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Blackberries and other winter fruit
About two weeks before Christmas my office finally issued me with a BlackBerry -- I'd first asked about them, oh, years ago. In the interim I've had various other mechanisms for accessing my email outside the office, of which the best was probably the carrier pigeons. But BlackBerry is now officially sanctioned for restricted mail, so I have one. And how much do I like it?

Today I bought a second BlackBerry, a BlackBerry Pearl this time, so that I have my home email on push too. It's that good. coth will understand that I've been faunching after a Pearl since about two days after I got the office BB, but I had to narrow down providers. That went as follows:

What push email services are there? OK, what push email services are there that aren't Windows?
Which providers offer BlackBerry?
Of those, which providers deliver mobile phone service to my desk in the dungeons beneath a large off-Whitehall building?
Of O2 and Vodafone, which had a salesman who said 'oh, of course, I can offer you a much better deal than that, but only if you sign up right now, it won't be available tomorrow', causing me to leave the shop so fast I produced red shift?

And a nod here to John Cavalier of the O2 shop on the Strand, who:

- helped me understand the tariffs
- when I dithered about the expense, suggested I try the website or phone O2 service because they had different tariffs (true but not better ones)
- set up my phone to the point where my emails were coming in from gMail
- was thoroughly helpful throughout.

I am fairly sure I am paying significantly more than the offer I could have screwed out of Vodafone, and you know? I don't care. I'd rather have excellent customer service and pay a few quid more a month. 12 month tariff though. My last one was 18 months and, well. Never again.

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Is it the push email that is good, or the device that is good, or both? I ask because I could theoretically set up push email on my phone, but haven't really seen the need since the occasions when I am not on-line basically boil down to when I am in-transit (30 minute walk/train/bus commute), socialising, eating a meal, or asleep (and come to think of it, I'm usually on-line then, though mostly downloading TV shows rather than email).

Push email. For my work email it's overwhelming -- If I have a few minutes between meetings I can scan everything, forward stuff, sort things into action folders and so on. Everything works really quickly whereas on my phone there's always a communications delay. (Note that there is a delay on BB as it fetches more of a long email, and for HTML email with lots of graphics the header can fill up the beginning of the email. This isn't a problem for my work email, but is a problem at the moment on my home email -- I think I need to change a setting somewhere.)

Plus I am a tube commuter so I really like having the email there when I open my phone. If I had to grab it I'd have to remember to do that before I got onto the tube.

So, push email is much better in two situations: extended spells away from a mobile phone signal, and times when you just want to spend a minute or less on your email. I have two of the first sort of spell a day, and many of the second sort.

Blackberries -- even the Pearl -- are also nice devices that are highly optomised for people who are primarily using them for serious email. Lots of obvious little things, like the fact that hitting spacebar twice inserts a full stop and a space, or that there's a physical 'silence everything' button. The Pearl keyboard (qwerty with two letters per key) is amazingly good, too. I was expecting it to be harder to type on than my work Blackberry, but the larger keys mean it's easier to type on, though there's less access to symbols. Two letters per key means that its predictive text is much more likely to predict what you're typing than on mobile phones, too. And the BB scans your incoming email and automatically adds words from it to your custom dictionary. So my BB already knows words like 'fanzine', 'corflu' 'fanfunds' and 'Eastercon' without my having to do anything about it.

I don't know if all this is common on smartphones. But the Pearl is also the first smartphone I've ever seen that isn't grotesque; it's slightly larger, and no heavier, than the phone I'm replacing. (My office BB is grotesque and I refuse to use it for voice calls).

My guess is that the iPhone will be even better for data-first users -- but it's vapourware.

Thanks, that's interesting. I use a T-Mobile MDA Vario II (one of the many HTC TyTn/Hermes clones) so it's got a tiny qwerty keyboard, but as a long-time Psion user I'm used to 2 thumbed typing. The email however has all the charm of Outlook Express, only without the ease-of-use.

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