Review: T-Mobile's Blackberry 8820

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What isn’t there to love about T-Mobiles UMA VoIP Wi-Fi solution? Like mini-bar cashews and a nice upgrade to business class, T-Mobile knows what makes travelers happy, especially international financiers with a Spitzerian mistress in every port and a burgeoning Falstaffian gut. UMA to an international traveler is like finding a great restaurant in the hotel: you could get a new SIM card, go wander the world a bit, but why worry when you have everything you need in the lobby.

Add UMA — which basically lets you make and receive calls over any Wi-Fi connection anywhere in the world for local rates — to a Blackberry 8820 and you are basically in heaven.

First, who isn’t this new Blackberry 8820 for? It’s not for the local kids who rarely leave their cubicles. T-Mobile’s Hotspot@Home solution costs $9.99 a month and allows you to make free nationwide calls over Wi-Fi. This ideally means @Home but this also can mean @theCasbah or @aNiceHotelinGreece, which is the dirty little secret of this plan: you can call home or the office from anywhere in the world for free. If you’re in an area without strong GSM/T-Mobile coverage and you’re a die-hard T-Mo user or locked in by the IT department, Hotspot@Home is a lifesaver — but if you’re not brand sensitive already probably using a competing CDMA phone in this case, making the point moot. I’ve never had trouble with T-Mo in New York or anywhere else in the US, but I know some folks are in dead zones and, as such, should probably look elsewhere. While UMA is cool, its might not be a strong enough add-on to warrant paying $9.99 while you’re in your McMansion outside of Phoenix.

If you travel, get it. GSM is the lingua franca of the rest of the world and Verizon and Sprint pay their respects to this vaunted standard by adding SIM cards to some of their phones (see the Samsung Ace) and quivering as they wait for GSM to eventually bulldoze their infrastructure; why, friends do you think Sprint loves them some WiMAX?

The 8820 is a standard Blackberry messaging phone with an emphasis on messaging. It is larger than the similarly Wi-Fi adept Curve and has a large, easy to tap keyboard. The keys are uniquely shaped to ensure you don’t dumbthumb your important messages.

International email costs $19.99 a month and if you’re a Blackberry hound, its well worth it. The phone includes all of the standard Blackberry fare along with MyFaves, which is displayed prominently on the front page of the phone. Web browsing is excellent over Wi-Fi and acceptable over GPRS, as was expected.

The phone does have GPS which uses Blackberry maps and Telenav for location and directions and includes a microSD slot and media playback features, for those so inclined. It also supports quad-band GSM, making it great for roaming.

Overall the 8820 is a strong entrant in the Blackberry race and the traveler’s best friend.

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