The ‘Grumpy Hacker’ has a nice comparison between the Blackberry 7100g and the Nokia 6800. I’ve happily owned a Nokia 6800 for the past two years. I got it before Bluetooth got popular and cheap. It’s lasted through thick and thin, including a chocolate pudding incident, being fallen on twice, and getting dropped several times. I wouldn’t trade the folding Qwerty keyboard for anythingâ€”or so I thought, until my service provider decided to stop carrying it and its newer sibling, the 6820. Since I was eligible for an upgrade and my phone really had lived past its life expectancy, I decided the next best thing being offered was the Blackberry 7100g. Its SureType keyboard and large, high-colour screen made it very attractive without being as big or heavy as a Treo or iPAQ.
Click to enlarge Unfortunately, looks are about all this handset has going for it. Aside from some nifty little features which I’ll get to in a bit, the phone overall was a disappointment. Firstly, if you’ve used a Nokia phone very long you probably got spoiled by the very intuitive text input technology that is T9. By comparison, using SureType is like using a vitage mechanical typewriter. I exercised on it for about two weeks and still found myself frequently pressing the wrong keys, unable to decide which thumb should hit which keys in the middle column, and fighting with the predictive text system to make it spell what I wanted. I actually ended up using “MultiTap” more often and just hit each key once or twice depending on which letter I needed. Entering symbols was even harder, since most require activating a menu and scrolling to the one you want. A big selling point of this handset is its innovative keyboardâ€”and it really is a neat ideaâ€”but SureType is a major failure. Maybe version two will be better.
To make matters worse, the OS tries, unsuccessfully, to decide when SureType or MultiTap will be better based on context. It also unsuccessfully tries to decide when to activate num lock. The Nokia, however, handles these issues quite well, including better automatic capitalization and even formatting certain fields for easier reading (like adding spaces in phone numbers between groups of digits). I found a related feature on the 7100g, the thumbwheel, to be cumbersome when typing as well: think about it, you type with two thumbs on the front of the device, but you must scroll with one thumb on the side of the device. Maybe the 4-way joystick on the 6800 (5-way on the 6820) on the same surface as the keyboard is a better idea, ergonomically speaking. Regarding the thumbwheel, it’s designed for right-handed people, so if you’re a lefty, or you favor your left hand when using a phone, consider that before buying.
It’s not all bad though. As I alluded to above, there are some nifty little features. I really like how the handset can detect when it’s holsteredâ€”there must be a magnet or something in the holster it can sense (which means if you buy a third-party holster that’s not “Blackberry-aware” these features probably won’t work). You can actually configure different settings for things like ring tone and volume depending on whether the handset’s holstered or not. This is great for the vibration feature, since you can have that disabled while the phone’s sitting on a desk or table. It comes with a decent selection of ringtones and “sound effects” but I couldn’t find a way to download any more. Apart from tones and vibration, there are also configurable visual indicators such as on-screen icons and an LED on top of the device. These features are pretty cool, although I found some peculiarities. For example, if I unholstered the handset while it was notifying me of a new text message but I didn’t view the message, then after reholstering it and looking at it later there was no new message icon. Weird.