It’s been almost a month since I broke up with my iPhone and switched to the new T-Mobile BlackBerry Curve 8900. 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. Instead of boring you with details about the innards of the device, let me stay focused on what matters most to typical BlackBerry owners: usability.

blackberrycurve8900It’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.

The Keyboard

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.

Bottom line

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.

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  1. The biggest mistake apple made was making the iphone only available to certain networks. I’d wager a large chunk of change that they would of sold 3 or 4 times more if they were unlocked.

    I am viewing this on a g1 at the moment and its alright, my iphone is great but the lack of real
    Keyboard let’s it down

    1. Man this phone is amazing and one thing you forgot! You can set it up as a modem with tmobile and only pay for the data plan to have internet on your laptop anywhere.

      See how to do this and more at my website


  2. I love the 8900; I can’t get enough of the screen quality.
    Two small criticism: I miss the pearl keyboard a bit; why did they change the shape of the power socket? Now I can’t use any of the many old power and usb cables I collected over the years…

    1. Yea but I think more and more things are switching towards the micro usb like the 8900. Also, I think there might be Miini USB to Micro USB attachments that you could use to make car chargers or spare chargers work, not positive just assuming.

      I do really like that they moved the charger slot to the opposite side of the phone, compared to the 8300, because I usually talk with the phone in my right hand and it kind of got annoying when talking and charging at the same time to have the cord going in front instead of the back. Tiny I know, but I do prefer it

      1. Although it is nice that the charging port is on the right, it really sucks when you try to put the phone in a cradle in the car and charge it at the same time. The power cord gets right in the way of the right side of the cradle.

      2. New USB port is faster.

      3. Amazon sells the converters to convert mini usb to micro usb for around $1.

  3. Wayne Schulz Monday, March 9, 2009

    Compared to the Bold I find the screen and keyboard on the 8900 a bit tougher to use.

    The screen shows web pages in a smaller format than the Bold which I’ve found a LOT harder to read. The 8900’s keys are of the typical “pointy” Curve variety which for some reason tend to hurt my fingers after prolonged use. Laid out side by side – the Bold is what I reach for every time (I have both – and yes I realize the problems you had with AT&T prompting the switch to T-Mobile).

    A couple things worth emphasizing out on the 8900 :

    1. While T-Mobile doesn’t sell the devices as such, these Wi-Fi/UMA connected devices are great ways to use a phone overseas without incurring hefty data and voice charges. So long as you are using the UMA service – you are charged the same way as if you were in the states – no data or voice roaming.

    2. Battery life has been amazing – I went on a walk for about 1.5 hours listening to Slacker radio (streaming over EDGE – which was remarkably good) and my battery was showing the minimum charge – maybe one bar – yet it lasted the whole 1.5 hours streaming radio.

    3. T-Mobile service is YMMV (your mileage may vary) — I think it bears cautioning readers that coverage varies widely. You and I have distinctly opposite experiences with the same carriers. In my town AT&T is rock solid and I very few problems with 3G on my iPhone/Bold. Yet if I travel around town with my 8900 on T-Mobile I’m in and out of coverage with constant areas of dropped or missed calls.

    Wi-Fi/UMA only goes so far in compensating for a weak native carrier signal. While you’ll receive a great signal in your office or home – once you leave Wi-Fi you may find the drop off in coverage with T-Mobile to be concerning.

    Worth noting and stressing that carrier performance varies widely by geography. If you’re living in a strong T-Mobile coverage area (for example a tower nearby the places you frequent) – then you’ll think T-Mobile is the best thing ever. Same goes for AT&T.

  4. Om …nice review ….did you by any chance tried new nokia 5800 …..would love to get a review on it …before i buy ;-)

  5. Richard Bennett Monday, March 9, 2009

    I’m curious why you didn’t get a Bold on AT&T. It does everything the new Curve does plus 3G (with a tethering option) and the Wi-Fi is 802.11abg. I get the same number of dropped calls on AT&T as I did on my previous Curve on T-Mobile, so the networks seem pretty much a wash. The only problems I’ve had with it were at eComm where some 300 iPhones were in the same room.

    The 8900 and 9000 are pretty similar, but I’d have to say the 9000 is better thanks to the 3G. It’s hard to beat T-Mobile’s customer service, however, so for some that would certainly give them the edge.

  6. You should read the user guide! The buttons for “Common Symbols” you seek do exist even though you can’t see them.

    For your example, the @ sign can be inserted by pressing space once in any emial feild and the subsequent dot can be insterted by pressing space a second time. Try it out. Compose a new email, type “namedomaincom” – you will get name@domain.com

    This is BlackBerry 101 – Basic BlackBerry shortcuts. There are hundreds of these both simple and complex to shorten your interactions.

  7. Edit to my above post it didn’t like the formatting of my description – what i tried to say was:

    “Compose a new email, type “name space domain space com” – you will get name@domain.com

  8. Om,

    The 8900 is going to be a super hit for sure.

    Its a great mix of design , connectivity .

    Sadly Javelin or 8900 is locked to Airtel in India.

    Its not yet available unlocked . Once its unlocked im getting one !

  9. Om, if I weren’t an 8900 user myself, I would have sworn that this was sponsored post. I agree with everything you wrote. Let me add a couple of points.

    Lack of 3G really annoyed me in concept, but considering that T-Mobile has not deployed 3G where I live and work (DC), I decided not to hold out for a 3G T-Mobile BlackBerry (T-Mobile is a requirement for me). And I don’t regret it because with WiFi as a supplement to EDGE, Internet speed is usually great.

    For the first few days I had the 8900, I was experiencing a glitch that required me to reboot the phone every day. Very annoying. However, it seems like it was a result of old data on my SIM card from my prior phone — I did a security wipe to clear EVERYTHING off and haven’t had any problems since.

  10. @AndreaF: I got bummed about them changing the charger to micro USB charger but it is not a deal breaker. It is still a standard based charger and more importantly you can buy a cable to charge it from your laptop when on the go.

    @Dan I am glad you and I see eye to eye. I would hate to be seen this as love letter. I signed up for this service and the device. If it was bad, I would just say it is bad.

    @bbuser…. wow that is a good tip. I think if you look at the G-1 post, you would understand what I mean by dedicated buttons.

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