BlackBerries seem everywhere now. They're an oversized mobile phone, that AirTel introduced some time back, and Hutch is now advertising them too. Rediff is currently singing their praises. Their main selling point seems to be that they let you access your email and the web. Your email provider needs to support it, or you need to use the email service of your phone provider. And the machine is unwieldy and expensive.
Lately I've been using a much cheaper solution, which only requires that your provider supplies GPRS (Airtel does, at Rs 20/day or 375/month, unlimited use) and that your phone supports GPRS and Java (many phones under Rs 5000 now do). For web browsing, I use Opera Mini. It's a really clever solution to the problem of browsing standard webpages on a small phone: it pipes your requests via Opera's dedicated servers, which reformat and compress the webpage to make it mobile-friendly, and shrink the images. For email, I forward my mail to a gmail account and use Google's GMail app (point your phone to http://gmail.com/app -- for some reason with a computer-based browser it doesn't show the same page). You could also use any other webmail via Opera Mini, but that's a bit unwieldy, and the GMail app is as easy as SMS. Really.
And as a bonus, I can even dial-up from my laptop, via bluetooth, if I want to. So basically I can get my laptop online, wherever there's a cell phone signal, for Rs 20 a day. Typically I get 30-40 kilobits/s (4-5 kilobytes/sec), comparable to dial-up: not great but gets the job done when I'm travelling. (For web browsing, Opera Mini generally feels faster, because of the compression. For email the GMail app feels faster, probably because it's stripped down. But in both cases the laptop's big screen and keyboard are nicer, plus I can do other things, like ssh to my work machine.)
Scott Adams boasted the other day of how he one-upped a friend who insisted that drains swirl the other way in the summer hemisphere, allegedly because of the Coriolis force: he whipped out his BlackBerry and looked it up on snopes.com. Just for fun, I tried opening Opera Mini and typing "coriolis snopes" into the Yahoo searchbar, and got the page in seconds.
Unlimited data transfer costs Rs 900 a month on the BlackBerry (according to the above rediff article) and Rs 375 on Airtel GPRS. I would hope the BlackBerry offers a better speed (EDGE?) for the money. On the other hand, I've been unable to find out whether you can use one as a modem and connect your computer, as I can with GPRS.
With all this, and with the small form factor of my current phone, I wonder why I would pay four times more for a BlackBerry. Any BlackBerry fans out there to enlighten me?