RIM BlackBerry 8700c

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This week, Cingular rolls out Research In Motionís newest BlackBerry, the 8700c. While its shape suggests a return to a more conventional design after the venture into sleekness known as the 7100, the 8700 is actually a full-on redesign of the BlackBerryís innards.

A few taps and scrolls and you notice that thereís a fresh spring to the 8700ís step. For the most part, thatís due to the Intel XScale processor at the core of the new device.

The web browser and other connected applications also run smoothly thanks to access to Cingularís EDGE network. Stepping up from the older GPRS data networks, this BlackBerryís data line sees download speeds of up to about 120 Kbps. Itís not as fast as Wi-Fi or the soon-to-be announced UMTS HSDPA network from Cingular, nor is it as speedy as the new networks from Sprint and Verizon Wireless. However, RIMís co-CEO Mike Lazaridis pointed out to me that EDGE is plenty good for general BlackBerry activities, and I have been unable to prove him wrong in my testing. Still, there have been times when I was surprised by the lack of data service reception, in spite of overall good connectivity.

Connecting to EDGE rather than any of those other alternatives with higher data-rates leads to another important benefit: the 8700ís battery life is excellent. I have been carrying it around for about a week, and I have only charged it two or three times. Of course, if youíre heavily using not just the EDGE network but a Bluetooth headset to make calls, youíre going to be charging it more often than I was.

The recently released BlackBerry Messenger, available for download here, was loaded on my review unit. It canít talk to desktop IM programs like AIM, MSN or Yahoo! Messenger, but itís good for linking up with other BlackBerry users. My review unit also had a few cute games like Bass Assassin, but the gadget freak in me still misses entertainment features like MP3 players or even cameras. Lazaridis made the case that the absence of a camera is a good thing, making the BlackBerry permissible in places where camera phones would be blocked, such as a research lab or a courtroom.

Speaking of courtrooms, RIM has been in the news quite a bit lately over a nasty patent dispute. Some predict doom for the company, and others assume some sort of financial settlement will occur. All I know is this: with such momentum and such sound product design, RIM will probably be hawking BlackBerrys, in one form or another, for years and years to come.