I'm a power user, an uber-geek. I like the latest and greatest, the biggest and the baddest. I've had my eyes set on both the EVO and the Epic, reading reviews and deciding between the two. Android and soon Windows Phone 7 are considered the apex of mobile technology and users of the interwebs will have you believe Blackberry is archaic and dying fast, unable to keep up with its competition. So the thought of picking up any type of Blackberry never crossed my mind. It's something technology websites have taught me to laugh at. They're cold, corporate, and ancient. That's the vibe I get from Blackberries.
But when I saw the Syle on the shelf at the Sprint store, I was intrigued; intrigued enough to use my upgrade and take it for a spin on Sprint's 30-day guarantee. I'm largely a touch screen user, moving from HTC Mogul to HTC Touch Pro 2. I've played with the EVO and Epic for weeks in an attempt to decide between the two, and I've horsed around with my girlfriend's iPhone. So the flip-phone is something I haven't experienced since my Nextel i870 days back in 2001.
This is my first Blackberry, so the pains of generations before OS6 are not known to me. My experience so far is overwhelmingly positive. OS6 is extremely well executed and fluid. Emails and text messages are a breeze, which I believe Blackberry may do better than the other OS makers anyway. The build quality is fantastic and that is saying a lot since I have mostly been spoiled by HTC's excellent phones. It doesn't have the same cheap, plasticky feel like my dad's Curve. It fits nicely in my pocket and I don't feel like I am carrying a brick around anymore.
The phone looks great. I don't think the pictures do it justice at all. Once you see it in store, you really start to see its aesthetic appeal. Don't let what you see on your 2D monitor sway you on its looks. Go to the store and see for yourself. Even if you don't like it at first, it starts to grow on you.
Answering calls and ending calls by flipping the phone open and slamming it shut is a very satisfying experience. It's a one-handed effort without the awkward finger stab after waiting for the screen to re-light itself once you pull it away from your face. Butt dials don't exist here either. Send a text and close the phone and your back to the home screen when you reopen it the next time (unless you're opening it from a previewed notification on the external screen). This is very handy. You get in and out of whatever you're doing without having to fumble through screens or stabbing at a touch button and pressing a power button just to lock it and be done.
Bluetooth streams music beautifully to my car stereo and it fields calls well. It integrates without issue in my MazdaSpeed 3's steering wheel controls (call pickup, hangup, music controls, etc.). The camera is ok and gets the job done fairly well. Sure, it's awkwardly positioned, but it only takes a few sessions to train yourself to move your finger out of the way. The external screen and notificatoins are excellent and are well implemented. Though a small resolution, the images are crisp and bright. The music player displays album art and song info when closed. Contact photos come up for incoming calls and message previews are especially handy since you can instantly decide if texts/emails are worth your attention and effort. If you decide to take action on a notification, opening the phone up automatically takes you to that message. You can cycle through all notifications using the volume rocker and the message you last previewed will be the one brought up automatically for you upon opening the phone. Again, the resolution is smaller for the internal display, but like the external screen, images are bright and crisp and it never enters your mind that the screen is anything less than what it should be.
The keyboard is new to me. As mentioned, I've always used slide out QWERTY's. I never understood people's fascinations with Blackberry's approach. They always looked cramped and impossible. However, I can happily say I can tap out texts and even work emails with great speed and accuracy. There was little to no learning curve which surprised me greatly. As mentioned, this is my first ever Blackberry so I can't help make comparisons to the Bolds and Curves. All I can say is that it works fairly well.
Social network integration is well thought out and notifications on wall posts, messages, etc. are all displayed on the external screen when they arrive. Neat!
Battery life is average - it gets me through the day with 3G and Bluetooth enabled (wireless off). I just wish they stuffed it with something more than a 1150 cell. Sprint does not currently sell the nifty looking Style charge dock, but you can find it at Blackberry's US site for $29.99.
The Blackberry Desktop software is extremely easy to use. Syncing my music library was the easiest out of all the other phones I've owned. The software also allows you to back up your phone's data in case something happens to it.
My only gripe is that Blackberry forces a $20 per month fee if you wish to sync with your work's Exchange server (ask your employer if they have BES Express which is a free version. I was not fortunate enough to have that option). This is a feature that is inherent on other phone OS's and they are free (Touchdown for Android is a one-time $20 fee, yes, but it is not a recurring monthly charge like BES).
All in all, I feel like my life has been instantly simplified. I don't feel attached to my phone anymore - I get in and get out and can make decisions on incoming messages instantly. It can do what the big boys can do, but in a compact form. If you are a person who would rather live in reality than burying your face in your phone 24/7, this phone is great!
It's a step down for power users like myself, but it's a nice step down.
I think a lot of people can come out surprised with this phone if they give it a shot. It certainly isn't for everyone, but it is definitely a winner.