Research In Motion has overhauled its popular BlackBerry Curve smartphone with the 8900. This new model features a slim design, an excellent camera, and an absolutely gorgeous screen. Unfortunately, it lacks support for high-speed 3G networks, but if you can get past that omission, you'll find the Curve 8900 to be one of the best smartphones around.
The BlackBerry Curve 8900 will be available from T-Mobile on February 11 for $200 (after a $100 rebate) when signing a new two-year contract.
PROS: The Curve 8900 is BlackBerry's slimmest full-QWERTY smartphone yet, measuring just a hair more than half and inch thick. Its case is black with chrome-colored edging, making it look a lot like the BlackBerry Bold. The 8900 is slightly smaller than the Bold, though, measuring 4.3 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide.
The screen measures 2.4 inches diagonally and has a resolution of 480 by 360--that's even higher than the resolution of the Bold's display. I used to think the Bold's screen was the best I'd ever seen on smartphone, but not anymore. The Curve's screen is gorgeous, displaying crisp graphics and bright colors. Everything from text to streaming video looked great.
The keyboard is small, but I still found thumb typing easy. The phone is light, too, weighing just 3.9 ounces.
CONS: The only real downside to the 8900's design is the fact that much of it is made of plastic. While that helps keep the phone light, it does feel a tad bit cheap.
PROS: The Curve 8900's small size and light weight make it comfortable to hold next to your ear, and I found voice quality to be very good. The Curve 8900 is a quad-band GSM phone; that means you'll be able to make voice calls in many countries outside the U.S.
You also can make voice calls over Wi-Fi networks, in addition to over cellular networks. This can allow you to make voice calls in places where you have a wireless network, but the cellular coverage is spotty.
CONS: Making voice calls over wireless networks can save you from using the voice minutes on your monthly plan, but it does require signing up for T-Mobile's Unlimited HotSpot Calling plan, which costs $10 per month.
Browsing the Web
PROS: The included BlackBerry browser is excellent: It displays Web pages just as you would see them on a computer screen, and lets you zoom in and out easily.
CONS: The 8900 supports both Wi-Fi networks and EDGE data networks, but notably missing is support for a true 3G network like HSDPA. That means you'll have to rely on the availability of a Wi-Fi network for high-speed data access.
PROS: Like all BlackBerry phones, the 8900 is a messaging champ. It will support 10 personal or business e-mail accounts, and setting them up is a breeze. Several instant messaging applications, including AOL's AIM, Google Talk, ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, and Windows Live Messenger, come pre-installed. You also get support for text and multimedia messaging.
PROS: The Curve 8900 runs the updated version of the BlackBerry OS that we've seen on the Pearl Flip, Bold, and the Storm -- and that's a good thing. And, like those phones, the Curve 8900 has the DataViz Docs To Go editing suite preinstalled. And you can use the Curve 8900 to access BlackBerry App World, where you can browse through and download software applications directly to your phone.
CONS: The Curve 8900 comes with the Standard Edition of Documents To Go, which doesn't allow you to create new Microsoft Office documents. For that capability, you'll have to upgrade to the $70 Premium Edition.
PROS: The included 3.2-megapixel camera has auto-focus, a flash, and digital zoom, and it captured some great snapshots. You also get support for stereo Bluetooth and built-in GPS, as well as a decent--though basic--audio and video player. Video clips look great when played back on the Curve's screen, though.
CONS: Unlike the other nationwide cellular carriers, T-Mobile doesn't offer a lot in the way of multimedia services. It doesn't offer a music store or a video service that can compare to AT&T's CV video service or Verizon's V Cast offerings. That means you'll have to purchase your own music and videos on your computer and transfer them to the phone yourself.
Overall, I was really impressed with the BlackBerry Curve 8900. It could benefit from 3G connectivity, but even without it, this is one of the best smartphones I've seen.