T-Mobile pushes right buttons with BlackBerry offer

However, if you have
always secretly hankered after one, but couldn’t justify the expense,
T-Mobile has this week come to your aid. Since yesterday, the mobile
network operator has been offering the BlackBerry Pearl for a one-off
£179.99. Included in that price are all the emails you can send and
receive for the next 12 months, plus unlimited internet access.

It means that, for the first time, users can join the ranks of BlackBerry owners such as Barack Obama without having to commit to an onerous monthly payment.

have largely been the preserve of those who are, or whose company is,
prepared to typically spend £50 a month to keep them in constant
contact with their emails.

But faced with the growing threat from
rivals, including the Apple iPhone, BlackBerry has decided it needs to
appeal more to the mainstream consumer market.

For those of you
who have seen fellow travellers maniacally punching their BlackBerrys
but have been just too embarrassed to ask what they are doing, the
handsets allow users access to their work or personal email (or both),
almost as if they were sitting in front of their computer.

plenty of other phones now offer email access, the BlackBerry is still
considered the top handset for email access alone. Last year Orange
slashed the cost of operating a BlackBerry. Now T-Mobile has gone a
step further, making them affordable for most mobile users.

allows users to pay the one-off fee, and use the phone on a
pay-as-you-go basis. After paying £179.99 for the phone, all email and
internet access will be free for a year. Users will have to pay for any
calls on the normal pay-as-you-go tariff – 20p per minute for the first
two minutes each day then 10p/min for all other calls that day. Texts
are charged at 10p.

T-Mobile says anyone could top up the phone
with a small sum then simply use it to access their email for the year
– without ever making a call.

At the end of the 12 months, people
will have to pay another fee to retain the “free” access. This charge
has not been fixed but is likely to be in the order of £100.
Alternatively, at the end of the year, there’s nothing to stop you
taking your BlackBerry and switching it to another deal, or rival

It should be noted the phone you get is not the top-of
the-range BlackBerry handset. The Pearl 8110 smartphone comes in
silver, has a 2-megapixel camera, in-built GPS (so you’ll never get
lost), and a 3.5mm earphone jack for listening to music on the move.

also comes with preloaded quick-links to certain websites including
Facebook, MySpace and Flick. Note, however, it does not have a
full-sized Qwerty keyboard.

Crucially, it costs less than half
the price of the pay-as-you-go iPhone that is offered by O2 – this,
admittedly, has lots of other applications and features, but for email
is arguably less effective.

Before you sign up, you should check
out Orange’s rival pay-as-you-go offering. It will sell you its
BlackBerry for £155, which includes £10 of calls. Again, you get
unlimited email and web access; however you need to pay the mobile
phone company £5 a month for continued “unlimited” access. Call charges
are 15p/min on its basic Racoon tariff.

Alternatively, plenty of
phone companies will provide you with a free BlackBerry if you are
prepared to sign a 12- or 18-month contract from £30 a month, although
these do include a calls and/or text allowance.

Also, be aware
that while there are plenty of users who love their BlackBerrys, some
have grown to hate them, unable to control their need to constantly see
whether they have been contacted. They have not been dubbed the
CrackBerry for nothing, but at least the pay-as-you-go deal gives you a
chance to try them without signing an expensive contract.