Why T-Mobile’s BlackBerry Curve 8900 is Worth Buying

65 Comments

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 (s RIMM) 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 (s T) 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.

65 Comments

JB

I currently have a BB Curve 8320 (T-Mobile), and it’s time to upgrade. I love BB, and wouldn’t think of getting any other phone but I’m wondering if I should wait for the new phone(s) to roll out in the fall or get the 8900 now. Can anyone shed light on this oh-so tough decision?

maddison

JB,

If 3G is a total deal breaker, I’d say wait. About a week ago I read a blog by “TheBoyGenius” that was from May 10. Stating about some new blackberrys being launched to T-Mobile in Sept that will be toting 3G.

Check it out for yourself:
http://www.boygeniusreport.com/2009/05/10/blackberry-driftwoodonyx-hitting-t-mobile-usa-in-september/

They have seemed to be relatively reliable with a majority of their posts. They appear to have a very anonymous, yet very reputable source on their hands.

LJ

Anyone know if the 8900 will work with Microsoft Exchange and sink with Outlook?

Thanks

Jay

Yes I am in the process of doing so right now. I can’t wait!!! WING was the worst phone I ever had!

Bardo

Om, I am having trouble logging on with Google Sync. It simply hangs. I have a T-Mobile 8900 with 4.6.1.114 (Platform 4.2.0.76) Is it possible there are compatibility issues?

Bardo

SOLVED: if your BB hangs after installing Google Sync, pull your battery, wait 30 seconds, replace the battery and log on to Google Sync again. (Found on another discussion and worked for me.)

andrea

why can I not access MSN Messenger from the Blackberry 8900?

Ersan

I love this phone.
The recent addition of the Blackberry app store

Lack of 3G sucks. But the UMA more than makes up for it. I love how it automatically connects to saved wifi profiles (I regularly visit 5 wifi networks – brother’s house, parents, etc – and the Curve connects to them in under a minute of my arrival).

The UMA is so cool. I pay T-mobile $10/mo and I get unlimited talk minutes through the wifi network. This is cool for three reasons:
1) Sound quality is clearer than with the regular cell network
2) If I BEGIN a call at home then drive away during conversation, the phone switches seamlessly to T-mobile’s network
2) And even when it switches over, the entire call counts as UMA. So that conversation can last me 3 hours and not a single minute will count against me.

Lol… no, this isn’t a sponsored post either. I just love this damn phone.
I mean, I have some qualms. Like, moving the cursor with the trackball, through text I wrote… is difficult and frustrating. Also, the default browser is mediocre.

Sheila

Om,

You mentioned using the PocketMac app to easily get to photos and music. What about the calendar. I used to have a blackberry for work and I loved that my calendar on my PC and Blackberry were always in sync. Since I have a Mac at home this is a concern. Does it connect just like a PC for all funtions?

Om Malik

Sheila

I am using the Google Sync calendar to get the Mac data on to the Blackberry. Google Sync for Mac syncs everything to the GMail and from there, a download of GSync for Blackberry does the trick. It is not MS Exchange. But it is free. :-)

Roger

It seems like the real beef here are the networks that do not support these highly sophisticated phones. I don’t know what the situation is like in the USA but here in Canada, people are loving their 3G phones. Whether it be the Blackberrys, Nokias, or iPhones, I have not encountered any problems with accessing a 3G network through my phones. Even Edge is seamlessly downloading data at a relatively fast speed. I loved reading this review (I own both and iPhone and Blackberry 8900) and both phones have their pros and cons.

Wifiguy

Om,
Why didn’t you just stick with the iPhone on Edge and only swith on 3g when you want to surf? That would keep your iPhone from dropping on 3g have you tried that?

Om Malik

So far Blackberry 8900 is doing the job well. iPod touch is good enough for me for now to be honest. I really don’t want to deal with T’s service.

Om Malik

@bijan

well at least you and i agree on one thing :-) glad you are liking it as well.

@ernest nova

I am on my to becoming a power user. not quite there. thanks for the link.

nancy

Nokia E71 is my phone of choice. It does it all as well. It also has the ability to load mobile unified communications apps that allow voice to roam seamlessy between WiFI and Cellular – with no user intervention. Uses IM instead of data plan consuming SMS. Offers visual voicemail. It is a great all in one device for business communications – so it is basically a blackberry on steroids

Firefishe

I’m seriously looking at the E71. It’s available for about $450 where I live as an unlocked device. When and if BlackBerry Connect is finally released for the E71, then I’ll probably buy it and use T-Mobile; the only gripe being that it doesn’t support T-Mo’s 1700MHz 3G band.

