“Blackberry” was once the Kleenex of business Smartphone’s, a brand so ubiquitous that it became a generic term for any similar products. Smartphone’s have gone mainstream, and so has Blackberry. The Blackberry Curve 8320 is its namesake’s latest attempt to expand to the user-friendly world, an advanced phone for consumers looking for more power or for the small business owner not interested in completely breaking the bank. It’s a little too pricey for the former, but great for the latter.
Features and Design
While not as cozy as the younger-skewing Pearl, the Blackberry Curve is a compact phone. It is thin, at no thicker than a half inch, and weighs just a few ounces. It is about the width of a woman’s palm. The model we used was metallic, almost brown silver, with black trim on the sides where the additional buttons laid. The well-lit, high resolution monitor takes up the top half of the front. Below the monitor is a row of four buttons for start and stop, current menu and previous screen. In the middle is a small trackball (in other words, a computer mouse with no covering) about the size of a pinky nail.
The bottom has a compressed, but nicely organized QWERTY keyboard. The numpad, numbers 9 – 0, are alternative buttons on the extreme left keys, starting with WER/123 on the top row. The bottom row has 0 as well as the Space button, Shift and symbols.
Blackberry has kept the sides very simple. On the left are a headphone jack, a USB port and a voice command button. On the right are the two volume keys and a camera quick key. The lens itself on the back of the camera, right below a small internal flash bulb.
Image Courtesy of RIM
Setup and Use
The Blackberry Curve 8320 comes with a USB cord, a carrying case, a wall plug, and earphones. There is also a PC disc of basic Blackberry hotsync software. (T-Mobile notes that advanced Blackberry software is available separately.)
The Curve is easy to use. The track pad isn’t too sticky, and it responds quickly to a light thumb or finger push. Pictures of your five MyFaves are listed at the top of the main menu. At the bottom are icons for text messages, MyFaves display options, calendar, address book and web browser. Press the menu button to the left of the track pad and a wide, long display of icons will appear. However, pretty much every link needed to get the Blackberry do something is here. The icons help make navigating the 30-odd options pretty straightforward.
WiFi setup is one of the icon options. Click on it and the Blackberry will search for local networks, ask for the password (if necessary) and connect to the router. It took us about one minute total, including the time to enter the network password. The WiFi worked fine, but actually was just a hair or two faster than T-Mobile’s already fast EDGE/GPRS network. The Blackberry is also compatible with T-Mobile@Home, a wireless setup that allows you to combine cell phone minutes and Skype-style VoIP calling. More information is available at www.t-mobile.com.
Email and attachments seemed straightforward, and the 2 Megapixel camera was took surprisingly supple pictures. The automatic flash on the back helps.
T-Mobile’s Blackberry Curve 8320 retails for $499.99 USD, which may be a little cheaper than one expects to pay for a phone with the Blackberry name. T-Mobile has a $150 instant rebate and a $50 mail-in rebate, making it around $250 USD – and excellent price for this phone.
As with most T-Mobile phones, the Curve is compatible with the multi-tiered MyFaves plans that allow you to pick five numbers for unlimited calling. However, online multimedia is a la carte. Phone service and unlimited multimedia access can be purchased together through two plans: the $70 and up Blackberry Enterprise Server Plan, which will synchronize to your computer’s Blackberry software, or the $40 and up Blackberry Internet Service Plan, which will push up to 10 of your e-mail accounts to the phone. And, as mentioned earlier, it can be part of the T-Mobile@Home VoIP plan.
It comes with a microSD card, which you may want to upgrade depending on the amount of email, pictures and other multimedia expected to be stored.
The Blackberry Curve 8320 is light, smooth and very easy to use on all counts. It is very much in-between audiences: casual Smartphone users may find the $500 USD (without rebates) tag prohibitive, while grizzled Blackberry businesspeople may be looking at more sophisticated models. With rebates, however, the Curve is a great steal for both groups.
• Good price with rebates
• Responsive mouse/keyboard
• Smooth online experience
• Without rebates, still too high for average consumers
• Not a revolutionary leap for Blackberry veterans