SAN FRANCISCO (05/01/2000) - Never mind a message in a bottle--try e-mail delivered straight into your pocket. That's the aim of Research In Motion Ltd.'s pager-size RIM 850 Wireless Handheld. We reviewed a shipping unit.
The RIM receives wireless services from American Mobile. Its ELink Agent beams e-mail to the RIM pager from any POP3 e-mail account. The device costs $359, and unlimited e-mail delivery runs $60 a month plus a one-time $25 network activation fee. A limited-use plan runs $25 per month for the first 24,000 characters transmitted, plus a surcharge for each additional character.
You configure the RIM 850 via American Mobile's Web site, telling it which accounts to access and how often, and identifying the filters it should apply so that the system will forward only e-mail you want. Regrettably, the site's interface makes setting the mail options unnecessarily complicated.
Our RIM 850 unit had 2MB of flash memory; a six-line monochrome screen; and one of the neatest, most usable keyboards we've seen in a handheld. You can program the unit's autotext feature--which corrects some common typing errors automatically--to accelerate typing by inserting text in place of your personal shorthand. In addition, you can use the trackwheel to navigate the RIM's menu with ease.
A copy of each message you get stays on your e-mail provider's server for later download. You receive only the first 2KB of long messages; you can access the rest on demand in 2KB blocks. You can receive and forward attachments, but you can't view them on the RIM.
The unit comes with a serial port cradle--no USB yet. The cradle lets you use Puma Technology's Intellisync app to synchronize the RIM's built-in address book and calendar with desktop apps.
The price is a bit high, and the service could be easier to set up--but if you prize convenience, this is worthwhile.
The RIM 850'S keyboard is usable despite the device's compact size.
RIM 850 Wireless Handheld
PRO: Compact design, usable keyboard, mail filtering.
CON: Receives and views e-mail in 2KB blocks, no USB port.
VALUE: Pricey, lightweight option for people who need to read and send e-mail everywhere.
Street price: $359 (plus fees)
Research in Motion