I used to love my BlackBerry Pearl

I got my phone in April 2007 from LetsTalk.com. I got a good deal — a BlackBerry Pearl and 2 Motorola RAZR V3rs for… free. No rebates or anything, totally free. LetsTalk screwed up the account creation but I got that straightened out with Cingular.

The BlackBerry served me pretty well until around September 2008 when the trackball got so gunked up I couldn’t use it. I keep my phone in my pants pocket and not in some protective case, so I guess the lint and finger grease got to be too much. I dealt with it like this for a couple of weeks until I decided to try cleaning the ball. It’s pretty easy to remove the clip and take the whole apparatus out, and it was indeed very gunky in there. I went at it with a can of air (computer dusting stuff), a Q-tip and some rubbing alcohol. I got all the gunk off, put it all back together and it was pretty good for about a week or two. Then it was back to its old self – spinning the trackball didn’t do anything and I couldn’t navigate menus or use almost any of the features of the phone. Plus – this is the best part – the plastic clip that kept the trackball apparatus in place had apparently lost tension or something and would pop off, and by the end of 2008 the trackball had fallen out completely and is now lost to the ages.

Fortunately at some point before the complete failure of the trackball, when it still functioned intermittently, I had gone into the configuration and set the left-side convenience key to go to my inbox and the right-side button to go to the web browser. These two apps are navigable using the keypad, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. So my phone still has email and basic browser support, but if a dialog box pops up that doesn’t have hotkeys for “OK” or “Cancel” I have no choice but to hit the “go back/cancel” button, so e.g. I can’t accept many SSL certs.

This whole experience has soured me on the BlackBerry. I’m not buying a phone with a trackball again, and I’d like to buy something with no moving parts if possible. I had high hopes for the BlackBerry Storm – I love the BlackBerry OS – but the week the Storm was released I went to a Verizon store to play with it and I found it horrendous. The reviews that came out about the Storm since then have said pretty much the same thing – the phone is a dud.

After reviewing the options it looks like my two best choices for internet phones are the iPhone and the Nokia e71. A guy at work has the e71 and loves it, but even he has conceded that the iPhone has a superior browser. I’m not a fan of touch keyboards but the iPhone still seems like the most advanced phone available today, even almost a year after the 3G iPhone’s launch.

My contract is already up but I don’t know what I’m going to do. There’s supposed to be an AT&T-subsidized version of the e71, the e71x, coming out pretty soon that’s rumored to cost around $100, but it’s been “real soon now” apparently for several months. I’m leaning toward the iPhone but I hate to spend $200 out of pocket when until now I’ve never paid for a phone.

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