ambient light.
One unfortunate thumbpad ergonomic anomaly also has been added. Like all Blackberrys, the numerical dial keys are integrated into the left side of the QWERTY thumbpad, with the “S” and “4” sharing one key adjacent to the “D” and the “5” key. In previous Blackberrys, these keys were two-toned, with the numbers appearing white-on-gray atop the gray-on-white letter. The 8700c eschews this edifying two-toning and leaves the co-alpha/numeric keys all white. Normally not a big deal, except that RIM’s sans serif font renders the “S” under the “4” nearly identical to the “5” over the “D” on the neighboring key. If you’re one of those folks who use the center “5” on any numerical key pad to unconsciously orient your fingers before dialing, the momentary confusion over the neighboring “S”/”5” keys could cause continual disconcertion.
Image Courtesy of Research in Motion
Their size and shape make Blackberry’s inherently awkward for phone calling. Although a bit thinner than other models, the 8700c still feels as if you’re holding a bar of soap up to your cheek. Fortunately, you can connect either a wired or Bluetooth headset and keep the Blackberry in its belt clip.
RIM has endowed the Bluetooth 8700c, as it has many Blackberry functions, with a high degree of intelligent functionality. Once you’ve paired a headset, for instance, the 8700c automatically recognizes it each time you power the headset up. As long as you’ve turned on the Bluetooth connection from the 8700c’s top menu, you don’t have to re-pair it or drill down to the Bluetooth connection menu to make the Bluetooth connections (as you have to do with most other phones). A large notice appears on screen to let you know in no uncertain terms that you’re wirelessly connected.
Calls themselves are crisp and clear, with or without headphones. As long as you keep the earpiece located precisely at your ear, there is plenty of volume controlled conveniently by the familiar Blackberry all-purpose jog wheel. The rear-mounted speaker also produces generous volume for a quiet conference room or office with only a slight hint of speakerphone gurgle, but positioning may be a problem. You have to lay the 8700c on its face if you want to hear anything, but this position blocks the front microphone.
Thanks to the EDGE connection and the new powerful Intel XScale processor, email downloads and replies transmit nano-swiftly and Web pages fill swiftly most of the time; only network glitches hold things up, not the 8700c.
The 8700c’s rated 16 day standby time is the most robust of all the Blackberrys, but the four hour talk time is about an hour shorter than other models.
The 8700c is the most advanced full QWERTY Blackberry available. While it has its minor quirks, for the world traveling mobile professional with moderately sized thumbs there is no better way to stay in touch while on the road.
- EV-DO network capable
- Quad band world phone
- 64 MB internal memory
- MP3 ringtones
- No external memory card slot
- Tightly packed keypad keys
*Also check out our review of the RIM Blackberry 8700g which runs ont he T-Mobile network.