Joining the BlackBerry bandwagon

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I am a gadget freak. Every time a new cool phone or other technological wonder hits the market, I just have to buy it. The promise of solving whatever problem it’s supposed to address or the addition of some cool new feature that I would otherwise never use is too much for me to resist.

My latest object of obsession: a BlackBerry. And unlike the other gadgets that arrive with a flash only to get kicked to the curb once the next glittery trinket comes along, I simply love this handheld device.

Last November, I picked up a Treo 650 because I wanted to be able to keep in touch all the time. Having a cell phone isn’t enough anymore—I need to be able to iChat and e-mail from my phone as well. The Treo was okay, but it crashed often, and I wasn’t wild about the phone reception—overall, it just soured my experience on getting a personal device that combined e-mail and voice features.

But still I had never tried a BlackBerry. And that was odd, since when I talk to people on airplanes as I travel, BlackBerry users do everything short of hugging the device, raving about how different their life would be without one.

Finally, in January, I decided to give BlackBerry a go. I picked it up the Saturday before Macworld Expo and went back to my hotel for what I was sure would be an afternoon of complete frustration in getting it set-up.

The phone part was easy—put in your GSM chip and you’re done. The part I was dreading, however, was setting up the e-mail and syncing it to my Mac. After all, if the device didn’t sync to my Mac for contacts and calendars, it was basically useless.

The way the BlackBerry connects to your e-mail is brilliant. It’s an always-on push connection that continually communicates with up to 10 e-mail addresses. I typed in one of my personal accounts, and it just worked. There was no fumbling around with POP server names.

Then I tried my work e-mail address, which uses SSL and other security protocols. This, I thought, would bring the BlackBerry to its knees. I typed in my e-mail address, and it failed to connect. However, I clicked the advanced button, clicked the “Use SSL” box, and typed in my server name—it worked instantly.

I was stunned at how easy it was to set up. I was getting e-mails from home and work at a steady pace, with no problems. Now to sync it with my Mac. I purchased PocketMac to do my syncing and it was just as easy as setting up the rest of the BlackBerry. It won’t sync over Bluetooth, so you have to be connected with a USB cable, but I don’t care much about that. My contacts and busy Expo show calendar were instantly available on my BlackBerry. (Since that time, BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion has announced it will offer PocketMac for BlackBerry as a free download.)

This was huge for me. I was communicating from the show floor, while walking from one appointment to another. I was iChatting with co-workers on stories that needed to be done, answering e-mails that I wouldn’t normally get to until later that day, and taking phone calls.

I’ve had my BlackBerry for over a month now, and I don’t know what I would do without it. I will rave about it on an airplane if someone is ever foolhardy enough to ask me about the device.

Now I just hope RIM’s promised work-around for the patent infringement lawsuit works.

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