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To Boldly Go Blackberrying in Italy

Those nice people from the Italian arm of RIM, the Blackberry makers, have kindly supplied me with a shiny new Blackberry Bold 9000.

Bold Blackberry
Bold Blackberry

I thought it might be interesting to hear how the Blackberry experience is going so far, even if I’ve only had this mobile email receiving handset for a couple of days.  First though, a few comments on the Bold itself, and I’ll also mention the Vodafone data connection plan I’ve hooked the Bold up to.

Finally, I’ll be offering a little warning with regard to picking up used Bold’s and, most probably other RIM Blackberry handsets.

Right let’s Boldly go on, says he naughtily splitting his infinitives before starting this trek around one of the star players in RIM’s current galaxy of products.

The Blackberry Bold 9000

OK, first I have to admit that I’ve been lusting after one of these things for quite some time, so those rose tinted glasses may become evident at times.  Just to warn you.

Blackberry Bold - Great Looks, Great Screen
Great Looks, Great Screen

Now, you should also be aware that this thing is a little dangerous, in that if you hold a Bold, you’ll will probably end up wanting one of them.

It certainly gives of an air of cool professional sophistication with its silver rimmed black case, and leather look alike back.  Just the thing for those wishing to make themselves look good in fashion victim Italy. It’s not just the aesthetics of this device which look cool either.

Press the little trackball below the screen in full view of an Italian client you would like to show off to, and you will be greeted by the screen which is quite superb.  The definition is very good and the colours are vivid too.  Watch one of the movie samples that may be included on you Bold, and the screen will impress you even more.  The speakers are very good too, but be careful, the volume is surprisingly high.  Even my other half, with her new multimedia iPhone wannabe Nokia 5800 was impressed, as the Bold’s screen is noticeably better than that of the Nokia.

If you pick up your Bold, which you will do very often, you may also notice that the keyboard back lighting comes on magically.  This just adds to the sophistication of this little technological jewel.

This brings me nicely to the keyboard itself, which is the reason I wanted one of these in the first place.  I’ve never had a mobile phone with a keyboard before, so I’m still getting used to it, and to using it with both hands instead of my texting thumb.  The keyboard is good, and typing can be accomplished quite quickly and is much more accurate than one might expect.

Having the numbers incorporated into the keyboard is a little bit disconcerting at first, partly because they can be a little difficult to see, and partly because you think the keys will enter letters instead of numbers.  But these things are clever little beasts, and know when you should be typing number and not letters.  Again, I’ve only had my Bold for a short time, so I’m still getting used to it.

I’ve also got a Dell x51v pocket pc, which is good, aside from Windows Mobile 5 which often needs resetting as the machine often locks up for some inexplicable reason.  The Bold has not had a temper fit so far, and I have to admit to being happy that the OS is not made by Microsoft.  Sorry Microsoft, and I hope WM6 is better in this respect.  By the way, XP is, sorry, was excellent!

Back to Bold things.  Finding your way around the basic menus is pretty straightforward and is done via the little trackball, which some have told me can become a little gummed up after heavy use.  I hope this does not happen, but if it does, a Bold contact of mine tells me that a quick blow with a can of compressed air will free things up.  Actually I love the little trackball, and the ease with which it allows me to move from one application icon to another, and it is also a breeze to change to a silent profile by flicking the trackball up to the little speaker icon in the top left hand corner of the screen, clicking on this icon, and then choosing the most appropriate profile.  Very useful for me, as I often find myself in a classroom and feel awful when my phone goes off, as which it does from time to time.  Oops!

Overall navigation is very easy, the little Blackberry icon takes you to the main menu icons, and hitting the curly arrow to the right of the trackball allows you to move back through menu items.  Moving around is done via the trackball.

As soon as you hold of these little joys in your paws, you will no doubt want to set up the Blackberry BIS Blackberry Internet Service email service.  Those in corporate environments will probably have all the email connection stuff already sorted out for them, especially if the company has the BES – Blackberry Enterprise Server system tied into Microsoft Outlook.  Still, I have a very small corporation, so I do not need a full powered BES system, and I understand that many Italian companies make do with the standard BIS system too, so I am not alone.

