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E-poetry in motion

RIM’s 957 Internet Edition Blackberry is smart, sleek, and spendy. Mobile Office hed: E-poetry in motion dek: RIM’s 957 Internet Edition Blackberry is smart, sleek, and spendy.

Any wireless gadget typically offers some gee-whiz appeal. Research in Motion’s (RIM) is the power of a sleek, professional, and truly wireless experience. RIM Blackberry products are aimed at corporations (although the pager-sized RIM 950 model enjoys crossover appeal), and at $499 just for the device, the RIM 857/957 is likely to remain corporate America’s best-kept secret.

I tested a RIM 957 Internet Edition PDA with GoAmerica service. What’s immediately apparent is what an extra $200 buys you–the RIM looked and felt more powerful and dependable than a Palm or Handspring. Its rechargeable lithium battery runs for three weeks or more without a charge, making this one of the most reliable little devices you could ever carry. Although initially intimidated by its features, I quickly found them easy to use. And after using the track-wheel to scroll and the miniature QWERTY keyboard to type, I never want to use a stylus again (even though typing with my thumbs is no faster). RIM’s customer service is also far above average–the device comes with a user-friendly manual, and e-mail queries and phone calls are promptly answered with the information you need.

Unlike most PDAs, a Blackberry never needs to be synced to a desktop computer, updating corporate e-mail (Microsoft Exchange), POP mail, to-do lists, and meeting itineraries wirelessly. Although I’ve never considered syncing a big hassle, it’s like getting rid of rotary dialing–I sure didn’t miss it.

RIM bills its Blackberry devices as the “leading wireless e-mail solution for mobile professionals.” Accordingly, its e-mail features are quite robust. Choose from four different notification options: tone, vibrate, on-screen, or LED indicator, and set filters to specify which messages are forwarded to your RIM device. Import POP accounts with ease. Best of all, if professionalism matters in your e-mail messages, nobody will ever know you’re typing with your thumbs–in fact, your messages will probably contain fewer typos than usual. The RIM includes a long list of automatic typo corrections and shortcuts for common words. Type “mns,” press the space key, and the RIM automatically writes “minutes.” Program oft-repeated phrases with one key. (I entered an “h” to input the line, “Hi, how’s it going?”) You could conceivably input entire messages with just one key. The RIM also automatically capitalizes I and first letters after periods, and inserts apostrophes into contractions such as I’ve. RIM’s one weakness is an inability to handle attachments other than address files.

I found GoAmerica’s GoWeb service more reliable than YadaYada’s in accessing its built-in content, such as The New York Times. It was not nearly as adept, however, at surfing other sites, rendering them as a long series of text menus to scroll through before reaching actual stories. Also, I was a bit surprised to find that you can only save bookmarks to the desktop instead of to the GoWeb or Mobile Clips icons, thereby cluttering up the PDA’s main screen.

If you don’t need your e-mail all the time, need a cheaper device, or if you want your PDA to work and play harder, look for Palm- or Windows CE-powered PDAs. Overall, though, I loved the power and ease of use of the RIM 957–it’s easy to see why so many people want their Blackberry.

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