BlackBerry Curve 8900 Review


20.05.2009

What we like: RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 comes with an impressive facelift: a new design and a great display. The smartphone comes with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS support a full HTML Web browser and the 3.2 megapixel camera.

What we don’t like: No 3G support and the smartphone’s software can become clogged in certain situations.

Overall Impression: Even though this smartphone has no 3G support, it still manages to impress with its design and features, making it one of the best T-Mobile smartphones at the moment.

Overview

RIM Blackberry Curve 8900 was first introduced by T-Mobile at CES 2009, but the carrier did not reveal any details about when this device will reach the market and at what prices. Much time did not pass, and now the Blackberry Curve 8900 is available at T-Mobile. How good it is ?

Blackberry Curve 8900 is the replacement for the Curve 8300 series, and come with a number of improvements such as a new (better) design, a great display, faster processing unit and 3.2 megapixel camera among other things. While the Wi-Fi with UMA integrated support allows you to place an unlimited number of calls through any Wi-Fi network, the lack of 3G support is probably the only thing that stops this smartphone from gaining a decisive edge over the competition.

But the lack of 3G support does not mean it is a mediocre device, not at all. It still is an impressive mix of mobile entertainment and office device. While it may not appear to be a capable smartphone, due to its design, it can perform a lot of tasks meant for the professional domain.

The Design

As noted before, one of the things we like about Blackberry Curve 8900 is the design. It manages to look more fun, being the thinnest BlackBerry you can find that features a full QWERTY keyboard. The dimensions for this phone are: 4.2’ x 2.3’ x 0.5’ , compared to the Curve 8320 that specified 4.2 x 2.4 x 0.6. In addition, the Curve 8900 weighs 3.8 ounces while the 8320 model weighs 3.9 ounces.

In addition of being thinner, it is more solid constructed. While the body is still plastic, the finishes and paint applications make this a durable device, and you will be aware of that. As a downside, some handsets’ battery covers shift a little.

The overall style of the Blackberry Curve 8900 is influenced (and in a good way) by the tapered edges (similar to those of BlackBerry Storm) and the metallic paint that make this smartphone look… nice. This was probably a marketing strategy, to make it appealing for a wider variety of users, but as long as it looks good, why should it bother you?

The main attraction of this phone is the TFT LCD Display: a 2.4 inch screen capable of showing 65,356 colors and a 480×360 resolution that manages to be better than the screen featured by the Blackberry Bold.

Even though “Bold” showcases a display capable of a 480×320 resolution, when you will be running the latest BlackBerry Operating System, you will get some additional sharpness and brightness that will no doubt impress. And, speaking of the latest BlackBerry operating system, a welcomed facelift has been implemented but there are some icons that look very much the same, which may be confusing at some point.

The navigation is placed under the display and is made of the standard Talk and End keys (it is still a phone), a back button, a menu shortcut and the navigator. There is enough space between the buttons to ensure an easy navigation. The side controls help you navigate the phone when you place it in one hand.

While the keyboard is very much like the one you can find on BlackBerry Bold, the Curve 8900 is smaller, thus the keys are not as big and as spacious, but given proper accommodation period, you should have no problems composing messages or emails with a limited number of errors.

The left side of BlackBerry Curve 8900 features only one button that you can program as a shortcut (by default, this button will launch the voice dialer), while the right side features a 3.5 mm jack, a volume rocker, the MicroUsb port and a programmable shortcut button (it will launch the camera by default). The camera and flash are, obviously enough on the backside of the phone, while the SIM card and MicroSD slots are located behind the battery cover.

The top of the phone features a mute button and a lock key. They are not visible at a first glance, but once you find out they are there, you can operate them with ease.

The BlackBerry Curve comes with a charger, a USB cable a headset, a software CD, a 256MB Micro SD and reference material. Enough to get you going in no time at all.

The Features

RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 comes with BlackBerry OS 4.6.1.114. This latest version of the BlackBerry OS, besides the updated skin mentioned before, also comes with some new features and applications. One thing you will like is the ability to edit Word, PowerPoint and Excel files. This can now be done because Go Guite has DataViz’s Documents included. The Standard Edition that comes with the phone is similar to that featured by the Bold and Storm BlackBerry models. This edition cannot create new documents, but you can upgrade to the Premium Edition that will allow you to do that.

Curve 8900 comes with an impressive list of tools such as a calendar, task list, memo pad, calculator, password storage and more. The applications you can install on a BlackBerry are many, but you will have to check the compatibility. Fortunately, T-Mobile provides the necessary information regarding the applications you can install on your new handset.

