By Colin Duwe
Mobile professionals who are addicted to e-mail access via their RIM BlackBerry devices can get a new fix with the company’s 5810. The new PDA has a fully functional cell phone built in so executives on the go don't need to tote two gadgets. RIM says that the 5810 will be available within 30 days, so check back for the full review. But for the moment, here's what we know about the new BlackBerry.
Old look, new tricks
At first glance, we noticed that the 5810 is nearly indistinguishable from the company's 957 model. Out of the box, it comes stocked with all of the core applications you'd expect, including always-on access to corporate e-mail, SMS messaging, a wireless Web browser, an electronic organizer, and, as previously mentioned, a cell phone. On top of that, you get typical phone features such as caller ID, call waiting, conference calling, and call forwarding (as long as you sign up for it). But it was clear—even in our brief encounter with a demo unit—that this is primarily a data device. For instance, to place a call you have to navigate through two screens of information before you can dial.
That said, there's still plenty to like about the 5810. It sports the usual palm-sized PDA form factor with a monochrome screen and the company's famous thumb keyboard. The only cosmetic addition is a 2.5mm jack on top of the unit for plugging in the included earbud-style headset. Incidentally, this is the only way that you can use the phone feature since it lacks a built-in speakerphone, and you can't hold the device up to your face to talk as you can with Handspring's VisorPhone.
While the 5810 looks similar to the 957, the technical guts are quite different. The 5810 uses the GSM 1900/GPRS networks for voice services and always-on e-mail access, respectively. Its predecessors use the Mobitex paging network, which doesn't support voice. We should note that RIM already offers a similar model in Europe, the 5820, that works with the GSM 800/900 and GPRS networks found abroad. In the future, users will be able to take the SIM card from the 5810 and use it in a 5820 when traveling out of the country. The benefit is that you'll still be able to retrieve e-mail and keep the same phone number.
Java makes the connection
The other major enhancement is the implementation of Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME) as its core operating system. While the basic interface looks essentially unchanged—except for some new icons for the phone, Web access, and two-way SMS apps—the new OS allows corporate customers to deploy custom Java applications that are already found on many Nextel Motorola cell phones. The other major benefit of the Java-based OS is that you get a much more integrated experience. For example, you can select a phone number in an e-mail, and the phone application will launch and place the call. You'll also be able to talk on the phone while using the device's other features.
The 5810 will be especially appealing to RIM's corporate customers since it works with the company's existing BlackBerry Enterprise Server to deliver corporate e-mail and data to BlackBerry devices. Companies can support the 5810 without changing back-end infrastructure.
VoiceStream is already taking orders for the 5810 ($499 plus service). AT&T is also accepting information from people interested in signing up. However, AT&T's GPRS network still isn't completely rolled out, so it may be a while before the company actually starts supporting the product.
This article was originally published by CNET on March 7, 2002.