Horrors: Blackberry duplicate reviews

Stephen Baker

Bad day for a reviewer. I just learned that BW Online already ran a review on the Blackberry that I just reviewed. So I got my draft sent back to me with a thanks-but-no-thanks note. I must have missed an email somewhere along the line.

So here's the question: If we run two reviews of the same product, do we undermine our "authority?" Do we risk confusing readers? I don't think so. A news organization isn't one voice, but a collection of voices. So why not broadcast in stereo, or a polyphonic chorus? That said, I'll have to concede from the get-go that my review is a lot skimpier than Arik's, and my lead plagiarizes yesterday's blog post. Still, if anyone wants to read my spiked review, I'll run it here, under the fold...

This is the ultimate thumbs-up from a reviewer. I just went out and bought a replica of the Blackberry 8700g I've been testing. It had become my most useful traveling tool, and as I wrapped it up to send it back to T-Mobile, I couldn't see working without it. So I paid $299 for a two-year subscription. That's assuming I get back the $50 rebate, which isn't always a sure thing.

My new Blackberry won't work quite as well as the old one--because I'm a cheapskate. I was just about to sign up for a voice-and-data package. It would have been $49.95 for 1,000 minutes, plus $19.95 for unlimited Internet and e-mail. Add the taxes and the $5.95 for insurance, and I was going to be paying more than $80 per month for the next two years. So I regretfully lopped off the voice, sticking with a Verizon family package in which my share costs only $10. In the end, I'll spend $29.95 per month plus taxes for a pure data machine--and pay 20 cents per minute if I'm ever desperate or foolish enough to use it as a phone.

This is too bad, because much of the magic of the Blackberry has been the combo of voice and data. The latest version, available from T-Mobile since April (Cingular has been offering a similar version, the 8700c, since last winter.), has a fast data connection, known as EDGE, along with an Intel XScale processor. I now routinely Google hotels and restaurants on the move--and get near instant results. What's more, the cursor seeks out the phone numbers among the search results. All you have to do is hit the green call button, and you're in business. Last week in Pittsburgh, I located a nearby Days Inn and found a room within a minute.

Now I'll continue to try the same maneuver. To make the call, though, I'll have to pull out the Verizon phone and peck out the number. It's a pain, and will take an extra minute. But I figure that by foregoing Blackberry's phone feature I'm saving about a dollar a day--or $700 over the two year subscription.

For Blackberry veterans, the 8700g will feel familiar. It has a narrowed-down look of the classic Blackberry, along with the full keyboard. At 4.7 ounces, it sits nicely in the pocket. The battery lasts for days on end. The phone works just fine, though I noticed that in the hot streets of Miami and Austin my face left a coating of sweat on the screen.

Email was a snap to set up. It took me all of a minute to get my Gmail and Yahoo accounts feeding into the handset. The device allows for as many as 10 accounts. Hotmail didn't work, for some reason. I probably could have figured it out. But my Hotmail account is a spam magnet anyway, so I didn't press.

Problems with the Blackberry? It has little of the multimedia fun of the popular Treo. No camera, no music. Its keyboard is a bit squidgy for my big fingers, and I hate having to hit the alternate key to make a comma. You can get around that problem for periods by hitting the space bar twice.

I see as I read through the manual that this new Blackberry features Instant Messaging, including AOL, Yahoo, MSN or ICQ. In addition, users can download Google Talk. It appears that the Google Talk on the Blackberry doesn't yet support Internet telephony. When that day comes--and I'm betting it will--even cheapskates like me will be able to yammer away for free on their handsets. But for now, you have to pay for voice if you want this excellent new Blackberry to play all its tricks.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.