The BlackBerry's address and calendar applications aren't quite as snazzy as a Pocket PC's or Palm's, but most users will be pleased with the device's PDA side. Other core electronic organizer applications include a task manager, a memo pad, a calculator, and an alarm. The BrickBreaker game comes preinstalled, and you can add third-party applications just like you would with a Palm or a Pocket PC.
With J2ME onboard, RIM is touting the BlackBerry's expansion into the Java realm, which is a plus. You can now open a wide variety of e-mail attachments--most importantly, Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, as well as Adobe PDFs--and view them on the device. Unfortunately, you can't edit a Word or Excel file, save it, and send it back to a colleague. This is a read-only situation.
Like other BlackBerrys, the 7230 is lacking in the multimedia department, but that's not a sin, especially since this is a business-oriented device. However, in an ideal world, we would like to have seen a speakerphone and Bluetooth support for wireless headsets.
All the phone basics are here, including a robust call history, the ability to dial contact numbers directly from the address book, two-way SMS messaging, and a vibrating ringer option. Phone and PDA elements are well integrated. A Web browser is onboard, though only Enterprise customers can currently surf full-blown HTML sites (RIM says a downloadable software update that adds HTML browsing will be available for Web Client users later this year). We mostly used T-Mobile's T-Zones text-only WAP site to check the latest news and sports scores.
You'd expect a color screen to have a serious impact on battery life, but the 7230's display is designed to use the backlight sparingly; you'll need to activate it in only a dimly lit environment or at night. As a result, you can expect decent battery life that's on a par with that of the most energy-efficient smart phones currently available. RIM says you can get up to four hours of talk time and 10 days of standby time. In our tests, we hit the talk-time number and managed to go a full week on standby. With normal use, however, you should expect to recharge after every third day, or every two days to be on the safe side.
Using T-Mobile's GSM/GPRS service in New York City, we had a generally good experience. Occasionally, we lost the sweet spot of the speaker on our ear and had to adjust the phone accordingly. But the BlackBerry was fairly loud, and we appreciated that we could raise and lower the volume using the scrollwheel in the middle of a call. On their end, callers said we sounded clear with no static. In noisier environments, it helps to use a headset, but it's not essential.