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Review: Redfly Mobile Companion - Use Your BlackBerry Smartphone as a Laptop

Redfly Unit
By Adam Zeis on 3 Nov 2009 12:01 am EST
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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. 

Redfly Unit

Sides
Side by side with HP Mini Netbook

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.  

Keyboard
Keyboard and Trackpad

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.  

Side by Side
Redfly Keyboard and HP Mini Keyboard Comparison

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.

Keyboard
Redlfy 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. 

Reader comments

Review: Redfly Mobile Companion - Use Your BlackBerry Smartphone as a Laptop

687 Comments

Real CrackBerry CrackHeads do ALL their CrackBerry computing on their BlackBerry's, without any of these crackerjack add-ons!

NO....I dont want one!!

I want oen of these so bad. My blackberry is my only internet right now so me an my mom are having a hard time seeing everything.

wow, i plumb forgot about the redfly. saw it advertised when the acer eeepc was introduced. considered it, but wasn't compatable with my palm treo at the time (gee, that seems like a lifetime ago).

i would love to give this thing a try now with my BB curve and soon to be upgraded Tour. BuzzBuzz

Wow!!!.... This would make all the time i spend in airports much more productive!!! I need to get my hands on one of these!!!!

I would love to pick one of these up. The price for one is out of my affordable range, and I believe it would come in very handy for me at school and work.

The redfly sounds like a swell buy for a well-bred guy to prevent wet, red eyes from glaring at the inert screen of the Blackberry beyond bed time. Rock on...

These devices look awesome - So many times have I been stuck In a hotel room hindered by a backlog of email and sore thumb from my BlackBerry.

It would be a bonus if I Won One !

This would be great for me to teach my fello BB users on. Somehow I'm always tapped for "how do you do that on the BlackBerry?"

Enter me! Looks like exactly what I need! What I don't understand is why it only got a silver star? What took the gold?

Wow, that's really an amazing peice of technology I could see some hard card BlackBerry Users purchasing this.

Now this is sweet. I'd love to have one. First contest in a long time, where if I don't win it, I'm buying it.

This would be a great tool for me, as i do alot of traveling, and it would be great not to have to drag my laptop with me everytime. I think it would also look awsome with my strom.

I like the idea. I wish they had a software version that would run on a standard netbook or notebook, though.

WOW... This could be the greatest accessory for my Bold... It would make those lengthy layovers slightly more enjoyable.

This product looks awesome. I would love to put this unit to use in my day to day business. Please consider me.
Thanks.

I've got to have one of these bad boys. This is the future of personal computing. Your phone will be powerful enough to be your main PC. You will have something like the Redfly to dock your phone to when at home or at the office.

It is a terrific idea. I used a bluetooth keyboard with my Nokia N95 plugged into my TV as a computer substitute, and apart from lag, it was fine. I think the cost is too high though; a Samsung NC10 would not cost much more in the uk. I do believe that Web OS would fit this like a glove!

It seems like a pretty good idea. This should avoid paying for an additional data plan on my netbbok.

I have tried to use remote desktop on my BB with frustrating results. I wonder if this is not the answer to that problem... I'd love to find out.

This fills a gap that I have been looking to fill. Maybe this would be a better choice than the netbooks I've been looking at.

I would love to have one of these! This + my tour and I have a secure computing platform that complies with company policy and gives that little bit extra ease of use.

"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. "

That part of the review hit the nail on the head.

Keep these contests going crackberry....they are awesome.

A Redfly in my stable would be SWEET!!!

I'm very happy to see such great innovation with what this offers to Blackberries! I'd be happy to win this to try it out :)

...because i wouldn't purchase one. A netbook is faster, more powerful and in the same price range. You can tether your phone if you want internet without wifi.

This device is like wiping before you poop...it just doesn't make sense!

Doesn't seem like something I'll buy but if I win a free one I would give it a chance. Too bad this thing had potential to be even better hopefully other companys decide to make their own more useful version of this.

My laptop just crashed making it hard to do my work in the field and documents!in this crunch time that would so help!