Previous BlackBerry models had some problems with Web browsing, but the Curve 8900 tries to solve this by introducing a full HTML Web browser that can work with RSS feeds and streams. This means you can view clips on YouTube directly from your phone. The basic functions are available, but frankly speaking, the best phone out there regarding Web browsing is the iPhone, but this is definitely a sign that the guys at BlackBerry are trying to gain up lost ground in that domain.

The connectivity options you get with the Curve 8900 include Wi-Fi and T-Mobile EDGE. This is good, but producers felt that the inclusion of 3G support will make the battery last less and increase its size and that could of spoiled the overall style of this smartphone. And while EDGE surfing is decent, there would have been great benefits by including 3G Support.

A viable alternative to the 3G connectivity is the included Wi-Fi capability. If you will opt for T-Mobile’s Unlimited HotSpot Calling plan (about $10 per month, not including the existing plan), you will be able to make and receive calls over any wireless network. This is definitely a plus for the business sector, when Wi-Fi access is often available and the number of minutes one has to talk is quite large.

Just like expected in a SMART phone, you can assign a photo or a ringtone for each contact. The number of contacts you can add to your list is dictated by the amount of free space, not including the 250 contacts your SIM card can hold.

If you want to use the GPS, you can use either satellites or cellular triangulation to determine your position. There are two applications you can use : BlackBerry Maps or Google Maps for Mobile. They both can provide quite useful, with the phone being able to give you detailed directions by interpreting the information.
As expected, given the fact that the Curve is meant to provide a lot of entertainment options, the media player that comes with BlackBerry Curve 8900 can play MP3, WMA9/WMA9 Pro/WMA20, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR-NB, and MIDI music files while among supported video file formats we should note MPEG4, WMV, DivX4, DivX5/6 (partial support), XviD (partial), and H.263.

We have talked about the applications that this phone comes or can be equipped with. All these applications can be stored on either the 256MB integrated Flash memory or on a card in the expansion slot that (up to 16GB) that you will have to buy separately.

Curve 8900 has a 3.2 megapixel camera that can also record video clips. The features of the camera include a flash, auto focus, 2x optical zoom and image stabilization system. There are three picture sizes and as the same amount of picture qualities you can choose from in camera mode. In addition, you can set the white balance, and add basic effects to your photos. The video capture mode can record clips in either normal or MMS format.

The picture quality obtained in well lit areas was good, but if the ambiance was a little dark, the night mode results in a dark photo and the use of flash tends to ruin the images. The quality of video clips recorded with BlackBerry Curve 8900 also lacked quality, but it should be enough if you want to capture something but don’t have a camcorder close by.

The main attraction with the BlackBerry was for a long time the e-mail capability. And it still is. Sync your Curve 8900 with the BlackBerry Enterprise server set up by your company, use Microsoft Exchange, IMB Lotus Domino and Novell GroupWise to send and receive emails in real time, open attachments or attach your own Word, Excel, WordPerfect, PDF, JPEG, etc and set up your POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail accounts. All of this with an ease and an overall experience that can be provided only by a BlackBerry phone. In addition the phone comes with Yahoo, AIM, Windows Live and Google Talk instant messaging clients so you can always be in touch with your friends. Quite impressive.

The Performance

The audio quality is not the best you can find, but it is still good nonetheless. There is some background noise you will experience but the overall experience won’t affect you that much. The Enhance Audio feature made very little difference although it claimed to enhance the treble or bass of your speaker. In addition, there are no problems regarding the Bluetooth devices you can connect.

The speaker Curve 8900 uses to play music without a headset is no sophisticated piece of engineering, but since there are few that listen to music without headsets this is not much of a problem. When you use a decent set of headphones, the audio experience changes a lot, and in a good way. The playback of various clips goes well, with no clogging and because the Curve 8900 features the impressive display we mentioned earlier, it was a great experience.

Connection to a Wi-Fi network is being realized without issues, while the EDGE browsing had some problems with some websites (where is 3G support when you need it ?), but if you are a little patient, the device will get the job done. The GPS module is able to find your location in a matter of minutes by using BlackBerry Maps. Obviously, if you are using a GPS navigating service such as TeleNav GPS Navigator, the response time is about one second.

The 1,400mAh lithium ion battery can keep your device in standby for 14.5 hours and about 7-8 hours of continuous talk time. Of course, this is heavily influenced by the applications that are undergoing in the background and by signal quality.

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