After reading you post, I have a few thoughts if I may.
1. Unless you had to go with Verizon, I would have recommended the 7100t (T-Mobile)of 7100g(Cingular), both of which have a more "phone"-centric purpose and form. Most who desire a better phone expirence seem to like the feeling of the 7100 series better than the 72XX series
2. Battery life should be better than 10 hours, but I would recomend topping it off nightly or no longer than every 2 days if it last that long. If your battery is under performing contact Verivon, you may have a defective device. My recollection is the batter life should be a least a day to day and a 1/2 with "normal" usage.
3. Stick with it. The more you use it the easier and user friendly it becomes. As you said this is not a phone, it is an e-mail device with a phone. I liken tham to full use PDA's.
That is just my $0.02. I welcome you and would offer one last thought. The search feature in this forum will lead you to some solutions to problems you have encountered. Battery, backlight, and phone. The anwsers are out there.
iTurned to the darkside.