Many reviews of late about the Blackberry 8800 - as well coverage of smart phones in general - focus on form factor and design rather than utility. If what has been published is reflective of consumers' interests and needs, it would seem as if the purchase decisions of many buyers hinge on the superficial (to put it politely). It is as what is really important is whether one looks cool while using the device when hanging out at the mall, or how it might blend in with the iPod attached to one's belt.
The Blackberry is not really about form and style, of course. What has largely accounted for the Blackberry's extreme popularity is one simple application that, for whatever reason, most OEMs still can't figure out how to improve upon. That famous app offers a very easy way to send and receive your email from one or several different accounts almost anywhere you happen to be where there is cellular coverage. A Wall Street banker - one of the first users of the Blackberry when it was launched over five years ago - or a journalist spending more time in hotels and airports than at home wants to get the job of checking email done the quick and easy way.
Then again, given the surging popularity of the Blackberry, with its popular culture references in the film and media, maybe many of its fledging users think the device makes them cool after all. The cool factor, though, is more of a question for the marketing department of Blackberry developer RIM to answer, and for the therapists of certain customers who have difficulties figuring out why their life remains meaningless, even after they bought their Blackberry, iPod and other hip gear.
RIM, of course, also bundles many more applications than just push email. The firm, for example, first designed in a cell phone with the Blackberry several years ago, which is why the Blackberry now falls under the smart phone category. With the explosion of new PDAs, smart phones and other handhelds that also offer email and messaging, RIM has sought ways to compete, by packing more and more features into successive Blackberry generations. The 8800 now offers a media player, instant messaging, an organizer, voice-activated dialing and GPS. RIM is also touting the "sleek and sexy" look of the 8800 as well. But again, do all of these features really add that much value to the Blackberry device compared to its famous push email? I was at first reluctant to recommend that anyone replace a working Blackberry with the 8800, but after my tests, I thought otherwise.