Jewish World Review Dec. 17, 2004 / 5 Teves 5765

Jingle Bells, or ring tones, etc.

By Mark Kellner | Next to a certain digital music player (i.e., Apple Computer's iPod), the hottest tech gift this holiday season could be the BlackBerry 7100t, a combo cell phone and messaging system that's rather attractive.

The first attraction is the size, roughly equivalent to the Treo 600 and similar Palm-based devices. That makes it "shirt pocket friendly," as well as easier to slip into a purse than some PDA/phone combos of days gone by. The second is that it looks very much like a phone and not an overgrown pager, as do some other BlackBerry devices.

The color screen on the device is great indoors, and OK in some outside conditions, such as overcast days. On bright, sunny days, you'll need some shade or will want to adjust the screen settings. The display is sharp and crisp, however, a plus for any handheld device.

E-mail and address book capacities seem to be limitless. I've pumped over 2,000 names and over 1,300 e-mails into the test unit, and I've had no problems. Its software - easily compatible with Windows-based PCs - is very accommodating; a third-party solution, see below, handles Mac users' needs. If your corporate e-mail is behind a firewall, you might need to have your company get additional software to make it accessible, however.

Web browsing has been a little trickier, but TMobile , the carrier promoting the 7100t, is constantly upgrading the Web browser software. You may not get a "full" Web experience here - some pages may never display properly on any handheld - but you can often get what you want or need without much hassle.

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As a phone, in terms of sound quality and coverage, the 7100t is hard to beat. It functions quite, quite nicely as a phone, and TMobile's coverage and signal strength, once very problematic in the Washington metropolitan area, are much improved.

Perhaps the nicest aspect of the deal is the firm's $70 monthly service plan, which offers 1,000 voice minutes and unlimited e-mails and Web browsing. The e-mails can often replace phone calls, and the voice minutes can be used anytime. If you're exceptionally verbal, $90 will give you 1,500 minutes a month and the same e-mail/Web deal.

Combining the BlackBerry 7100t ($199 at TMobile through the end of this year) with a rather good rate plan makes this the deal of the year, and something you might want to consider. You can learn about all this at, or at a TMobile store.

Moving data to a new cell phone can be a hassle. Windows-friendly software comes with the BlackBerry 7100t. Mac users, however, will profit from a version of the popular PocketMac software for BlackBerry devices, a $30 program that works flawlessly, as I saw. Details are at

For those with other cell phones and big, honking address lists, a program called DataPilot, available for both PCs and Macs, will help immeasurably. I just got a Motorola V505 cell phone and the Mac version took a bunch of names from my address book (not all 2,000 this time) and shuttled them over to the phone with ease. In fact, it recognized that the phone needs to split an entry with multiple phone numbers into multiple entries, and did so.

The PC version offers more control over things such as ring tones, calendar items and photo files, as well as addresses. I've not tested the extra features, but address-shuttling worked just fine. The product supports dozens and dozens of cell phone types, and either version is around $80 for a "universal kit" that'll handle your phone today - and probably your next one, too. I highly recommend this software; details are at

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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.

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