Ostensibly designed for business users who can’t have a cameraphone in the workplace, the BlackBerry 8820 is, in fact, a consumer-friendly device that includes one major upgrade over its predecessor, the 8800: Wi-Fi. And while this addition allows for speedier web browsing and better connections in spotty coverage areas, it comes with one major caveat—AT&T has chosen to allow Wi-Fi to carry only data, not voice, so VoIP, isn’t a possibility. That said, the inclusion of Wi-Fi is welcomed, particularly because RIM has made searching for and logging onto a network so simple.
The 8820 continues BlackBerry’s dominance as the device of choice for those who need constant access to email while outside the office. While push email has become ubiquitous on mobile devices, we appreciated this device’s ease of use. Setting up email accounts on the 8820 was as easy as entering our user names and passwords, and the Blackberry works with up to 10 accounts, including Exchange, POP3, and IMAP accounts. Additionally, unlike keyboards on many smartphones, the keys on the 8820's full keyboard are raised up enough and provide enough response to minimize typos.
Real-time driving directions via the built-in GPS are available through an optional TeleNav account ($10/month). We found that the phone connected and downloaded maps from the service quickly and was able to promptly redraw maps across the 8820’s 2.5-inch screen when necessary. Additionally, the option of creating a route based on current traffic patterns was a great benefit—particularly during a trip to Los Angeles.
BlackBerrys have never been known for their prowess as media devices, but lately, RIM has tried to change that perception. While the 8820 won’t replace our MP3 player, the included media management software at least made listening to music a possibility. XM radio (streamed over the Internet) is also available for nine dollars a month.
Overall, voice quality was good; however, we encountered some static on two separate occasions. Since these seemed to be isolated incidents, we’re willing to give the device the benefit of the doubt. People on the other end of our conversations had no complaints about sound quality.
The 8820 delivers plenty of value, but people who often travel overseas should also consider the BlackBerry 8830 (which operates on the CDMA network in the United States but allows for roaming on GSM networks). That device, however, lacks Wi-Fi. And those who just can’t live without a low-quality camera jammed into their phones will be attracted to the latest Curve, which includes Wi-Fi but lacks GPS. Of the three devices, though, the 8820 is our choice for its inclusion of WiFi and GPS.