If you were to look at the BlackBerry 8707g at your local 3 Mobile store you would wonder why it looks like an old handset, the answer is simple. It is an old handset; previous iterations of the 8707 have been available since the end of 2006. This answer would no doubt lead you to your next question, "Why in the world would 3 be selling such an old phone?" Again the answer is short and sweet, because it's 3G, unlike every other BlackBerry handset on the market at this time.
Peeling open the lid to the box holding the 8707g is how we imagine it would be to open a crypt in an ancient pyramid — dust filling our noses, a family of bats screeching out and flying past us. OK, a slight exaggeration, and we promise not to bang on too much more about how old the 8707g handset looks, it was just a surprise to see how quickly this kind of technology can date.
The 8707g handset we reviewed has a matte-finish black plastic which is fittingly subdued for a business accessory, but lacks the sharp class of the handsets we see these days. The rounded edges of the 8707g make it appear bulbous and slightly toy-like, but it makes the 8707g extremely comfortable to hold.
Like all good BlackBerrys, the 8707g features a full QWERTY keypad which is possibly our favourite feature of this phone. The keys are large and well-spaced and our fingers were furiously tapping out long messages in no time at all. On the right-hand side of the handset is a jog-wheel for menu navigation, which clicks in for making selections. Because of the size and shape of the 8707g the jog-wheel is perfectly placed for single-handed operation. Above the keypad is a large QVGA display which is bright, sharp and easy to read.
The version of BlackBerry OS running on the 8707g is nearly identical to recently released BlackBerrys in terms of software and business capabilities. Customers signing up to a BlackBerry account with 3 Mobile will be offered either BlackBerry Internet Solution or BlackBerry Enterprise Solution depending on whether the customer needs access to their business network, or simply plans to access internet accounts set up through their ISP or webmail services like Yahoo and MSN. The 8707g can support up to 10 separate email accounts.
One interesting feature is actually the lack of a common feature; the 8707g has no camera. Ordinarily we put crosses against absent features but in the case of a business phone, a missing camera is not that big a deal.
One feature it's lacking that is worth noting is the almost non-existent media playback. Selecting the "Media" icon from the main menu allows you to select ringtones and view pictures, but there is no dedicated music player, or a player for watching video files. It's also worth noting that the 8707g is without Wi-Fi or GPS; two popular and increasingly common connectivity features in smartphones these days.
The BlackBerry 8707g runs a 312MHz processor which is roughly half as powerful as the processors in smartphones we're seeing released in 2008. Luckily the BlackBerry OS is extremely resource efficient, so with only 64MB RAM, operating the 8707g is reasonably zippy. There is some performance lag when executing some applications, but overall it's a pleasing experience.
Adding 3G data speeds theoretically improves download speeds by 10 times over its BlackBerry brethren, similar to a speed bump from dial-up speeds to ADSL broadband speeds. Still, this does little more than give the 8707g a mildly less frustrating browsing experience, and it's certainly not a patch on HSDPA-capable handsets from the competition.
Similar to most smartphones in the BlackBerry family, the battery life for the 8707g is excellent with about five days between charges. This is at least an extra day of battery life compared with similar devices. Even when we used the phone heavily, racking up several hours of talk time, we saw two days of charge.
For a phone developed two years ago the 8707g holds up, but has stiff competition even from within its own ranks. Head-to-head with the BlackBerry Pearl 8120, the 8707g only stands out with its 3G network support, and even this isn't improved with HSDPA. Of course, the QWERTY keyboard is also a very attractive addition and will justify the extra size for some people.
It may be a matter of carrier loyalty that sells the 8707g, considering it is available exclusively with 3 Mobile, and is the telco's only BlackBerry on offer. However, if we had our pick, we'd have to go with the lighter, leaner Pearl 8120 or wait a few months for the features-laden BlackBerry Bold.