Today's the day Blackberry is

by francine Hardaway on February 24, 2006

Today’s the day Blackberry is supposed to go dark (or not), so yesterday I decided to do something I had been planning to do for a long time anyway: switch phones. I regularly do this so I can have the latest and greatest phone that I don’t know how to use. One way of testing my aging brain is to see how many of the phone’s features I can make sense of before I have to open the manual–it’s like a game. Once I really learn how to use any device I’ve bought, I have already grown tired of it. Adult ADD.

Several times before, I bought phones in Asia or Europe, and then tried to make TMobile support them here. Those were generally phones with Symbian operating systems, very popular for mobile phones overseas, but almost driven out of the American market by Palm, Rim, and Microsoft. The stability of the operating system is no match for the lure of instantaneously available email. What I�m really looking for is a device that is the size of a phone with the capacity of a laptop.

So I finally gave up on imported (and unsupported) phones acquired in the Hong Kong Airport or on EBay and waited patiently for the TMobile MDA, a convergence device (meaning it does more things than you ever need from a phone) that runs the highly-touted Windows 5.0 Mobile operating system. I got it the first week it went on sale. I had to go to a mall I had never been to before — the only one in the city with a corporate TMobile store that wasn’t sold out (the “authorized dealers” don’t get these phones until next week).

As I was driving away from the mall, I tried to answer a phone call. That was when I learned that the device turns its screen off when not in use. I didn’t even know what button to push to turn it back on, so I could see whether I wanted to answer the call. I later found the button, which is on top of the phone, but by then had missed the call.

Then I tried to find the call history, so I could see what I missed. To do that, I had to find out where the MDA hides its stylus. Finding the stylus almost got me into an accident, so I pulled off the road to locate the stylish stylus tucked into the bottom right hand corner of the phone.

When I got home, the camera located itself: the phone went into camera mode without instructions, so I took a photo of my dog. Later, trying out the Contacts function, I chose the dog photo to accompany one of the phone numbers I saved to my new contacts list ( I won’t tell you which friend of mine looks like a golden retriever).

Pairing the phone with my Bluetooth headset wasn’t easy, because I couldn’t find the Bluetooth function on the phone. It turns out there’s a Communications button on the upper left side of the phone that, when pressed, reveals the Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Phone and Sync menus. The phone played hard to get, refusing to recognize the headset until I put the headset in pairing mode.

For email, I had to wait a couple of days for the provisioning to work its way through all the various networks, which made me impatient. But once I got it, it was great –POP3 emails come in on a regular basis, and you can send for their attachments if you want them.

This phone has a full keyboard that slides away when you aren�t using it, and causes conversation whenever you take it out. It does a bunch of stuff I don�t know about yet, like voice activated speed dialing.

But I�m afraid to trust it just yet for my calendar and contacts, because when I tried to sync it up with my Windows machine, I got the blue screen of death for the first time since I�ve had Windows XP, and a follow-on message that said my Dell had recovered from a serious crash and did I want to let Microsoft know about.

I didn�t. It was just another case of �driver disease� � you install new drivers for new devices and your older devices throw up. Later, reading around the blogs, I found out that there is really NO SUPPORT for 5.0 device synchronization out (yet).

So I�m nursing my PC back to health by removing all signs of the MDA until Mr. Softie figures this one out. Over the weekend, I plan to read the manual.

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