Blackberry Curve 8900 review
We review the petite BlackBerry Curve 8900 smartphone - the smallest BlackBerry with a full QWERTY keyboard
Verdict: The smallest BlackBerry with a full-QWERTY keyboard, the Curve 8900 lives up to its promise. The only major downside is its size (it may be too small for some hands) and lack of 3G.
Price: From free on Orange, O2, Vodaphone and T-Mobile, depending on contract.
Pros: Excellent for email, small size, good looks
Cons: Its small size means how good it is depends on your hands, no 3G
Design: A smart, clean-looking, small phone which borrows the design ethos from the successful BlackBerry Bold.
Operating System: BlackBerry OS 4.6
More Info: Mobile networks or from www.blackberry.com
RIM appears to be determined to ensure that no matter who you are or what your preference in mobile phone style is, there’s a BlackBerry for you. For those who can’t live without a touch screen, there’s the Storm. For anyone wanting a small phone, there’s the Pearl. Or, if you’re wedded to a flip phone, there’s even the Pearl Flip.
But the company is arguably best known for its products which manage to cram a full QWERTY keyboard onto a small device. The Bold 9000 series is probably the most widely-known version, but for customers who want something with a full keyboard but smaller size than the Bold, there’s the Curve range, of which the 8900 is the most recent example.
Look and feel
The Curve 8900 takes its design cues from the previous members of the BlackBerry family, but shrinks the entire thing down a bit, making it the thinnest BlackBerry to date. Although slightly thicker than an iPhone, it’s smaller overall and has sleek curves which make it feel good in the hand.
Happily, it retains something that I’ve always liked about BlackBerrys, which is that it feels solidly constructed. For obvious reasons, I didn’t drop it - but it certainly feels like it could be dropped without inflicting too much damage.
One thing it doesn’t feature though, that was common to previous Curve models, is a silver-grey colour scheme. Instead, it has the black-and-silver of the Bold, a design which has proved pretty popular.
The keyboard is, of course, one of the reasons that you’d buy a Curve rather than the smaller Pearl, and it’s also the hardest area to gauge in a review like this. It’s nice feeling, with a solid click, but whether you will get on with it depends almost entirely on the size of your hands. I found that my typing was more error-strewn than on a Bold, but that might be partly because the smaller size takes some getting used to. I’d recommend you try it before you buy: this isn’t a product to buy without at least a few minutes in a shop.
Features and benefits
The screen on the BlackBerry Bold was something of a revelation, thanks to its sharp, vibrant colours - and the Curve 8900 is arguably even better. Putting it side-by-side with an older BlackBerry like my own 8800 leads to instant gadget-envy. And that’s before you even start using it. The bare-bones specs say that it’s a 2.4in TFT screen, supporting 65,536 colours at 480x360 pixel resolution, but that doesn’t do it justice. It just looks lovely.
There’s one big feature that’s missing from the 8900, and that’s support for 3G. It seems crazy in this day and age that anyone is shipping 2G phones, but RIM is, and this is one of them. Of course, the payback for using 2G is that the battery life is significantly better than it would be if it was a 3G phone - and as long as web browsing isn’t your prime use of the phone, it’s not a big deal. And the 8900 does have Wi-Fi, so if you want to download more quickly, you can always use that.
The Curve’s camera offers 3.2 megapixels with flash and auto-focus, which means you can take decent images with it. You can also record video, but the quality on this won’t have you abandoning your dedicated camera just yet.
The interface is the standard BlackBerry OS 4.6, which means that it’s a much slicker proposition than previous BlackBerrys have been. Icons are well designed, and the whole thing is easy to navigate at the top level using the trackball.
However, once you dig into Preferences, it’s still difficult to find what you want. That’s a shame, because if as much effort had been poured into the deeper parts of the interface as has obviously happened on the top level, it would be an excellent user experience as opposed to just a good one.
Of course, the primary application on a BlackBerry is messaging, and the Curve 8900 is just as good as its siblings. It’s capable of handling multiple email accounts with aplomb, and all the messages can be viewed in a single inbox - an approach which works extremely well.
Depending on whether you’re using it with BlackBerry Exchange Server (BES) or BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS), you get differing degrees of support for business email features, filtering on server side, and so on. And there’s support for reading (but not writing) Microsoft Office documents out of the box, thanks to the inclusion of DataViz’s Documents to Go Standard Edition.
The BlackBerry web browser has come on in leaps and bounds lately, and now fully-supports HTML, RSS, and various different kinds of streaming media. It even supports viewing YouTube clips, which is a definite step in the right direction. However, compared to the browsers on either the iPhone or Android phones, it’s still not great and the size of the screen weighs against it. If web browsing is a primary use on your phone, you’d be better off looking at a Storm if you want a BlackBerry.
Judged on its own terms, the Curve is a success. It’s probably about as small as a BlackBerry could get and still have a usable full-size keyboard, and - like all BlackBerrys - it’s an exemplary phone for email use. If email is what you’re all about, then you want a BlackBerry - and if you want a small version of the Bold, the Curve is the right choice.