Setting Up Email

The Sleek Bold Back
The Sleek Bold Back

This was easy to do, although I set things up via my Vodafone 190 Fai da Te (Fai da Te – Do it Yourself) panel on the Italian Vodafone site.  The only slight problem I had, and it was nothing to do with the Bold, was that the section of the Vodafone site which you must use to set up your Bold, seems to prefer Internet Explorer to Firefox.  Firefox told me that the Blackberry section of the Vodafone site had an invalid certificate, and presented me with a dazzlingly blank white page.  Oh dear.

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Even IE7 protested when I tried to access the Blackberry service set-up screen, and seemed to think it was some kind of security risk.  I recklessly ignored the dire warning, and entered my Bold’s PIN and IMEI  codes.  After doing this I was taken to the email set up screens and followed the instructions – mainly entering your email address and email passwords.

I think I have done something wrong, in that I’ve got the same email coming into both the messages and gmail accounts which are shown on the Bold’s main screen.   I’ll look into this and sort it out.  As you can tell, I’m still rather new to this mobile email thing, but it is a thousand times easier than trying to manage emails by thumb from a mobile phone with a numerical keypad, I can tell you.

The email account I’m using, as you will have already noted, is the Blackberry add-on to a Vodafone account.  This costs €9.90 a month on top of whatever mobile phone contract you have.  Incidentally, pay as you go customers in Italy can have the Blackberry service at a cost of 3 Euros a week.

There are some limitations however.  First of all, the Vodafone Blackberry email service will only work within Italy.  I’ve yet to learn what you need to do to receive and send email outside of Italy.

The other restriction, and I don’t know just how restrictive it will prove to be, is that you only get a traffic volume of 500 megabytes per month for email.  This should be enough, unless you try to receive huge attachments regularly on your mobile. You can set the size of messages that you will allow your mobile device to download to keep file sizes low.  Still, I am curious to see what my usage will be.

Out of interest, I dug into an email archive and over a three month period I accumulated around 3.6 megabytes of full size email, so the 500 megs should be more than enough, even if I use email more and more nowadays.

Another thing to note is that the email service only checks for new mail every 30 minutes, and that text and multimedia messages are not part of the Blackberry plan.

You do get access to the mobile Internet via the Blackberry plan, so do not go singing up for an additional flat rate Vodafone data package, because, as the man in the shop told me, you don’t need one!

Anyway, my Bold is receiving and sending messages now, so I’ve got mobile email.  Yippee!  And I do not have to worry sky rocketing data connection changes, which with my previous  Tre mobile plan were becoming rather expensive, and I never did work out how to send email.  Not that I wanted to with no ‘real’ keyboard to use.

A Word of Warning – Beware Second Hand Bolds

While trawling the Internet for a little Bold information, I came across the fact that second hand Bolds, and probably other Blackberry devices, can be a pig to connect to the non-corporate BIS Blackberry Internet Service email service.  What seems to happen is that if the person who owned the Bold before you set up an Blackberry BIS account, when you enter your phone’s PIN and IMEI codes, the service may tell you that the unit is already registered, meaning that you cannot use it to send and receive email.  This is quite a pain, seeing as you generally acquire one of these things specifically for their capacity to manage email.  And unregistering the units seems to be horribly complex if you are not the person who subscribed to the service in the first place.

Therefore make sure you can get your cash back in the event that you cannot connect to the Blackberry email service.  This means that an eBay purchase could turn out to be something of a nightmare.  If you are unsure, buy from a used unit from a shop, or, better still, get a new one.


More Bold Information Coming Soon

Sorry, I’ve gone on a little too long.  Enough for the moment.  I’ll write more another time.

Suffice it to say, so far very good, and that from being an aspiring Bold fan, I’ve become a real one.  It’s a great device, and it creates a great impression in image conscious Italy.  Now that can’t be bad, can it?  And the keyboard and gorgeous screen make this email manager very good at what it is designed to do, and at a few other things.  More on this another time.

For a few words on the availability of Blackberry Bolds in Italy see this post: Blackberry Bold Availability for Bramblers

And big thanks to Blackberry Italy for providing me with one of these lovely little devices.

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