RIM Ships Color BlackBerry

The BlackBerry 7230 became available in the United States this week.

/zimages/5/26977.gifThe BlackBerry 7230, the latest in Research In Motion LTD.s line of BlackBerry wireless messaging devices, became available in the United States this week, complete with a tri-band GPRS radio and an attractive new color display.

Like the BlackBerry 5810, which eWEEK Labs reviewed last year (see review), the 7230 maintains the mobile messaging competency on which RIMs BlackBerry devices have risen to popularity. However, users who need more than basic messaging and cell phone functionality will have to look elsewhere.

BlackBerry 7230
RIMs BlackBerry 7230, which sports a color display and GPRS, performs solidly as a wireless messaging device and basic personal information manager. However, users interested in browsing the Web and running third-party applications should look to a Palm OS- or Pocket PC-powered alternative. The $399 7230 requires either a $29.99 per-month fee added to an existing T-Mobile phone plan or a data-only $39.99 monthly plan.
  • PRO: Nice color display; tri-band GPRS radio.

  • CON: T-Mobile plan doesnt support HTML browsing.

• Handspring Inc.s Treo • Microsofts Pocket PC Phone Edition • Palm Inc.s Tungsten W
The 7230 does include applications for managing contacts, calendars, to-do items and notes, but it lacks appreciable third-party application support and is also missing any sort of memory or peripheral expansion slot. Competing Pocket PC- and Palm OS-based devices offer these things.

In addition, some of the improvements wed hoped to see materialize since last year remain absent. For example, the 5810 was the first RIM device to ship with a General Packet Radio Service radio, and yet it lacked an HTML browser—which would be one of the best uses for a speedier Internet connection.

The 7230 does include an HTML browser, but T-Mobile USA Inc., the only currently available service provider for the new RIM device, does not officially support HTML browsing. Instead, the T-Mobile service plans available for the 7230 allow access to a handful of Wireless Application Protocol-based "t-zones," including information such as basic news and sports headlines.

Somewhat confusingly, though, we could in fact visit HTML pages in our tests, albeit with unpredictable results. We at times received network error messages, and HTML pages tended to load slowly. Browsing seemed to work best when we configured the browser not to download images.

The 7230 sells for $399. Unlimited wireless data and t-zone access costs $29.99 per month atop one of T-Mobiles standard phone rate plans. Alternatively, users may opt for a $39.99 monthly plan with unlimited e-mail, t-zone access and 300 two-way text messages. On this plan, voice calls cost 20 cents per minute.

The 7230 performed acceptably as a telephone, and can be used with or without an included earbud/microphone combo piece. Wed like to see a Bluetooth radio included in the device, which would enable the 7230 to team with a wireless headset. In addition, integrated Bluetooth would enable users to access the 7230s GPRS Internet connection with a laptop.

RIM lists the 7230s talk time at approximately 4 hours, with a standby time of 10 days.

Measuring 4.4 inches tall, 2.9 inches wide and 0.8 inches thick and weighing 4.8 ounces, the 7230 is a bit smaller than the 5810 and similar in size to Handspring Inc.s Treo.

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The 7230 is built with the same sort of thumb keyboard found in previous versions of this device, but instead of the 160-by-160-pixel monochrome display that the 5810 featured, this device comes with a 240-by-160-pixel, 65,000-color display that we found very readable both indoors and in sunlight.

The 7230 can be used to send and receive e-mail from Microsoft Corp.s Exchange or IBMs Lotus Software divisions Domino servers via RIMs desktop redirector software or its Enterprise Sync Server products.

RIMs BlackBerry Web Client Web-based service is designed to forward mail to the 7230 from Post Office Protocol and IMAP accounts, as well as from Exchange accounts using Outlook Web Access and from Notes accounts using iNotes.

The Web Client worked well enough, but we found it frustrating that once wed added an account for forwarding, we couldnt view or change any account information beyond our password.

Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_ brooks@ziffdavis.com.