BlackBerry smartphones have long set the standard for mobile communication devices for corporate and government users. Beginning with the release of the BlackBerry Pearl in 2007 consumer orientation has played an ever increasing role in the features available and demanded on BlackBerries. Gone are the days of the somewhat restrictive track wheel, replaced by the friendlier pearl-like track ball, the namesake of the Pearl. Keyboards have been continuously improved for ease of use and the newest device on the horizon even sports a touchscreen.

Technical Information

Messaging is the central feature of BlackBerries. Email, SMS, MMS, and IMs are fast and reliable. At its heart each BlackBerry has the ability to integrate ten email accounts. Email is automatically pushed to the device requiring no additional action on the part of the user.

Core applications include calendar and contact programs, a notepad, and to-do list. These can be synchronized easily with Outlook, Lotus Notes, and several other Personal Information Manager (PIM) programs using the embedded Intellisync program and the BlackBerry Desktop Manager. Wireless synchronization is available for users of both the BlackBerry Enterprise Server for large businesses or BlackBerry Professional Software, which is geared towards enterprises with thirty or fewer users, meaning that PIM information can be transferred between office and BlackBerry remotely.

Software Upgrades

Feature upgrades for BlackBerries are usually just a matter of installing an upgrade of the operating system. For example, currently in use OS 4.2 and 4.3 allow for viewing of Word and Excel documents. OS 4.5 allows for editing of those documents on currently available BlackBerries. This is also the method for updating such features as the maximum capacity available for use on MicroSD cards. The new BlackBerry Bold and Pearl 8220 will come packaged with OS 4.6 and the Storm will have OS 4.7.

Consumer Orientation

BlackBerry has a solid reputation among Enterprise users. In the past couple of years major emphasis has been placed on the consumer market. Beginning with the Pearl all BlackBerries have included digital players with an ever-increasing number of uses. All models except the most strictly business-oriented ones have cameras and the most recent additions feature video recording and streaming video.

The availability of third party applications has risen sharply. Thousands of titles are now available from vendors including Handango, BlackBerry manufacturer RIM s own Built for BlackBerry, and a recent joint venture between CrackBerry and MobiHand.

Check out our article  Mobile Operating Systems Demystified: iPhone OS-Mac OSX Goes Mobile  for more information on the smartphone operating system face-off.

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