Miss Chayie Maligalig, a dear TechPinas friend, has long told me about her desire to own a Blackberry.
"[I've decided to get BB Curve 8520. I like the trackpad and the price point]"
, she messaged me on YM a few days before Christmas 2009. And from then, I knew, Chayie won't settle for anything else than a BB Curve 8520.
But her journey towards finally being with her BB, which she aptly named Blackie, wasn't the easiest. This review chronicles her story.
My waiting game with the Blackberry 8520
I have been a Nokia user for about 10 years. Ever since texting became a fad during my college days, Nokia became my phone brand of choice. But recently, another phone brand caught my interest – BlackBerry. Owning a BlackBerry became almost impossible at first because of the price but when an “affordable Berry” was released, I became excited.
The Blackberry 8520 was released in the Philippines at about August last year. It is also known as the “Gemini” and is the most affordable BlackBerry in the market today. It boasts of the “regular Blackberry” features minus the pricey tag. Among the features of the Blackberry 8520 are: Blackberry OS, 512 MHz processor and 256 MB memory, microSD capable, 2 MP camera with 5x digital zoom, GPRS, WiFi 802.11 b/g, Bluetooth, micro USB and Quad band capabilities. Another feature of the Gemini is that it is the first BlackBerry that uses a trackpad instead of the trackball. All these plus a dedicated media key for easy access of pictures, music, and video playback. But the feature that sold me out the most was the promise of “out of box Mac compatibility” because I am a Mac user and interface with my Mac is an important feature I really wanted to have in a phone.
How I got my hands on my “BlackBerry”
Since this is the "entry-level" BlackBerry, I did not expect its high demand in the market. By “high demand” I mean REALLY high and sought after. I have had many attempts to buy this phone and badgered my Dad (since this was his Christmas gift to me) quite a bit until I got my hands on one. Attempt no. 1 was when I went all the way to Greenhills on December 23 for the Smart Shockwave sale and it was out of stock. Attempt no. 2 was when my Dad checked out the same Shockwave sale the next day, December 24 they promised to have stock already but they still did not have. Attempt no. 3 was the Smart shockwave sale again on December 29 and again they did not have. That same day somebody in the Greenhills tiangge was selling an openline unit of the Gemini almost 100 dollars more than its usual price so I declined to buy it. Not giving up, I called 3 online stores two of which declined to deliver to my house and the third store said they could deliver but they did not have stock. I was already very frustrated and was considering to just get the second-best option another phone.
Luckily, fate intervened and through his network of contacts, my Dad was able to get a Blackberry 8520 for me finally! My Dad got my BB 8520 at an online store in multiply. So finally, finally I got my Gemini last January 11. First thing I did was I got my digital camera to take a very short unboxing video.
Basically my short video shows the BB 8520 package contents: the phone itself, battery, charger, micro USB cable and 3.5mm stereo headset for the music player. Also included in the package are various written documentation like a starter guide, user’s manual and the safety and product information. Notably there was a CD called Blackberry User Tools (the contents of which I will discuss in the next section of this review).
Upon taking out my Gemini from the box, the first thing that surprised me was how small and compact it felt while I held it in my hand. I wanted another color than black but since now in the country only the black Gemini is widely available, the black color was more than okay after my long long wait to finally get my hands on the phone. The only problem with the black Gemini is that admittedly it is a finger print magnet. Next, I took out the package contents one by one. As I took out the phone, the first thing I noticed was the back part. At first, I thought there was a dent on the lower part but it turns out it was the part that would allow me to lift off the back cover of the phone to install the SIM card and the battery. Because of my excitement I forgot to use the Blackberry 101 (a tutorial included in the CD) and looked for a youtube video instead to teach me how to install the battery and SIM card. After I completed this task, I was planning to charge my phone when I realized that I needed a converter because the socket was not the usual one. Thankfully, my phone could be charged via micro-USB and so it became an excuse to try-out the feature that sold this phone to me the most – Mac compatibility.
From my old trusty Nokia 2760 I discovered a code to be able to use iSync on my Macbook to transfer my contacts. That was step one. Second, I used the Blackberry device manager (can be found online and also included in the Blackberry user tools CD) which I installed to transfer contacts from my Macbook to my Blackberry and wala! Around five to ten minutes, my contacts were already transferred to my Blackberry and I was ready to go. I was surprised at how easy and seamless it was use to the BlackBerry Device Manager with my Macbook. It was almost effortless compared to the syncing I had to do before with my other phones. Charging via USB took around 3 to 4 hours for the phone to be fully charged.
Next I turned on my phone and the first thing I noticed was how easy the BlackBerry OS was to use. Since it is my first BlackBerry I was worried that the interface would be difficult but I was proven wrong. Calling was a breeze as audio was pretty clear and phone shape was a great fit on the hand. Messaging was great with the big font and the continuous thread style of messages enabled me to review my txt messages like a chat conversation. Contact list was unremarkable but the big font and simple interface made it easy to use same goes for the Calendar. The Calendar was also capable of being changed from monthly, weekly and daily view plus the ability to add an alert to remind you of appointments but that’s not all, there’s even a future that allows you to view your “agenda” meaning your appointments and your free time. There is also a Search application that allows the Gemini user to browse the Gemini’s content. Another useful function is the led indicator light which lights in different colors depending on what it is indicating like if the BlackBerry has low battery and needs to be charged, to Wifi and Bluetooth active connections and incoming e-mail and SMS messages.
