When it comes to BlackBerrys, you have the really tiny one, the one with GPS, and now you can add to that list the one that just rocks. And we're not just talking about the Curve's music player or fully integrated stereo Bluetooth. RIM's latest fun-loving smartphone (available for AT&T later this spring) boasts a sharp two-megapixel camera and a much-improved multimedia software package for taking your favorite songs, pictures, and videos to go--all without sacrificing the long battery life that's made BlackBerry the device of choice for e-mail addicts. The BlackBerry Curve 8530 is the latest in this popular line of smartphones. The new model offers a redesigned look.
Though it doesn't bring Wi-Fi or 3G support, the BlackBerry Curve offers a best- of-breed design and a well-rounded set of features to make it an attractive. he Blackberry Curve is a sleek smartphone for much more than e-mail, it sports a sharp 2-MP camera and some serious multimedia muscle. Blackberry Curve 3G 9300 Expert Review: A quick and clever QWERTY-toting BlackBerry for the budget-conscious - Buying advice from the UK's.
Overall the Curve 8530 has a fashion-forward design aimed at a younger consumer audience. Instead of a chrome bezel and pronounced convenience keys that you find on the Tour, you'll find a rubber strip around the side with convenience keys that seem to bulge out of its sides. On the top of the device you find a set of media-control keys.
The front of the phone shows off what is perhaps its best feature -- the trackpad in place of the traditional trackball. Whether you're a seasoned BB veteran or a newcomer, you'll appreciate the intuitive, easy to use reliable performance of the trackpad. This one feature alone might be enough to knock the Tour out of contention. The keys on the keyboard are a "chicklet" holdover from the previous generation.
The Talk, End, Return and Menu keys are redesigned as if they are part of the screen -- not a design choice I'm particularly fond of. The screen itself pales in comparison to the beautiful display on the Tour, but there is nothing outright wrong with it. There's nothing to complain about, but if you were to hold your Curve up to a Tour, you'd notice the difference.
The biggest annoyance, design-wise, is the LED indicator light. On a regular BlackBerry there's no way you're going to miss a message. You will not be distracted by the LED light on the Curve 8530, the indicator which is just a touch bigger than the tip of a ballpoint pen, and its light is... understated, to put it kindly.
Size and Weight
The Curve 8530 overall is smaller than the Tour, and feels lighter, though it still has a very sold and composed feeling to it. You won't hate yourself for dropping this phone -- it feels like it can take a beating which is refreshing compared to some of today's delicate phones.
Keyboard and Trackball
Always a main concern of mine, I'm positive others out there have the very same concern and question... How does the keyboard feel?? Coming from the Bold, the 8900's keyboard, while seemingly tiny at first in comparison, feels great! After 20 minutes with the new Curve it already feels as if I have owned this device forever. This is probably the best "narrow" full QWERTY keyboard you are going to ever find on a samrtphone.
I do have one qualm with the 8900's keys though... they are a little on the "clacky" side. I remember the original Curve suffering from this as well. For comparison's sake, I will say it's not as "clacky" as the original Curve series but it's still not as quiet of a typing device as I like. But I guess that will depend on the user as well. I pound away at my keys all day long so the clacking gets loud and a bit annoying after a while. Other users may not be quite as "abusive" to their keyboards and thus not mind it. Some people I know prefer a lot clackiness on the keyboard as it's another form of device feedback and helps you get into fast typing rhythm. The final verdict on the key board? Coming from any other BlackBerry device a user should find this keyboard comfortable, even if you have larger hands and fingers (as I do). If asked for which I prefer,I would be taking my Bold's keypad over this one based on the size of my fingers. However, a lot of folks (especially those with smaller hands) are going to feel right at home here and absolutely love this keyboard bar none. Even if you prefer a big keyboard but want a smaller form factor, the Curve 8900's is easy to get used to and really is that good.
Onto the TrackBall... the infamous, much talked about, black, aka "atomic" trackball. Aside from the obvious fact of this thing being harder to get dirty due to its color... it does over all feel smoother to me. It's more like I'm gliding through the menus rather than "scrolling" through the menus. Some of this feeling may be attributed to the fact the 8900's 528 MHZ processor makes for a speedy OS experience, but I'm going to suggest the trackball plays a major part in this improved feeling.
The trackball is the same size as any other trackball - it looks as though I might be swapping out the white ball on my Bold and picking up a black one. But personally I think it goes beyond the color of the ball itself. It has more to do with the material of the ball (definitely different) and how it sits within the housing. The black trackball seems to be set perfectly in the device so that it doesn't allow for "gumming up" or the build up of dirt - which is a common problem for all other devices - even the Bold. This trackball does not give me the impression that it will be an issue, but I guess time will tell on this as well.
We have all heard the raves about the BlackBerry Bold's brilliant 480 x 320 display, with even our own Dieter Bohn (WinMob FanBoy) proclaiming its greatness in the Smartphone Round Robin Round Table Podcast, but let me say... RIM didn't slack on the 8900 either! With a high resolution (higher then the Bold's) 480 x 360 screen, the 8900 packs even more pixels into a slightly tighter area (the display is a bit narrower than the Bold's). The snap shot above does not do it justice. The colors are amazing and the display provides great contrast and makes great use of that high resolution. Others have mentioned in their reviews the 8900 seems to have a "warmer" feel to it... I can see this, but it is in no way an issue with the device.
