11 May, 2009

BlackBerry Curve 8900 Review

Making a good thing better isn't easy these days. We've seen phone manufacturers make incremental improvements that don't jazz reviewers or the buying public. RIM, makers of the Blackberry line of smartphones, clearly haven't succumbed to "manufacturer's block": the Bold (the best BlackBerry to date), touch screen Storm and now the Curve 8900 prove that RIM still has that special sauce that floats sales even during these hard times.

BlackBerry 8900

The Curve 8900 (sometimes referred to by its code name "Javelin" or Curve II) adds nothing groundbreaking but tweaks just the right things to make the BlackBerry Curve once again seem cool and competitive. It's currently offered by T-Mobile in the US, but rumor has it that the phone will eventually make its way to AT&T. And history tells us that the Curve II is likely to make it to Verizon and Sprint some time in the distant future since those carriers have offered their own variant of every BlackBerry released in the past several years.

The Curve 8900 features BlackBerry OS 4.6, a 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus lens, GPS and WiFi with UMA calling (T-Mobile's @Home WiFi calling service). It's the thinnest BlackBerry by a slim margin and is significantly more compact than the capacious Bold. It has the Bold and Storm's black and chrome modern design that looks great and much less plasticky than the original Curve. Though it is made of plastic, the BlackBerry 8900 doesn't look like cheesy piece, rather quite the opposite. Though it doesn't look as chic as the Bold and lacks the leather-textured back, it costs less too.

It's hard not to pick this 'Berry; it's one of RIM's best smartphones yet in a compact package. Gone is the burden of choice-- WiFi or GPS, and the camera is excellent, UMA calling works well and the phone feels great in the hand. It's fairly stable for a new model and in general, BlackBerry OS is one of the most stable on the market. Though billed as a consumer model, the Curve 8900 has what it takes to be a great business tool: very good keyboard, the usual RIM push email experience, a decent web browser and good voice services. Fun features like music and video playback are strong, and we like the standard 3.5mm stereo jack and Bluetooth stereo A2DP support.

Pro: Fast, attractive, very good ergonomics. Improved speed and web browsing compared to older BlackBerry OS versions (i.e.; the first gen Curve and Pearl), high resolution display that's sharp and vivid, very good camera, strong video and music playback, good GPS performance. Has 3.5mm headphone jack and A2DP. UMA is a big plus and works well.

Con: Display resolution is very high for the size and text is hard to read-- the display is the same resolution as the Storm's, which measures 1.1" larger! No 3G. Reception is middling.


Display: 2.44" 65K color transmissive color LCD. Resolution: 480 x 360.

Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 1400 mA. Claimed talk time: up to 5.5 hours. Claimed standby: up to 15 days.

Performance: XScale 512 MHz processor. 64 MB built-in RAM. Approximately 119 megs free Flash ROM for program installation.

Size: 2.4 x 4.3 x 0.5 inches. Weight: 3.9 ounces.

Phone: Quad band GSM world phone 850/900/1800/1900MHz with EDGE and GPRS for data. Sold locked to T-Mobile.

Camera: 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus lens and LED flash. Video resolutions: 240 x 180 and 176 x 144 MMS mode.

Audio and Multimedia: Built in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack. Voice Recorder and music player included. Audio Format Support: .3gp, WAV, MIDI, AMR-NB, G711u/A, GSM610, PCM, MP3, AAC/AAC+/eAAC+, WMA9/10 Standard/Pro. Video formats supported: DivX, XviD (MPEG4 Advance Simple Profile), H.263, WMV3.

Networking: Integrated WiFi 802.11b/g with UMA support and Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR with A2DP stereo, AVRC, data transfer, headset, handsfree, desktop sync, serial port, DUN and SIM access profile.

Software: BlackBerry OS 4.6. BlackBerry push email client. BlackBerry Messaging, SMS and MMS. BlackBerry Maps (free service), TeleNav GPS navigation application (requires subscription), Documents to Go standard edition (view and edit but not create MS Office documents), T-Zones portal, web browser, media player for MP3 pleasure and video playback. PIM apps include address book, calendar, tasks and memo. Also Alarm, clock, voice notes, calculator, Password Keeper. Games: BrickBreaker and Critter Crunch. BlackBerry Desktop software for PC included for syncing and software installation (PocketMac for BlackBerry Mac software can be downloaded for free from RIM's site).

Expansion: 1 SDHC microSD card slot. 256 meg card included.

Price: $199 with 2 year contract after $100 mail in rebate. $499 without contract.

Web sites: www.blackberry.com, www.t-mobile.com

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