Mobile Computing: More BlackBerry Alternatives
As of this writing, there's still a possibility--however remote--of at least a partial shutdown for Research In Motion's BlackBerry service.
So what would you do if you were denied your "CrackBerry" fix? That's the question I asked in a recent column devoted to BlackBerry alternatives, and I'll get to some of your replies in a minute.
But first, a public service announcement: If you're considering switching to a Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 device, be aware that Microsoft is also embroiled in a wireless e-mail patent dispute.
In December 2005, Visto, the developer of wireless messaging and collaboration software called Visto Mobile 5.0, filed a lawsuit against Microsoft. The lawsuit claims Microsoft infringed upon multiple Visto patents regarding proprietary technology for delivering e-mail and other data to enterprises and consumers. Visto is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a permanent injunction to prevent Microsoft from shipping the disputed software, Windows Mobile 5.0.
Microsoft is "continuing to review the complaint and investigate Visto's allegations," the company said in a statement. "In the meantime, Microsoft stands behind its products and respects the intellectual property rights of others."
Does this mean BlackBerry users who switch to a device running Windows Mobile 5.0 are, pardon the clich
But there's recently been good news for RIM. The company won two patent infringement lawsuits in Europe.
Editor's note: Since this article was written, the BlackBerry maker Research In Motion agreed to make a one-time, $612.5 million payment to NTP, settling the long-running patent dispute between the two companies. In return, RIM will be granted a license to continue its BlackBerry push e-mail service. Read the full report.
And now, on with your suggestions for BlackBerry alternatives. Note: The readers I quote here say they don't work for or receive compensation from the companies whose products they endorse.
Palm Treo 650 and 700w. Palm's Treo smart phones are popular BlackBerry alternatives. For example, Mike Anastasia of Mclean, Virginia, uses a BlackBerry as well as a Treo 650. The BlackBerry is better for e-mail, while the Treo is better as a phone, he writes. So if he could no longer use his BlackBerry for e-mail, Mike would rely on his Treo.
The Treo 700w runs Windows Mobile 5.0 and features a few technical differences from the older, Palm OS-based Treo 650. For a comparison of the Treo 700w and the Treo 650, read PDA Pundit Yardena Arar's January column.
Cingular 2125. Several readers expressed their fondness for this feature-packed gadget ($199 with a two-year Cingular contract, plus a mail-in rebate). The device runs Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphone Edition and includes push e-mail technology, mobile editions of Microsoft Office apps, Windows MediaPlayer 10, Bluetooth networking, a 1.3-megapixel camera, and a camcorder feature. The 2125, built by Taiwanese firm HTC, is compatible with Cingular's high-speed EDGE data network, which Cingular says is now available in 13,000 cities. For more details, go to Cingular's site.
T-Mobile SideKick II. "As a mobile phone, it's a bit clunky," writes Jim Flannery of Littleton, Colorado. "But it has e-mail, Web browsing, an address book, a calculator, a notepad, and other built-in utilities, and you can get inexpensive software for it too." The SideKick II costs $200 after rebates, with a T-Mobile data plan of $30 or more per month.
Samsung i730. This smart phone "does everything a BlackBerry does, including e-mail, and more," writes Bob Arnott of Greenwood Village, Colorado. The I730 costs $500 with a two-year Verizon Wireless agreement.
Good Technology's GoodLink. This wireless e-mail system is the true "BlackBerry killer," writes Don Rick of Madison, Wisconsin. Don likes the fact that the software runs on a variety of devices, including the Treo 650 and Motorola's Q smart phone. Good Technology has launched a "Try Good" campaign, allowing enterprise users to test the wireless service for free for 45 days. For more information, go to the company's Web site.
iHello and jConnect. Text-to-speech services offer yet another option. Both iHello and jConnect allow you to have your e-mail read to you over the phone by a computer. (I haven't tested either service.)
For Some, There Is No Alternative
I'll give Todd Hanks of Minneapolis the last word: "Though the BlackBerry is admittedly clunky, its one-handed functionality is extremely ergonomic," Todd writes. "I can perform almost any phone function, read e-mail, select applications, adjust the volume ... with one hand."
Though Todd has tried other mobile e-mail devices, including Windows Mobile-based handhelds, but none has come close to the BlackBerry.
"I guess if the court systems pry my 'CrackBerry' from my cold, dead hand, I'll have to give Windows Mobile another shot," Todd concludes. "But then and only then!"