It’s been almost a month since I broke up with my iPhone and switched to the new T-Mobile BlackBerry Curve 8900 for what I like to call “unified communications.” And while I sometimes yearn for my iPhone’s awesome sleekness and its admirable browser, the new BlackBerry Curve is proving to be a worthy and admirable replacement.
Sure, it isn’t an iPhone, but the Curve 8900 is sleek, light and looks like a very polished business-oriented email device. It has an astonishingly bright, high quality screen, making reading a delight. Compared to the BlackBerry Bold, it is almost svelte. Instead of boring you with details about its OS or the innards of the device, let me stay focused on the stuff that matters most to typical BlackBerry owners: usability.
Lets start with the keyboard. Just when you thought RIM really couldn’t improve upon the keyboard of the previous Curve model, it came up with the BlackBerry Bold’s keyboard. And now, it’s come up with the flatter keys that are comfortable enough for even the most awkward thumbs. The new keyboard buttons remind me of the now-forgotten black-and-white BlackBerry 6750 that was popular in the early 2000s.
Thanks to its rock solid keyboard, I’m utilizing this device to the max. I stay in touch with my team using Google Talk. I am more in touch with my Twitter community than ever before (follow me at twitter.com/om), respond to my email much more rapidly, and send more SMS messages. No wonder, on a scale of 1 to 10, I’ll give the new keyboard a whopping 8.5. The only reason it doesn’t get a perfect 10 is because it doesn’t have dedicated buttons for more often used symbols such as “@” for example. (Or maybe nothing is ever good enough for me.)
Call Me a Phone
As a phone, the Curve 8900 proved to be a pleasant surprise. The T-Mobile network seems to be more reliable than AT&T’s network, and in a month (of which 10 days were in India) I have had one dropped call and half-a-dozen poor connections. The Curve itself is pretty easy to use, and it fits the palm nicely — especially if, like me, you’re in the habit of making long calls. The phone has UMA built in as well, which makes it easy for the device to make phone calls over Wi-Fi, especially in places where T-Mobile has spotty coverage. As a phone, Curve gets an 8 out of 10 from me.
Data Not So Good
Now for the data network. OK, so this is where things get a bit gloomy. The device runs on T-Mobile’s EDGE network and doesn’t support its 3G network. If it did, I would have made it my wireless modem as well. The device has Wi-Fi, which I’m happy about, but I still think that by leaving out 3G support, T-Mobile and RIM missed an opportunity to turn the Curve 8900 into a superphone for business users.
On the upside, no 3G means the Curve has good battery life, and despite my heavy data usage, I only have to charge it once a day — definitely an improvement over the iPhone. I would give the device 6 out of 10 for its networking capabilities.
Multimedia Monster… Almost
What about multimedia features like, say, photos, music and videos? I haven’t thoroughly checked out the videos, but the 3.2-megapixel camera on this little device is pretty awesome, and it’s easy to use for casual snaps. I was taking photos with this device all over India and posting them to Facebook and my personal blog. In fact, it has become such a habit that I just leave my digital camera at home now.
I saved most of the pictures and music files on an 8 GB MicroSD card. Using the free PocketMac software, I can easily transfer the music and photo files to and from iTunes and iPhoto to the BlackBerry.
On the music front, the new BlackBerry Curve has been a pleasant surprise, as well. It came with high-quality in-ear headphones that are as distinctive looking as the iPod headphones, but they deliver music in cleaner and crisper quality. The music playback on the device, which is not as good as a pure iPod Touch, is still of pretty high quality. Of course, like all non-iPhone devices, searching for music files and photos and using them on the Curve is about as smooth as clipping your fingernails with a knife. All told, the Curve 8900 gets a rating of 6.5 for its multimedia capabilities.
If you are like me — an iPhone fan who’s frustrated with AT&T — and are looking for a good, cheap alternative, the T-Mobile BlackBerry Curve 8900 is one of the best options available. I have no hesitation recommending what is arguably the best BlackBerry on the market today.