RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 review

£378
Price when reviewed

The BlackBerry Curve 8900 is RIM’s new mid-range device, sitting somewhere between the bigger Bold and Storm and the non-qwerty Pearl and Flip. The previous 83xx series Curves found favour with both corporate buyers and consumers by providing a well featured and usable handset in a very pocketable form factor, and the new Curve 8900 is a natural evolution.

It’s slightly slimmer, but otherwise maintains the original Curve’s size and weight. The design is heavily influenced by its big Bold brother, so it looks great with its black and metal styling, and is a smartphone you won’t feel ashamed to pull from your pocket during a business meeting. The relatively small form factor means that the keypad is narrow, but despite that it’s quite usable and accurate.

The Curve 8900 uses the same OS 4.6 platform as the Bold, meaning that it gets a much improved Web browser (with Ajax support), a continuous spell checker, proper support for Excel documents, and a new ‘bedside’ mode which effectively turns the BlackBerry into a very expensive digital clock.

As with all other BlackBerry handsets, the Curve 8900 can be connected to BIS which polls existing POP3, IMAP, and other email accounts on a regular basis, or BES which is a proper enterprise class push-email system connecting directly to your Exchange, Groupwise or Domino mail servers. We tested it with both, and it worked flawlessly. With BES an email will often arrive on your phone before it appears in Outlook. Received emails can be in HTML format, and most attachment formats can be viewed, with Word and Excel also being editable.

We found that call sensitivity slightly better than the 83xx series Curve, which will be a welcome improvement if you live or work in a marginal reception area. Another improvement is the camera, which has been beefed up to include a 3.2 megapixel sensor, an auto-focus lens, and image stabilisation. Our test images were clear, bright, and sharp.

The clarity of those photos and the cleanliness of the tweaked user interface are both easily appreciated on the 480 x 360 pixel screen. That’s over twice the resolution of the original Curve, and it even beats the Bold. As well as letting you watch your stock prices fall in tear-inducing clarity, the increased resolution is a great advantage for web pages, navigation, and business applications such as SAP. We found that the increased processor speed (now 512MHz) helps keep the user interface really snappy, although at 5mins 25secs our T-Mobile supplied device did seem to take an awfully long time to boot from cold.

With previous Curves you had to choose either GPS (the 8310) or Wi-Fi (the 8320), but the new 8900 includes both. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that with these toys on board it’s simply a Bold in a smaller, neater package though, as there’s one very important omission: there’s no 3G with the Curve 8900, so data speeds are limited to GPRS or EDGE.

There’s an argument that the lack of 3G doesn’t matter so much with a BlackBerry, as the very nature of the system is to package-up and use data in a very efficient way. Plus of course, EDGE isn’t that far off 3G speeds (although not all UK networks have EDGE support). But no doubt some people will be put off by the lack of 3G connectivity, especially as the single radio system means that you can’t surf the web or receive email while you’re making a voice call.

Others might be put off by the phone’s vibrate facility, for which the only appropriate adjective is ‘pathetic’, making it all too easy to miss important calls and emails, even with the device in a shirt or trouser pocket. And, in common with many recent smartphones, the data and charging socket is now micro-USB, rather than the traditional BlackBerry mini-USB. It’s an annoyance if you already have a collection of leads and chargers, but ultimately, micro-USB seems to be the way the mobile device world is moving.

Details

Cheapest price on contract

Battery Life

Standby, quoted 4 days

Physical

Dimensions 60 x 13.5 x 109mm (WDH)
Weight 110g
Touchscreen no
Primary keyboard Physical

Core Specifications

ROM size 256MB
Camera megapixel rating 3.2MP
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Display

Screen size 2.4in
Resolution 480 x 360

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS no

Software

OS family BlackBerry OS

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