For mobile e-mail, theres nothing like a BlackBerry. Research in Motion (RIM) perfected corporate e-mail a few years ago, and it went on to bring fast, easy e-mail phones to consumers starting with its BlackBerry 7100t for T-Mobile. Theyre even catching on now with young Hollywood stars who want something more professional, and less bulky, than the otherwise ubiquitous Sidekicks.
BlackBerrys let you tap into up to 10 e-mail accounts at a time, including both personal e-mail and corporate Outlook or Lotus Notes systems. If your company runs Outlook Web Access, your IT department doesnt need to know that youre tapping into their e-mail with a mobile device. Attachments come through stripped down, but readable. The same "get at the information fast" mentality applies to the RIM Web browser, which doesnt handle flashy multimedia pages but usually gets the job done. Another BlackBerry bonus: Generally, they work as modems for your laptop.
BlackBerry has also turned into a full-fledged application platform. You can pick up apps like Handmark Pocket Express for maps, movie showtimes, and news headlines, Google Local on Mobile, DynoPlex eOffice to edit Microsoft Office documents, and even a few games.
The one big gap is multimedia. Betraying BlackBerrys corporate roots, you cant find a camera or MP3 player on any BlackBerry. You can play MP3 ringtones on the latest models, and you can store and view photos you receive through e-mail.
As phones, BlackBerrys are generally pretty decent. The newest models come with speakerphones and work with Bluetooth headsets. Reception and battery life are generally good, though sound quality through earpieces could be better. The beautiful, high-res color screens are a wonder to behold.
How do BlackBerrys compare with other options? Theyre a heck of a lot easier to use than Windows Mobile phones, and generally cheaper, sturdier and more stable than Treos. Sidekicks cant hit corporate e-mail. But all of those other phones have multimedia and gaming goodness which BlackBerrys are weak on. BlackBerrys are still mostly one-note devices—but that note sounds awfully good.