That said, I still desire North American cell vendors to design and manufacture phones with both CDMA and GSM capability, and not just CDMA-with-GSM-for-the-European-Marketplace–like the BlackBerry 8830 World Edition and similar phones.

The E71 certainly looks like it’s a good phone, but for die-hard BlackBerry users, having BlackBerry Connect is practically a necessity.

Kevin Montgomery

Nancy,
I have an E71 on contract with 3 in the UK, and a blackberry for the US, and in my opinion the e71 is not even close to being in the same ballpark as the blackberry.
It is like working with 5 year old technology. I hardly ever even pick it up…….which is unfortunate, because it is supposed to be the “top of the line.”
Not even close.

nancy

Well – I am using my Nokia for real-time business communications – not just a cellphone/email/calendar device and you cannot run full featured Mobile UC on a BlackBerry today (their OS does not support it). So for me the Nokia with Symbian is a superior product today. Regardless of the widgets on the phone, I want full Enterprise Social Networking combined with the ability to move my deskphone to my mobile device. This enables me to stay connected to others in the company in real-time via integrated Presence, Status, IM, which pretty much guarantees I reach an individual on the first try by using their desired mode (IM or Voice). I cannot do this with a BlackBerry. I also get personal cell/email/calendar with the Nokia — in addition to the Enterprise Social Networking and deskphone.

So perhaps the difference in opinion is how we use our handset.

Ernest Nova

Om

A power user would have known about the @ shortcut :-)

Perhaps you would benefit from other keyboard tips listed here – we want you to be more productive !

http://na.blackberry.com/eng/support/blackberry101/tips/

The most frequently used are how to capitalize a letter ( hold down the key ), how to insert a period ( double space), T for Top and B for bottom in most read-only screens etc

bijan sabet

i love the 8900

i’ve had mine for about a month now and it’s the best mobile device I’ve ever owned (former iphone 3g user)

b0stonirishguy

The E71-2 would be my suggestion. It has the same form factor as the 8900, but has 3G with AT&T. Nokia’s rf is much better than the iPhone’s. The new(ish) Nokia Email product is great for push email. Other options include Seven and ProfiMail.

Om Malik

not that money, occasionally i would dial because i was actually off and not working so trying not to connect with anyone in the US.

Srini

Thats too bad, I thought one of the benefits for the 8900 WI-FI was to try it in other countries especially India. I will be making a trip in a month and I intend to try it since thats the main reason I bought it so I could set up a home wifi in India and use my T-mobile phone number and get calls rather than paying the high international roaminc charges.

I will post my findings when I am back.

Someone

I’ve used the Wi-Fi in numerous European & Middle Eastern countries while travelling with no issues. Enjoy.

8900 Rocks

The one thing that I found myself missing on the 8900 was the iPhone’s visual voicemail. But if you download YouMail, you can have that for free too – though it seems to require having a text messaging plan to work right and I’m not sure why. The 8900 really does rock, and T-mobile saves a lot of money over AT&T.

CraigK

I was an 8800 user before I had an iPhone. After jailbreaking my iPhone it now doesn’t drive me crazy otherwise I was about to switch. My biggest gripe about the iPhone is there isn’t some sort of external notification that you missed a call or email. It would just sit there like a brick unless you decide to get your phone out of power save mode to check for messages. I miss my CrackBerry keyboard alot and I used to have the crappy model. I miss the ability to custom different tones for important emails like work and make quiet ones for personal. Truthfully if it wasn’t for the iPhone apps I would probably be carrying a blackberry and that my work only supports iPhone now.

Nicholas

I think of the BlackBerry as a text based device and the iPhone as a media device. The BB is very good and refined, but my quibbles would include the browser and media support. Sure it plays music, managing it is different. I wish that RIM had a decent developer program, and tools. W are developing for the iPhone, but would love to have the BB in the stable. Maybe they’ll get their act together before Android does.

Om Malik

@Richard Bennett

I did get one but it wasn’t something I could use on a daily basis. Many reasons:

1. I have no faith in AT&T’s 3G network.
2. it is too big and needs a headset for long conversations.
3. I prefer the UMA abilities of the T-Mobile WiFi phones.

Om Malik

@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.

Dan

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.

Varun

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 !

bbuser

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

bbuser

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.

Richard Bennett

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.

gp

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

Wayne Schulz

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.

AndreaF

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…

Tmoy

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

kris

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.

blah

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

Darren

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

saint117

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

http://tmobilegenius.blogspot.com

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