Contest: Win a Redfly Mobile Companion for BlackBerry! Details Below..
If you're on the go and find yourself stuck in airports, on planes or in hotel rooms you know how valuable your BlackBerry can be to get work done. Be it emailing, finishing up a presentation or various other tasks, we like to use every spare minute to get things done. Sometimes the keyboard and small screen can bring your productivity down, and lets face it, not everyone has a laptop or netbook to cart around. Wifi isn't always available, and sometimes tethering isn't an option. All these added together can make for some crappy traveling and even less productivity. Enter Redfly from Celio Corp. Redfly carries the tagline "Use Your Smartphone Like A Laptop" and you can do just that. The unit itself is smaller than a netbook which makes for extreme portability, and you just plug in your device (or jump on via Bluetooth) and you're up and running. You're BlackBerry screen is instantly transported to the Redfly's 7 or 8 inch screen and you have a full QWERTY keyboard at your disposal. Now you can use the power of your BlackBerry as a laptop. Email, BlackBerry Messenger, MemoPad, Calendar and more are all at your disposal. Lets start from the beginning and take a look at the Redfly unit and all of its functions.
In the box you'll find the Redfly unit, AC adapter and an instruction sheet - thats it (and thats all you need). You will have to download a small app to your device through which the Redfly will communicate. This allows you to tweak a few settings, and specify a USB or Bluetooth connection. From there just connect your device (the Redfly currently only supports the Tour, Bold and Curve 8900) and switch on the Redfly. The unit is instant on, so it fires up insanely quick meaning no wait time. This is useful on many levels. If you're mid-email and its running a bit longer than you thought, you can instantly switch to the Redfly to finish it out. You won't have to factor in wait time for booting since there is none, which is awesome. Once you're connected your BlackBerry screen shows up on the Redfly and all the functions are moved onto the unit.
The unit itself has a familiar layout. It looks just like any laptop (moreso a Netbook now) with a full keyboard layout (complete with F keys) and a two-button trackpad on the bottom. The quality of the display is good overall, and I don't think anyone using the Redfly will be seeking a high definition display anyway. The build quality is good and the unit feels solid. It is extremely light and very portable. Small enough to carry in pretty much any bag or briefcase, and maybe even in some coat pockets. There is a port for the AC adapter, two USB ports and a VGA port. You have the ability to hook up an external accessory like a mouse or full size keyboard, and also a monitor or projector for presentations or larger viewing.
When first using the unit, I found it hard to get out of the "laptop" mentality. Seeing a full keyboard, trackpad and display makes me feel like I'm at a laptop, but I had to remind myself that I was using a laptop-hybrid if you will. Gone was the OS and some functions I was used to, and it was replaced with my BlackBerry OS. The Redfly gives you the option of using either a 5-way scroll method that mimicks the trackball movement (and even shows a trackball icon on the screen, which is obtrusive at times) or the typical mouse movement. Using the mouse mode I found the adjustment of scrolling through my icons fairly easy, and once I got into the swing it went smoothly. I think that overall once you get used to it the 5-way navigation is the way to go. Both take some adjustment, but having both should leave the option for everyone to find whats best.
When it comes to actually typing I had some difficulty. Over the last few months I've slowly adjusted to typing on the smaller keyobard on my HP Mini. I still find it difficult and frustrating at times, but I can do it when I have to. One of the first things I noticed about the Redfly was the small keyboard. It is a good deal smaller than a standard netbook keyboard, which may be an instant turn off for some users. Certain keys like the Shift are just way to small and really slow you down at times which is a big downfall. Other things you have to adjust to when navigating with the keyboard are remembering which keys are for what. Like the dedicated menu key on the keyboard that activates the BlackBerry menu. Its tough at times to remember that you're not on a laptop, so you can't just click the Start button to get a menu, and you actually have to hit the Menu button the keyboard.
Some things are inhibited by the APIs that are a drawback as well. Web browsing is hindered by the fact that a page will not scroll when you reach the bottom. You have to either use the spacebar as a shortcut to page down, or click the scrollbar on the side of a page. This takes some getting used to and can be a very big turnoff. I did find navigating hard at times, and there is obviously a slight delay in the interface which is to be expected.
Overall once you get used to the navigation with a different interface the hard part is over. I don't think the average user will need to own a Redfly. Consumers who rarely travel will not have a full time use for the device unless the larger screen and keyboard is more appealing. I honestly can say that a BlackBerry user for the most part will be able to type quicker on the actualy device than with the Redfly. The web browser is a downer since its more trouble than its worth without being able to scroll fully through the pages. I think that business users who are stuck behind a BES and travel often will find the most value in the Redfly. Being able to connect on a larger unit through the device will be a big bonus. Using the company Wifi and data as opposed to a personal laptop is a definite bonus.
The Redfly is available in a 7" version for $199 and an 8" version for $249. For more information or to purchase a unit, check out celiocorp.com/where_to_buy.
Contest: We have one Redfly C7 unit to give away (the one seen in this review actually - used but not abused). Just leave a comment on this post to be entered. Contest ends this Sunday at Midnight PST.