Digital Devicement: Part Three – BlackBerry Picking Time

Graceful Curve

The Curve 8900 is the 2G with WiFi option. Its 480 x 360 display is bright, crisp, clear and colourful. Best ever. The operating system is 4.6 for my Vodafone badged model, but it may be that you can update it to 4.7 if you search about and trust one of the fan sites like the ever irreverent but never irrelevant (say that five times fast when drunk) crackberry.com. Everything works well, you can download the iPhone apps that have now been recoded for all the major smartphone platforms: Shazam, Evernote and so forth as well as a slew of Twitter clients (TwitterBerry, TweetCaster and twibble seem to be the most popular) are all available, as are Facebook, the Google suite of mobile apps, dictionaries and language learning apps from Beiks, Oxford Duden and Collins, and games that can be chosen from eight categories ranging from Arcade to Strategy. That once frosty butler is now in a muscle vest, boogeying and writhing on the dance-floor in the most unlikely fashion.

The Curve 8900 can be regarded as a replacement for the highly successful 8300, 8310 and 8320 Curves (the later versions adding WiFi and/or GPS). Also this year, just to confuse everyone further, RIM have produced the 8520 – a low end EDGE Curve that comes with a 2.0MP camera and WiFi, no GPS and no 3G but which still manages to excite interest and curiosity in that it features an optical trackpad to replace the now venerable trackball. The trackball first appeared in 2006: a white granular navigation sphere that gave the neat little BlackBerry 8100 line its name of ‘Pearl’. While it has undoubtedly been a great success, most users report that after time the trackball loses precision: dirt + grease = grinding paste = poor performance. It is also frankly a matter of good fortune as to whether you get a good one or a laggardly imprecise little bleeder out of the box, so delicate is the mechanism. So my advice to anyone buying any BlackBerry is try it out first: check the running of the trackball.

Back to our Curve 8900: this comes in a configuration that includes a 3.2 MP camera, video camera and audio recorder, various other bundled goodies like the obligatory BlackBerry Maps and Docs To Go (pay for full functionality) and  one’s sense of it really comes down to how well you get on with the 35 key, backlit keyboard. It’s full QWERTY and once the fingers are used to it (a much shallower learning curve than that necessary to accustom them to an Android, iPhone or Palm handset), they can fly back and forth inputting at furious speeds, which is just how BlackBerryists like it. The superb fully editable glossary (Apple, I’m on my knees, please take note) can increase the input speed enormously. If you have a regular home and work WiFi network then the lack of 3G really isn’t a problem. This neat, elegant and highly desirable smartphone is slimmer, shorter, narrower and a whole ounce (27 grammes) lighter than the Bold. Available in the UK from all the major network providers and through the usual retail outlets.

The Tour (left) and the Curve (right), with inexplicable intervening turtle (centre)

The Tour (left) and the Curve (right), with inexplicable intervening turtle (centre)

Grand Tour

If you live and work and the United States of America, you may have become attached to the CDMA protocol, unavailable in Europe. Many Americans (rightly, for the most part) bemoan the backwardness of the United States when it comes to telecoms. This is obviously less to do with American technological know-how than with the problems of infrastructure presented by so vast a landmass. The US can boast however, choice in basic wireless protocols. There is the one we in Europe are familiar with: GSM (incorporating GPRS, EDGE and 3G in the form of HSPA and UMTS) and there is the alternative available in the US and parts of Asia: CDMA. Typically CDMA handsets do not contain SIM cards (unless they are sold as “global” phones which can also speak GSM) their connection to the network provider – Sprint, Verizon, AT&T etc. – is built in. Their equivalent of 3G is CDMA 2000, or EV-DO (standing for Evolution Data Optimised) and is generally considered by aficionados to be faster, stabler and more reliable. Certainly when I have used CDMA phones in large American cities I have been extremely impressed.

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51 comments on “Digital Devicement: Part Three – BlackBerry Picking Time”

  1. Boog says:

    Thanks Stephen! Possibly the best written tech review I’ve read.

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