From a purely cosmetic sense, the 8700g is more modern than the rest of the BlackBerry product line, but not nearly as attractive as its kissin' cousin the 8700c (available on Cingular). It's hard to say why, exactly; The blue shell isn't helping, nor is the strange, chrome speakerphone that looks like a Playmobil knight's shield. But holding the 8700c in one hand the 8700g in the other is strange—one feels like a hefty business gadget and the other one feels like a toy. (You can guess which is which.)

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But nobody buys a BlackBerry because of its looks—the cartoony (but skinable) user interface makes sure of that. Instead one buys a BlackBerry because it's (supposedly) the best mobile email device on the market.

And maybe it is when used in conjunction with a BlackBerry-specific email server; If your company already supports BlackBerries I can say to grab the 8700 series without exception. But the 8700g is on T-Mobile—The Skinflint's Choice™—and will likely be picked up by a few value-conscious types. (At $400 from T-Mobile at the time of this writing it's not a steal, but T-Mo's inexpensive EDGE data service sure is.)

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That means that the typical user very well may be using a regular ol' email server, like I was. In that case I think you'll find the BlackBerry 8700g capable, but not without its weaknesses compared to devices running full-fledged mobile email solutions, such as Snapper Mail on the Palm Treo (my personal mobile combo of choice).

My personal problems, when interfacing to a stock-standard IMAP account: no IMAP folder support; Poor handling of junk mail that gets moved to the device; Improper syncing of deleted emails (which is to say, emails I had already deleted were downloaded into my 8700g's Inbox when they shouldn't have been).

Granted, I get a ton of mail—a couple hundred emails a day, at least, over half of which are spam—so I'm a minor problem for most users becomes greatly amplified for me. I have an inkling that I could have tweaked some settings on my email server and fixed some of the syncing issues, but I really didn't feel like I should have to massage a device whose trademark function was email into complicity.

A built-in IM client was an easy download, but it didn't load all my AIM contacts for some reason. (It loaded four; I have over a hundred, at least.) It worked fine, though, sending me alerts even while I was using other applications. It's no a Sidekick killer, but for a light IM user—which I am not—it was definitely sufficient.

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I'm still not a big fan of the BlackBerry interface—it's good, but it feels about two button presses per function away from being properly polished—but it's certainly not bad, especially once you remember what confirmation dialogues you can blow past without reading. That's not really a problem related directly to the 8700g, though, and if you've used previous BlackBerries you know what you're getting into.

The screen's great—no problems there. It's got Bluetooth and EDGE, which is a nice data speed upgrade for T-Mobile that's very welcome over the nearly twice as slow GPRS service.

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The bundled apps are useful, too, including the Google Local/Maps beta which works a charm and Handmark's Pocket Express RSS-like news reader.

Really, on the whole, I liked the 8700g quite a lot. I could imagine getting a wee bit possessive of it had I been using it in the context of a more BlackBerry-friendly email account, one with junk mail filtering and folders that the unit could understand. It's definitely worth a look for most folks, which is higher praise than I can give to most mobile devices.

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