Blackberry Onyx

Onyx on a iBook G4 keyboard

A lot of people I know are pretty enthusiastic for the new offering from RIM, BlackBerry Bold 9700 (a.k.a. Onyx). I am not, for I am not really fan of BlackBerries. Still, their PR agency is kind enough to lend me a test unit. With a SIM card, no less, but still without BlackBerry Internet Service. Well, at least I don’t need to buy a new SIM just for testing this unit. The fact that you need to subscribe to a BlackBerry service is actually the main reason that turned me off of their products. I don’t like tie-ins.

In my view, at least in the past, hardware-wise BlackBerries are not that spectacular compared to their competitors. I found them rather boring. Nokia, Sony Ericsson or HTC are better, not to mention Apple iPhone. Still, hardware is not the end of it all. The service that only avalaible for this handsets should be factored in. For example, even though I dislike the tie-in, one advantage offered by BlackBerry Internet Service is the unlimited Internet connection. For many users this is the thing that make them switch. Also, the messaging apps is excellent.

That said, I found that I rather like the design of the new Onyx handset. At a glance it is still same boring, business-like look. Which is actually doesn’t matter much to business users, which supposedly are the target market.

Like Gemini, it sports a touchpad as pointing device instead of trackball. This should avoid the problem with trackballs. However, I still found it clumsier than direction pad.

The keys are rather nice, at least more usable than my own Nokia E63. However, a colleague of mine, which is a much more a cell phone enthusiast than I am, pointed out that the BlackBerry Pearl keyboard was much more pleasant to use.

A nice addition for the Onyx is the usage of leather at the back cover. It gives the handset an elegant look.

The messaging app is easy to setup. It can be improved, of course, but I rather liked the threaded view (good for mailing list). Veteran BlackBerry users perhaps have alrady used to it, but to me it is just another reminder that Nokia Messaging app sucks. One criticism though: the app complains that I haven’t set up Gmail properly to work with BlackBerry. Apparently I have to set up All Mail folder to appear to IMAP clients. I don’t really like this, because I like to limit IMAP access only to Inbox (and a few more label).

I also like Google Talk and Yahoo Messenger apps for BlackBerry. Actually, as I said before, the messaging apps for BlackBerries are excellent.

Not for other class of software though. Documents To Go still viewer-only, which sucks. You need to pony up some more money for editing capability, which is a regression compared to old Palm devices. The browser still rather painful to use. I am sure there are some shortcuts available to lighten the pain, but it is not discoverable to say the least.