Smart at last

In one of the last columns of 2009, I hinted that I had finally grasped the nettle and renewed my mobile phone contract.

It was about time; my previous contract had expired a year previously and the printing was starting to wear off of the keypad of my el-cheapo Nokia handset. The reason for the delay is that I hate shopping in the first place and especially when I am going to be dealing with an organisation that doesn’t really care if it has my business or not.

What finally decided me to go ahead with the upgrade was that I happened to hear, quite by chance, that there was now a reasonably priced BlackBerry Smartphone available, and that the deal included unlimited Internet access.I couldn’t quite believe my ears, but I went into my local cellular store and found out that it’s perfectly true. The newly-launched BlackBerry 8520 is here and, in addition to the normal call charges, unlimited Internet connectivity is an extra R59 a month.

After quite a long [unnessary] delay, I eventually got the 8520 in my hot little hands and I have to say that I have been absolutely amazed by the fact that, even after several weeks, no tinge of disappointment has begun to creep in.

The BlackBerry 8520 is a really cool-looking little handset with all the bells and whistles including a digital camera, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPRS, a map feature and plenty more besides. The only thing it doesn’t seem to have, unlike its elder brother the 8530, is GPS and 3G network access.

So what can the 8520 for you? Well, it’s a phone of course, it can be used to retrieve your e-mail, browse websites, play music and videos, read electronic books, play games, and much more besides.

It comes complete with a fairly extensive selection of applications already loaded on it but, if there’s anything else you need, you can probably find it in Blackberry App Store for free or at a pretty reasonable price.

The unit’ s screen and keyboard are perfectly usable but smallish. You can read text on the 320 x 240 pixel screen quite well and you can do a fairly decent job of browsing through a website, especially if it is designed to be viewed on a small screen.

It will never be your prime tool for browsing the Internet but it is more than ample for keeping in touch, checking sports scores, or updating the particular social networking sites that you use.
I am currently reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s History of the Boer War on it but, as the screen only displays 50 or 60 words at a time, I’m sure I’m going to get terminal cramp of the hand before I finish the book’s 4000 pages.

The 8520 has a full QWERTY keyboard and the keys are pretty small, but you can type fairly successfully. It could never be your primary text input device but you can easily reply to email or SMS messages.

I have said that the 8520 comes with GPRS, which is an old and slow means of connecting to the Internet. You can also connect to the Internet at very much faster speeds by using the WiFi feature which will allow you to connect through any wireless hotspot, such as in a cafe or office.

Having been a Nokia user for many years, I found that the BlackBerry interface took a little bit of getting used to, but everything is very well thought out and it soon fell into place. One feature that I particularly enjoyed was the built-in trackpad which allows you to navigate around the screen with the greatest of ease.

The 8520 is a compromise between price, portability and power and it has hit the mark perfectly. You have a full Smartphone with most of the bells and whistles that you could possibly desire, at a pretty reasonable price.

I obviously can’t comment yet on how well the thing will last but, so far, it’s great.

Not in original column but added later:

  • The BlackBerry 8520 will come free with a number of contracts but you will have to pay in something on others; I am now on a Top-Up 200 contract and I had to pay R799, or so.
  • When I said GPRS is old and slow, I meant it! The unit’s Internet connection is pretty slow and it can take up to a couple of minutes to download and display a large web page. When sending and receiving messages, you luckily don’t notice the slowness of the connection. Faster Internet would great but would have a major impact on the monthly pricing, so I’m happy as it is.

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1 thought on “Smart at last

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