Last year, RIM came out with a distinctly different-looking BlackBerry in the form of the ultra-desirable BlackBerry Pearl. Although it has since launched several handsets that go back to the older, wider design for which it's better known - a design that's able to accommodate a Qwerty keyboard, the innovative rollerball of the Pearl has been retained in the BlackBerry 8820. This larger screen allows you to comfortably view plenty of information.
The BlackBerry 8820's orb glows white whenever the backlit screen is active and, when depressed, offers an intuitive way of scrolling in all directions around the screen. Given that mapping is becoming such an important element on handheld devices, this is extremely useful.
However, the BlackBerry 8820's GPRS and Wi-Fi can't always quite keep up. When scrolling around a map using GPRS, we found ourselves running out of map at the edges and, while the BlackBerry map service is good at displaying static information, the satnav you get uses satellites to locate you but doesn't tell you where you are already. Unless you're on an unlimited Wi-Fi data plan, the cost of grabbing location information over the air will rack up too.
The Wi-Fi setup was incredibly easy. Press a single key on the BlackBerry 8820 to scan for available networks and, three seconds later, our home network details appeared and we were logged on a couple of moments after that. One comment: when entering a password on a portable device, it's usual for the characters you enter to momentarily flash up onscreen before showing as ‘x's, but here the whole string stayed visible until we pressed to confirm entry. It's a small thing, but could be exploited my someone looking over your shoulder.
Wi-Fi internet should mean some form of VoIP calls but, crucially, it's offered only via UMA (unlicensed mobile access) not the more usual and widespread SIPS (session internet protocol service) which allows you to choose your own VoIP service. It's compatible only with Orange's Unique service which routes calls via your home or business Orange broadband account and adjusts the charges accordingly. There's an explanatory cartoon about Orange Unique here.
You get GPRS/Edge/GSM networks and connectivity with all flavours of Wi-Fi, but there's no 3G on the BlackBerry 8820 – something we understand maker Research in Motion to be working on.
Even so, we were able to download and install Pocket Express, an application on the BlackBerry suggestion list, in two minutes – fast by anyone's standards.
You get voice dialling, a microSD card slot – a useful means by which to add music, photos and video (there's no camera built into the BlackBerry 8820; choose the more consumer-focused BlackBerry Curve or Pearl versions if you want those sort of functions).
The styling of the BlackBerry 8820 is particularly attractive. From the marketing materials supplied with our review kit, it's clear that this is supposed to the serious businessperson's handset of choice, with Pearl-esque black and silver styling and that wide, functional screen and keyboard.
For those that don't need 3G or the Pocket Office applications you get with a Windows Mobile 6.0 device and, of course, businesses that have already invested in the BlackBerry Enterprise infrastucture, the BlackBerry 8820 is a clear and highly desirable choice.