Previously I reviews the Blackberry 7100t. While I was generally happy with the device, I found that I was avoiding typing because of the strange keyboard (multiple letters on each key). I started looking for a better solution and started looking at the Blackberry 8700 series. While these looked like great phones, they were very expensive–generally about $300 even when signing up for a 2 year plan.After a brief search on ebay I found a 7230 for under $80. It doesn’t have some of the additional features of the 8700, but I figured it would give me a good chance to try out the keyboard and see how I like the form factor. If I decide I don’t like it, I’m not out much money and I can always turn around and sell it again on eBay.
Another reason I went with the cheaper phone is because neither the 8700 nor the 7200 phones work with OS X as a modem. However, the newest Blackberry Pearl 8100 does work with OS X. I don’t want a Pearl because it has a similiar key layout to the 7100t, but I’m hoping that the next phone released with a full keyboard will have the OS X compatibility.
Ok so back to the 7230. It is possible to synchronize your address book and calendar on OS X using a free piece of software from www.pocketmac.com. It integrates with iSync so it works along side of any other devices you are synchronizing. This has to be done using a cable because the 7230 doesn’t support bluetooth (as far as I know, even the versions that support bluetooth require a cable connection to sync).
The device itself feels smaller in my hand than I expected. While it is wider than a regular phone it is still easy to hold. The wide screen seems a lot easier to read text on than the thinner one on the 7100. Like the 7100 it can be difficult to hear unless the speaker is directly in the center of your ear. This is easily fixed by using a headset. I highly recommend using a headset if you plan on talking on this phone regularly.
They keyboard is much easier to use than the 7100. It still isn’t as fast as using my laptop, but I don’t find myself avoiding responding to messages as much as I was with the 7100. Holding a keydown slightly longer produces a capital letter (or you can use the shift key). Most commonly used symbols are available using an alt key instead of selecting them from a menu like the 7100. This makes data entry much more rapid.
The built in web browser is decent. By default it loads pages with the pictures turned off. This works fairly well most of the time. You can load images individually, for the whole page, or change the preference to automatically load images.
There are quite a few applications available for the Blackberry. Many of these apps can be installed directly from the web, so you don’t have to use a PC with special software running on it to load the app into your handheld. Unfortunately they don’t always seem to install on the first try. Several applications failed the first time I tried to install them but installed without any trouble the second time. Handango seems to have a good system for downloading apps directly from the phone, but not all applications are available from their browser/app.
Email works pretty much the same as on the 7100. Once again my biggest complaint is that it doesn’t do a very good job of syncing. If you delete a message out of your mailbox on your laptop, it isn’t removed from the inbox on the phone. However, if you remove the email from your phone, you have the option of removing it from the actual mailbox (which with imap will remove it from your laptop as well). Also some accounts (.mac) seem to do a good job of keeping the sent items in sync with emails sent from the Blackberry while other accounts do not. Most of these problems would be fixed by going to a Blackberry Enterprise Server, but that would require a much higher monthly payment.
The screen on the 7230 is very easy to read in full sunlight, which is great when you are outside. It has a dim backlight that works great if you are in the dark. However, it can be difficult to read the screen if you are inside with the lights turned off because the backlight isn’t really bright enough for those situations.
Overall I think the 7230 was a step up for me, but I’m hoping RIM comes out with a similar version that has OS X support sometime soon. I’ll probably upgrade again when that happens.