Some other applications include: Media, of which the detailed media keys make it easy to access pictures, music player, videos and ringtones; Clock, which includes a timer and a stopwatch; Games, which include Brickbreaker, Word Mole, Texas Hold Em King 2, Sudoku and Klondike; and the Applications folder which include MemoPad, Tasks, Calculator, Video Camera, Voice Notes Recorder, Voice Dialing and the applications which please me the most which are the Documents to Go viewer and editor (Word, Powerpoint and Excel). The least familiar application to me was the Options folder as I had to tweak around with it a few times to familiarize myself.
Chayie with Blackie, her Blackberry Curve 8520
A Blackberry wouldn’t be a Blackberry without the Blackberry Internet Service (BIS) that allows the user to be connected online all the time. It took me awhile to get my BIS running because I am using a prepaid account. While postpaid users of two mobile phone companies, Smart and Globe can get their BIS activated via the company and just include it in their monthly bill as a data plan, prepaid users have to register and have to use techniques so that load is not eaten up when registering to the BIS. I was able to activate my BIS by asking for help from some other Blackberry users I found in another tech site.
Registration ran smooth because I followed advice from the forum I mentioned earlier. For 50 bucks I had my BIS subscription for 24 hours. It enabled me to register 2 of my email addresses to my Blackberry email settings. With this subscription I was able to use RIM’s Facebook application, Twitter via Openbeak application, and the HTML browser in my BlackBerry PLUS the most important feature, Push email. Not to be forgotten is the BlackBerry messenger (BBM) which is a unique feature to BlackBerry devices.
Push email allowed me to view my yahoo and gmail account almost like regular text messages. Plus I sent test e-mail messages to myself and the delivery was fast plus I could even attach a file to the e-mail. Now, that’s mobile office in a small package which is great. I loved the Facebook and Twitter applications too. The HTML browser works alright, very easy to use, font size okay plus did I mention zooming with trackpad was a breeze. Using BBM is like being in a chatroom with other BlackBerry users and I can say the exclusivity and mobility of this feature is quite nice. Going online is really at the heart of the Blackberry and I believe no other phone makes push email, instant messaging, surfing and social networking as easy and breezy as a Blackberry.
Warning though: going online will approximately let your battery last for two days on a single charge.
No phone is perfect
While this review has been talking non-stop of the great features of the Gemini of course I would admit that no phone is perfect. One of the first few things that disappointed me at first was the screen. I can’t say I was not warned because other reviews have stated that since this is an entry-level BlackBerry the screen resolution was perhaps one of the things skimped on. It took awhile for my eyes to get used to the screen and once I’ve gotten used to it, it became alright and I no longer considered it too dark.
Aside from the screen, I left out the Camera application for this part of the review because at first when I used it indoors on a cloudy day I was disappointed. I should say this is definitely not a phone you would purchase for its camera although its video camera takes quite clear videos. The technique to the still camera since it does not have a flash is to use the appropriate settings for the picture you are going to take. I did that I was able to take passable photos that I could at least upload on Facebook.
Another noticeable downside is the lack of BlackBerry support here in the Philippines (users have not been granted access to BlackBerry App world) and also lack of a presence of a “Pinoy Blackberry user group). This also includes difficulty in finding units and accessories for the phone. Take for example when I was looking for a Micro SD card for my device, sales people in the tech store almost laughed when I asked if they had a micro SD card for the BlackBerry. Luckily, they were nice enough to allow me to try on the micro SD card if it would work, and it did. That’s when they took me seriously and asked “Isn’t the BlackBerry what the moviestars (artistas) are using?” and I said Yes. They asked if they could look at my phone and when I showed them they gave me a small discount in my SD card purchase since they said it was their first time to see a BlackBerry.
Was it worth the wait?
Over-all I would give my first BlackBerry, the 8520 Gemini an 8 over 10 rating. The two points missing would be for a camera flash and 3G connectivity, respectively.
Rounding up, here are the pros and cons of the BB 8520 for me:
|For the affordable |
price it is a good phone and not to mention it is a BlackBerry
|No camera flash|
features in a compact device
|No 3G connectivity|
|Fun and easy |
to use especially with a data plan – connectivity at its best
|Black colored model fingerprint |
|An important |
PRO- out of box Mac compatibility
|Not enough support for Filipino |
users (my wishlist includes an official Blackberry Pinoy user group
and more affordable accessories)
| Battery life not too long |
if you go online a lot
My verdict: it was worth the wait because life with a BlackBerry is never dull (remember my story about looking for a Micro SD card?) :) Admittedly, I still have a lot to learn about the “BlackBerry world” but I can say it is a game worth playing and a world worth conquering.
Thank you so much for sharing your story and review with us, Chayie! I really appreciate it. :) I know that a lot of people, especially those who are planning to also get BB curve 8520, will benefit from your honest, informative and well-written review. I wish you and Blackie the best!
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