RIM BlackBerry 957
By Joachim Bamrud, Fri Sep 14 00:00:00 GMT 2001

Efficient mobile e-mail solution, but not much more and with a somewhat steep price.

Seldom has a device caused such a stir in the United States as the Blackberry from Canada's Research in Motion (RIM). Its users have nicknamed it "CrackBerry" for being so addictive and in some large companies the device is seen as a symbol of importance: You know you're in the inner circle when the company provides you with a BlackBerry.

Now the device has come to Europe, where it can boast an application that its US users don't have: GPRS.

We tested a US version of the BlackBerry 957, which didn't have GPRS, but still worked nicely.

One key advantage the BlackBerry (and other pagers) have over mobile phones is the application that alerts you when you've got a new mail. Of course, you can adjust the alert so it can vibrate instead. You can also change the alert tones

Another key advantage is the 26-button keypad, enabling you to write faster and easier than the typical 10-button keyboards of mobile phones.

You can also program a signature, so you don't have to write in that each time you write a fresh message.

Combine that with the ability to download and install Microsoft Outlook and Lotus (and related address books) and you've got a powerful mobile office tool.

The address book (which you download from your PC to the BlackBerry in a few minutes) is particularly important since it's far easier finding and highlighting an existing e-mail address than typing one.

Another major advantage is the screen size, which is about 30 percent larger than typical phones, fitting some 16 to 20 lines of text. The design is basic and no-frills, which is OK in light of its corporate target audience.

The device also comes with an alarm, calculator and calendar and features an easy interface, with a trackwheel that scrolls up and down (i.e. left or right) on the the different icons on the screen.

That being said, we question the price. In the United States, the 957 retails for $449. That's the same as the Ericsson R380 World smartphone (which not only enables you to use corporate e-mail, but also make voice calls while offering an even better keyboard solution).

The R380 also comes with web access included, whereas the BlackBerry requires an additional service plan (which typically ranges from $9.95 to $24.95 a month, depending on plan and service provider).

However, the R380 World requires GSM connection and that's still somewhat limited in the United States (compared with Europe). At the same time, many companies may deem the BlackBerry as a sufficient device for keeping in touch with personnel independent of what agreement they may or may not have in place with a given operator (key here in the US since mobile phones are not sold operator-independent).

In the end, the price tag likely is no deterrent for the target audience of the 957. And if we strictly rate it based on what it's supposed to be - a mobile e-mail device - then the BlackBerry definitely works.