BlackBerry Controller

9 05 2008

The original BlackBerrys featured a scroll wheel on the right side, which enabled users to navigate menus and scroll through e-mails and Web pages. With the advent of the 8000 series, that wheel was replaced with a trackball located just underneath the screen.

While a new generation of users have embraced the new navigation device, many old-school BlackBerry addicts wish RIM would bring back the scroll wheel. Here at LAPTOP, we found two passion push-partisans on the staff and let them duke it out. Read their arguments below, then post your own comments.

Do you want the wheel back?

Point: Why a BlackBerry Trackball is the Only Way to Go
By Joanna Stern

I never wanted a BlackBerry until they came out with the Pearl, which sported a pearl-esque trackball. Why? Because the scroll wheel found on the right edge of BlackBerrys prior was more awkward than a 12-year-old boy heading into puberty. Those who use BlackBerrys with scroll wheels seem to look like they have some sort of deformity; their right index finger is always unnaturally extended to the right of the device.

Mr. Jeffrey Wilson will try and convince you otherwise, but putting a wheel on the side of a BlackBerry has never made sense. It almost seemed like an outgrowth of older technology, like beepers. For those that don’t remember beepers, you would hold this ancient contraption and use a side wheel to scroll through the numbers. There is no doubt that the advent of the trackball pushed RIM’s BlackBerry into the forefront. Here is why I could never imagine using a BlackBerry with a scroll wheel and why I’ll never give up on my precious little gem.

Ergonomics Trump All: The scroll wheel design is not conducive to thumb-typing and does not make for comfortable hand positioning on the device. With the scroll wheel, using your phone with your left hand was never really possible. If you were holding your BlackBerry in your left hand, you would have to constantly adjust your positioning: To type, you must put your thumb on the keys, but then to toggle the menu, you have to move your hand around to the right side of the device to scroll using the wheel. With the trackball positioned front and center on the device, you can type with one hand; you simply move your thumb from the keyboard slightly up to maneuver the trackball.

Sure using a wheel device with two hands is tolerable, but you can never have a firm grip on the device since you have to keep your index finger on the right side to control the wheel. With the ball you can firmly and comfortably hold the device in the palm of your hand and that ball is always within thumb’s reach.

The Need for Speed: How do people move within menus with a scroll wheel? There is no doubt that you can navigate faster with the ball, because you gain four-way directional controls for moving through applications or navigating a Web page.

You also gain much more precision with the trackball; you can accurately navigate to the application you need in the main menu with short ball rolls. Even better, when you are writing up an e-mail or SMS message you can easily move the cursor to the right or left by horizontally rotating the ball.


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