Business Smartphone Roundup

To a lot of people, if you say smartphone, they'll describe a BlackBerry. Starting as a single device to provide a simple function, Research in Motion (RIM) has taken the simple of idea of having instant access to your email from a concept to a must have in any smartphone business device - Push Email.

And that idea, of always on email access, revolutionised mobile communications. You didn't have to think to pick up a device, go online, log into your email box and see what was waiting. You just had your BlackBerry beep at you when ever you received an email, as the software was always checking, and always communicating with your inbox. The process was two way as well, any email you wrote would be sent instantly, and it was likely that a ten or fifteen email 'chat' session could be undertaken in the space of five minutes.

The final trick to all this was that it was kept in sync with your main email inbox. So if you read an email on your BlackBerry, when you sat down at your main computer to look at the same mailbox, it was marked as read. If you had sent a reply, it would be in your "Sent Messages" box as well. This core functionality is still the strength of the BlackBerry, and for millions of people they dread loosing or forgetting their BlackBerry more than any other workplace crisis.

The BlackBerry 8700g is one of the latest handhelds from RIM, and brings all the latest tools to the user. It's quite clear that while other smartphones in this test want to be portable computers and do as much as their desktop, the 8700 continues with the BlackBerry tradition of focusing on email. While there are other applications on the devices (such as Calendar and Contacts app, Memo pad), the core function is the push email.

Setting up this service will require a BlackBerry Enterprise server, of which there are versions for MS Exchange, Lotus Domino or Novell GroupWise, which covers a significant proportion of the business market. Depending on the Network Operator, you may also be able to set up the 8700 to check your POP3 box on a regular schedule to provide you with 'almost instant' push-email, albeit without the nifty 'sync if read' function. The set up does require you to enter your login and password details, but I found no problem using the BlackBerry in conjunction with my Gmail account's POP3 service.

One welcome improvement in the 8700 over previous BlackBerry devices can be found in the hardware keys on the spine of the device. Previously this has been a clickable scroll wheel, used to move a highlighting cursor to select items on the screen. The 8700 has replaced this with very small trackball pointing device next to an 'escape' key. This makes the 8700 great to navigate around, and while the browser is still not the greatest at rendering full web pages on a small screened device, it does make it much easier to use, everyone can understand moving a pointer around a web page.

If you want to do more when you are away from your office, to live without having to carry a laptop, then the legendary BlackBerry focus on one function is going to let you down. But the 8700 is pretty much perfect as a messaging device, and if this is all you are looking for in a smartphone, then you've found your device.


The 8700 is pretty much perfect as a messaging device, an if this is all you are looking for in a smartphone, then you've found your device. No missed emails, always available, always in touch. Just what it was designed to do.