Hope to win! Thanks for the chance!

I always have trouble reading my notes for school since I have this hand problem,my writting is horribly bad that it seems like im trying to decipher a lost language. I NEED THIS!

Would be a great travel companion. I've been watching this product for a while, just waiting for them to come out with the Blackberry APIs. I think they will get better as time goes on as well (i.e. web browsing). Great add-on for the plane, airport, or hotel room instead of lugging a laptop along.

I always have trouble reading my notes for school since I have this hand problem,my writting is horribly bad that it seems like im trying to decipher a lost language. I NEED THIS TO TYPE MY NOTES IN!

I always have trouble reading my notes for school since I have this hand problem,my writting is horribly bad that it seems like im trying to decipher a lost language. I NEED THIS TO TYPE MY NOTES IN!

The Redfly unit is interesting, could see it being handy if you know you are going to be stationary for a while and have quite a bit to type. I do like the "instant on feature"-if it had to boot up I would not find the unit appealing at all.

I travel everywhere in airports and highways and this would be great instead of my 17 inch laptop. Hope I win.

I 'll admit this looks like an interesting concept but I wonder what it would take to have a similar program created for already established netbooks, and then you could have the feature set of a true netbook in addition to the feature set of the redfly. I'd still like to try one out for myself however.

Matt

This could come in handy when travelling and having to respond to long emails. I scrolled down to the bottom and saw the price wasn't that bad, as I was expecting it to be around $400 for a basic model. If that were the case, then I'd just get cheap netbook and tether it to my BB, but it's not.

So put me into the running for one!

I loved the idea of this from the first time I saw it mentioned in the blogs. This would be a huga asset when having to type out those long emails, amongst texts and things while on the go. In my line of work the laptop cant go everywhere.

This makes it easy to type up stuff without having to transfer or email all the files to another computer. I mean i can type alright on my BB keyboard as well but 2 thumbs can never replace 10 fingers!

this is totally awesome. sometimes its a great idea to be able to have a full keyboard and a bigger screen. Especially when working to finish a project.

Pick me Pick me pick me

I should get picked for having a upcoming Holiday greeting as my aviator So let me know when you need my address for shipping purposes, LOL Thanks in advance too. :)

If I don't win it, I may just buy it! This would be the best thing to go with my Storm since I got my Storm! Of course, I will have to wait for it to work with my Storm... :(

Wow. What an awesome giveaway. I'd be really excited to shed my large & heavy personal laptop during business travel. This sounds like just the right tool.

This is an interesting device, don't know how well it is going to go over, would love to have one though. So Crackberry, how about picking me.

Not a bad little gadget. not sure if its worth the price.. but if its free its DEFINATELY worth the price :)

Nice! Hope I win... I'll give it to my sister as a christmas present for her curve!!! If only it supported the storm.... :(

Seems like it might be more practical to have a netbook instead. It would be an interesting device though.

Interesting way to circumvent the no tethering policy the carriers are placing now... No i wasen't tehtering my blackberry to a computer and access the internet, the internet was done all via the blackberry browser.. just wasent on my actual blackberry!!
Would be awesome if this could be coded for windows or on a live disk and work in other computers... Would be very interested

Its about time that a mini, "mini" came out for those of us who hate imposing on another's plane space and who cannot keep the BB,(storm) out of hand! I hope the functionality lives up to the BB user's expectations.

What a handy little device. I was thinking about a bluetooth key board for notes on the go. This could help me out a lot!

Sounds like the product was imagined before the Netbook boom and took too long to market.

That being said, I'd love a free one :)

We have a lot of travelers asking for a netbook or something smaller to travel with, this could be the answer...plus I just want one!

I had a Redfly that I used with my WinMo phones and it was great - stopped carrying my laptop on short trips. I will say that it is much better to use the internet and email when you have WiFi on your phone or if you have strong EVDO signal when connecting via BT. It is instant on and charges your battery while using it when connected via USB plus the battery lasts for WEEKS!

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