I've already mentioned that the Curve has a big leg-up over its brethren by having a touchpad instead of the trackball. The aspect where the 8530 really hits it out of the park is with its operating system. The Curve 8530 features BlackBerry OS 5.0, currently the only device on the Sprint lineup to do so.
The 5.0 operating system isn't revolutionary, but offers nice many little improvements, such as wirelessly syncing of contacts with certain email providers, the ability to flag messages for follow up, better application permission management, and vastly improved ability to manage ringing profile settings. The processor on the Curve 8530 is less powerful than some of its contemporaries, including the Tour, and sometimes it would hang. For most of what you do most of the time, however, you won't notice this lack of power. Power users, on the other hand, should consider a more powerful device.
Generally the 8530 is a solid performer, but its call quality is only just average. There was a little background static at times and the sound itself was somewhat hollow. Not a deal breaker, but you get the distinct sense that you're using a cell phone when making calls on this device.
Wireless Data security
This BlackBerry boasts a 3G Sprint antenna, GPS, Bluetooth, and best of all Wi-Fi. The latter of these is not available on the Tour -- another point in favor for the Curve. Though Sprint's 3G coverage isn't as extensive as AT&T or Verizon in my area, wherever I did have coverage there were no hiccups to be found.
The BlackBerry Enterprise Solution offers two transport encryption options, Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and Triple Data Encryption Standard (Triple DES)*, for all data transmitted between BlackBerry® Enterprise Server and BlackBerry smartphones.
Private encryption keys are generated in a secure, two-way authenticated environment and are assigned to each BlackBerry smartphone user. Each secret key is stored only in the user's secure enterprise account (i.e., Microsoft® Exchange, IBM® Lotus® Domino® or Novell® GroupWise®) and on their BlackBerry smartphone and can be regenerated wirelessly by the user.
Data sent to the BlackBerry smartphone is encrypted by BlackBerry Enterprise Server using the private key retrieved from the user's mailbox. The encrypted information travels securely across the network to the smartphone where it is decrypted with the key stored there.
Data remains encrypted in transit and is never decrypted outside of the corporate firewall.
OS And Software
Of course, this smartphone includes the now-standard BlackBerry apps: the DataViz DocumentsToGo office suite, Pandora, BlackBerry Maps, and a slew of social networking apps. Sprint's version of this BlackBerry also comes preloaded with a host of Sprint-specific apps, including Sprint Navigation, Sprint NASCAR, NFL, TV and music apps. Although these apps sound promising, I had a hard time getting them to perform reliably and sometimes couldn't get them to launch at all. This may be a downside of offering the same apps across all of its phones.
Currently shipping with OS version 22.214.171.124, the 8900's operating system seems to be a blessing from RIM and has actually revived my faith in the fact they do not intend to release devices with buggy OS' (ie Bold, Storm), but can still put out an OS that feels complete and not have me wondering if should back my device up today for fear of some crazy app error that's gonna wipe my device. Maybe I shouldn't be that surprised - Edge devices are old hat for RIM. The 3G on the Bold and touchscreen on the Storm must complicate things just thatmuch more.
The OS is snappy and responsive, navigation is a breeze and the 8900 feels like it wants to be put to work. Complete satisfaction on the OS front from this device.
A lot of the improvements can be felt in the 8900 OS and it clearly shows in the web browser as well. We all remember Kevin's documented issues with the browser on the Bold and while they have gotten better, they are still not near where the 8900 is. There has been some talk in the forums about RIM doing something different on the 8900 in the way treats Edge, and while I haven't stumbled across any official word on the subject, after using the device for a while during my testing I'd totally have too say *something* is going on here. I'm not sure exactly what it is... maybe it's just the speedy processor and glitch free OS working to their full potential or maybe something even more tech-cool is at work. Or maybe it's the fact the 8900 has twice the RAM. THANK YOU RIM!!
Feel free to inform me in the comments if ya know something else that's going on here, but the fact the 8900 does not come with 3G seems like it will not be an issue for this device as I found the pages load just as fast (some if not faster) on the 8900 then they do on my Bold. Have a look at the comparison chart below for the details. Nothing really earth shattering but it does perform well.
The built-in camera on new generation Curve doesn't have a flash, which is a step backward for BlackBerry. Its 2 megapixel camera also lacks auto-focus and has a lower resolution that the cameras found on other models (Bold 9700, Tour, Storm). Given these considerations however the camera still performs quite well.
On other carriers, the BlackBerry Curve 8530 is stripped down and made to fit nicely into place in its product line. For Sprint however, this is not the case. You get the newest operating system, the newest hardware with the track pad, Wi-Fi, all things you won't see on other Sprint BlackBerrys... at the best price.
The Curve 8530 will fall short in certain aspects, though -- it is less powerful than the Tour, its keyboard isn't as slick as it could be, its camera doesn't hit the benchmark of 3.2 megapixel with auto focus, and the screen isn't as impressive.
On balance, however, unless you're a world-traveling power user, the Curve is a much better deal than any other BlackBerry for Sprint right now.
- Updated styling
- Battery life outperforms other BlackBerrys
- Smaller than the Tour
- Just average call quality
- Small LED indicator
- Low-resolution camera
- Smaller than the Tour - less screen real estate
- BlackBerry OS
- SMS, MMS & Email Messaging
- Instant Messaging
- 512 MHz CPU
- Games built-in plus downloadable games
- HTML Browser
- GPS with A-GPS support
- MP3, AAC, AAC+ & WMA player
- DivX, XviD, MPEG4 & WMV player
- Voice dial
- BlackBerry maps
- Photo caller ID
BlackBerry Curve Price