I finally gave up the fight and got a BlackBerry. After using it for a few week, I have this love and hate relation with it. But at the end of the day, I am, for the time being at least, able to keep up with my inbox, especially when travelling, without needing to spend my night connected.
Yes, I am now one of the millions of users who happily type on this tiny keyboard – I have the 7100 model – any time I have to wait somewhere. Really adictive this little device. It is definitely not as good as a Palm OS device for an all purpose PDA, but as a mobile email client, it rocks. And the integration with the corporate email really works great, including global address book lookup and folder support (see my blog entry about the Palm TX) as well as syncing of calendar, tasks and notes.
There are basically two form factors from BlackBerry. The brick and the not that big after all but still bigger than a cell phone. I now have the latter. The keyboard takes a while to get used to it as it is similar to T9 for SMS from mobile phones, but with a QWERTY hybrid keyboard. Once you get used to it, you can get to good typing speeds… But I would not recommend it for very long emails. Part from the basic PIM and the email client, there is also a web browser which seems to do a decent job at reformating the page to the display constraints. An I am not sure if it is because RIM is a Canadian company, but I am able to open WordPerfect attachements! Palm, you might want to have a look at this one day
The real problem with the BlackBerry, but also its greatest advantage, is that it does so called Push email, e.g. you get them automatically as long as you have a GPRS connection. This means that you can clean your inbox while on the road and answer the urgent questions as they come in. But this also means that you are on email 24/7.
The interesting part is that the UI design is really terrible, but it has been so optimized for the one task that you do – emails – and it does it so well, that the strange user interface is not a problem. But when you compare that to the other mobile email solutions (I tried RoadSync and VersaMail), the biggest difference is that it actually works as I would expect it to.
There are some strange things with the BlackBerry. For example, I have not yet found a way to get my inbox on the server to sync with the one on the mobile device. Yes, I get the emails pushed to my device, but when I did read them on my desktop, they are not being marked as read on the BlackBerry. Same when I remove it from with the desktop client. The only way I found around this is to either open it on the phone or to mark all prior messages as read. I would expect the Reconcile feature to do what I am looking for, but that’s not the case.
Similar to a recommendation posted on rkuo.com, I now use following method to regain control of my inbox. I read all the messages I get and answer those I can as they come in. If no further action is required from my side, I move that email out of my inbox into a received folder. If I still need to action on the email, I leave it in the inbox for when I am back in front of my computer, letting the person who is expecting my answer when to expect it. I also have various folders for all the emails I get as an FYI as well as for all the notifications that make the inbox explode on a regular basis. When back at my desktop (actually when my laptop is plugged onto the corporate network) I follow up with the emails stil in the inbox. My ultimate goal is to have between 10 and 20 emails in my inbox at all times… Not very easy, but thanks to the BlackBerry, I am able to get there on a more frequent basis.
That’s it for now, I believe the next train station is where I get off, so I’ll need to stop typing this blog entry on my tiny keyboard. Blogging from a BlackBerry, the new geek thing to do!