While mobile computing is still a tough sell in the slow-to-adopt-technology insurance industry, the makers of the popular BlackBerry wireless handheld device are continuing to make functional improvements that make the products a more attractive buy.
When we last reviewed a BlackBerry unit (the BlackBerry 7250) in 2005, we judged it to be a handy mobile platform from which users could conduct many aspects of their business. The device allowed users to check e-mail, type (with their thumbs) messages, go online, check daily schedules and even use their BlackBerries as telephones. Not much has changed on that score, but the newer unit being reviewed here–the BlackBerry 8700c–offers a number of enhancements and solves some problems we found with the older model.
The current device was supplied by Cingular Wireless, which was also the wireless service provider. Research In Motion (RIM)–a Waterloo, Ontario, Canada-based company–makes the hardware.
On the older unit, the display screen took up less than half of the space on the face of the BlackBerry, but the 8700c offers a slightly bigger display (a little more than half the space) that will certainly be appreciated by users like your friendly reviewer who consider reading glasses a technology must-have.
The full-color display is readable in most lighting conditions, thanks to intelligent light-sensing technology that automatically adjusts the LCD (liquid crystal display) screen and keyboard backlighting to provide an optimal view. Sometimes it takes a few seconds for the software to make the adjustment, but for the most part, this is a significant help. According to RIM, the display supports over 65,000 colors and delivers “vivid graphics,” and they won’t get an argument here. The crispness and clarity are noticeably better than we found on the older 7250 unit.
We found it a bit amusing that the unit’s thumb-operated backlit QWERTY keyboard was described as “ergonomic.” One wonders whether some subtle design change at the microscopic level would save users from the dreaded “BlackBerry thumb,” a distant cousin to “tennis elbow.” No further information on these ergonomic benefits was offered, however.
In our review of the older model, we warned users to pick up the device with thumb and forefingers on the top and bottom to avoid accidentally pressing the track wheel and/or escape button located on the side of the unit. We can’t give that advice with the 8700c, however, since it features a power-on button and microphone mute control on the top edge of the unit that could also easily be pressed when grabbing the device. The best we can do is to advise picking the unit up very, very carefully.