With the release of such big-name Blackberry devices as the Bold and Storm recently, it’s hard for any other Blackberrys to get any respect just because they don’t have as many cool features or are on as popular a wireless carrier. But as I played with the Blackberry Curve 8900 this past week, I discovered the lack of respect is unwarranted.
In fact, the Curve 8900 is packed with a lot of goodies and still has as much quality as any other Blackberry that came before it (well, the jury’s still out on the Storm, but you get my point).
And with the device showing up on T-Mobile, it has a couple extra features to take advantage, which I will get into later.
On first impression, it has a very similar look and feel to the Curve 8300 series, but with the same OS as the Bold (4.6). After dabbling in the Bold and having been a user of the 8310 and Pearl 8100, it didn’t take long for me to get used to the 8900.
Enough small talk — let’s discuss the ins and outs of the Blackberry Curve 8900.
Design of the 8900
Let’s examine the outer shell of the 8900. The phone is really a revamped, modern-looking version of the 8300 series. The buttons are all the same, and even the keyboard has the same exact feel, though I’m not sure if one technically has larger keys than the other. The 8900 screen, however, is certainly taller and wider.
When comparing the thickness, the 8900 is thinner by a very small margin. They almost look exactly the same thickness if you’re not looking closely.
Now, onto the other differences. First, the sides:
On the right side we find volume keys, shortcut button (camera by default), 3.5 mm headphone jack, and the major difference — a Micro USB port, departing from the usual miniUSB that the Blackberry has kept standard for years.
Not much to see on the left side. RIM left this side rather blank with the exception of another shortcut button (by default, it does voice dial).
On the back we find a sleek-looking battery cover and 3.2 MP camera with an accompanying flash.
That looks nice. But you may be curious what’s underneath (peeping Tom…).
The thing I like most about this view is the fact that the MicroSD card is accessible without having to take the battery out. To be quite honest, this was one of the biggest frustrations I had with the 8300 — taking out/putting in the MicroSD involved yanking out the battery and thus turning off the phone.
The 8900 comes with OS 4.6, the same OS as the Bold, and it looks identical. Anyone used to OS 4.5 or lower may need to get used to the futuristic look, but as long as you’re familiar with any Blackberry or used it for longer than 5 minutes should be able to figure it out pretty fast.
All in all, this is a nice improvement in design over the previous Curve model. The only shortcoming I can see on first impression is a lack of color choices. With that said, T-Mobile Blackberrys typically begin offering several different colors eventually.
Features of the Curve 8900
WiFi/UMA – The inclusion of WiFi is a must since there is no 3G connectibility. Using the WiFi is a breath of fresh air when compared to the EDGE speeds of the 8300. However, T-Mobile also takes the device to the next step by including the UMA at-home service, which enables you to make unlimited calls using your WiFi router instead of T-Mobile’s network.
To try it out, I turned off the network connection and made a call with only my WiFi connection on, and I couldn’t tell any difference in the call than if I were actually using the network.
GPS – While there is no voice turn-by-turn navigation that I could find, I was able to download Google Maps onto the 8900 and utilize the GPS to find my location.
Finding my location was a rather quick process. As the 8900 uses a-GPS, it triangulates your position using a combination of GPS, nearby WiFi hotspots and cell towers to find my location faster than strictly GPS alone. It took only 1-2 minutes to find me the first time and faster each time after that.
I plugged in the route I had planned, told the app to find me, and GPS followed me along the route in real time. So while Google Maps will not speak the turns, it will still show you each turn and where you are in relation to that turn.
Memory – The 8900 includes roughly around 120 MB internal memory, with a MicroSD slot for external memory.
Camera – There is a 3.2 MP camera with flash, zoom and autofocus included. Video capture is also featured. It’s not the best camera T-Mobile offers anymore, but it still the best camera resolution on a Blackberry thus far.
Here are some scenic pictures taken in my backyard with the 8900 camera.
The picture on the right takes advantage of the zoom feature
MyFaves – T-Mobile threw in MyFaves, which is the service that gives you unlimited calls to up to 5 specific people. I did not take advantage of the service, but it was easy to turn on the MyFaves feature and it showed prominently on the front screen.
Multimedia – RIM has integrated a good multimedia viewer into the 8900. The resolution of the screen (at 480 x 360 HVGA, compared to the Bold’s 480 x 320) certainly makes a huge difference in your video-watching experience, and the included headset does a surprisingly good job with the audio, though having the 3.5 mm jack will give you the option of using your own, more comfortable headphones to listen to music and watch movies with.
The 8900 comes included with a minute-long snippet of a John Mayer concert video, but I strongly recommend you get a MicroSD card with movies and music of your own to show off on this phone. With a screen resolution that rivals the Bold, you’re bound to have a great experience.
Internet Browser – The included browser is full HTML, so it gives us the opportunity to see all of our favorite websites as if they were on the computer’s browser. A little magnifying glass acts as the cursor, allowing you to zoom in and out as needed.
I did notice a bit of sluggishness on this browser with the default settings activated. Even with WiFi enabled, it did seem to take longer than usual to load all of the images from Unwired View’s site. Thus, I recommend tweaking the settings in such a way that the pages will load up faster.
Applications – The Blackberry has a large capacity for downloading apps both OTA and from your computer. On the 8900 I installed Google Maps, Flycast, Slingbox, and a few different games.
Naturally it came with Brickbreaker. No Blackberry is complete without Brickbreaker already loaded onto the device, right? It’s a tradition unlike any other, in that regard.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for apps. I won’t bother going into more specifics, but there are hundreds of great apps available for Blackberry devices.
Docs to Go – Another app already installed on the 8900 when I received it was Documents to Go. I’m not positive if this is pre-installed on every model or if it was just on the demo unit I received, but either way it is definitely worth your while. Documents to Go gives you the ability to not only view but create and edit any Office Documents you need with you at all times.
Performance of the Curve 8900
In a sentence: the 8900 performs as well as its predecessors. RIM has a knack for coming with phones that have good phone quality and battery life, as well as a reliable OS.
Battery Life is rated at 5.5 hours of talk time and 15 days of standby. Those numbers are pretty accurate when only talking and text/email are factored in, and are better than the Bold due to the lack of 3G; however, when I used the GPS to navigate my routes the battery drained much faster. Thus, when using the GPS on the road be sure to have a car charger handy.
I found all other aspects of the 8900′s performance to be nearly identical to that of the Curve 8300. Call quality, multimedia, reception, etc. were all good.
My overall opinion? The Blackberry 8900 is a great catch. The only negative on it that I could find is the lack of 3G, but at least WiFi is included to make internet surfing a more pleasant experience. The 8900 works wonderfully for both business users and consumers alike.
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