Cast your memory back to the dark ages before smartphones. The StarTAC was still in common rotation. Cellphones were bricks. Windows Mobile was just a glimmer in Bill Gates’ eye. Enter the BlackBerry 850, a small QWERTY device that made getting email on the go dead simple. But this was 1998! Why did we need email on our hips? Well, now we know that learning about V1AG7A and P3nni st0cks are absolutely important to our work day and that an email at midnight that basically says “WHR IS THE FILKINS FILE YR FIRED YR BOSS — Sent with my BlackBerry” is now the lingua franca of business. It’s a BlackBerry world. The iPhone and everyone else are just living in it.
And so we come to the BlackBerry 8320 aka The Curve. Designed along the same lines as the Pearl, the 8320 is already available from AT&T and, as a result, is already covered quite handily by other outlets. However, as a sometime RIM user and all-time Sidekick user, I’d like to talk about it from the perspective of a potential WinMo/Symbian to RIM switcher. Here we go.
RIM is noted for having a fairly rudimentary but rock-solid application stack. All of the tools I tested — Wi-Fi, web browsing, camera — worked fine in real life conditions. Battery life was astounding, allowing me to run without recharging for about four days even under heavy email load. I get a lot of mail, and when I saw that this thing excelled where the Sidekick and WinMo phones failed, namely dying after 8 hours of heavy network usage, I was almost hooked. Even the iPhone has a good 10 hours in it before it croaks, if that.
The size and shape is quite nice. It’s a light phone with a full QWERTY keypad and the standard set of BlackBerry buttons including back and the little menu button. The keyboard is easy to use, even for big handed folk like me.
This model has T-Mobile’s MyFaves, which is a nice addition that makes it good for the casual user. It also includes AIM, Yahoo, ICQ, and MSN chat as well as BlackBerry chat. All your standard stuff.
The Curve is a great email machine. RIM has accreted a number of features over it’s core mission — to deliver email — and the result, thankfully, is a stable platform for getting and sending email as soon as it hits your inbox. It is not a good IM device — the IM app, which T-Mobile uses for most of its smartphones including WinMo devices — doesn’t hold connections well and often drops out. Like the iPhone’s IM apps, this app works for outgoing messages but don’t depend on it for incoming messages. The Sidekick is still the one and only best messaging phone, bar none. If that’s important to you, you’re probably looking at the wrong phone.
If you are upgrading from a previous QWERTY BlackBerry, you’ll be very happy with this ultra-slim and light phone. Pearl users might want to stay put — you get a little more bang and except for the QWERTY you’re looking at pretty much the same device. At $249 after rebate you’re looking at a $100 premium over a similarly outfitted Pearl or Dash. The best thing is that the Curve has Hotspot@Home capabilities for making calls while on a Wi-Fi network, an amazing boon for travelers.
Overally, the Curve is a good, solid phone for a fair price. If you’re a BlackBerry fan, you can’t go wrong. If you’re a potential convert, you might just find CrackBerry religion.
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