Barack Obama would love to get his executive mitts on the new BlackBerry Curve. Just like our new prez, RIM’s latest smartphone is full of change. But unlike Mr. Obama, not all the change is promising.
RIM claims the Curve 8900 is the “thinnest and lightest full-QWERTY BlackBerry Smartphone” to date. The body design is actually gorgeous, combining the Bold’s sleek, noir face and brilliant screen with the 8300’s graphite-hued back and silver accents. If there’s one glaring flaw in the chassis’ design, it’s that the top of the phone slants abruptly, making it hard to press the Lock and Mute buttons — especially since the phone is noticeably longer than its predecessor. In fact, that extra bit at the top made us seriously consider rounding the edge off ourselves with a power sander, just to revert back to the Curve’s near-perfect curves.
But we’re not completely superficial here at get-gadget. We really know it’s all about what’s on the inside that counts. And inside this new Curve are some seriously necessary upgrades.
Urbanites with deep wireless broadband penetration or frequent connection to hotspots will appreciate the device’s killer Wi-Fi support, which is quick and easy to set up. The camera gets an upgrade from 2 to 3.2 megapixels (take that, iPhone!) with well-designed autofocus, image-stabilization capabilities and a flash powerful enough to cause a few of our subjects to wince. Even better, the amateur Spike Jonze in you can now record up to 20 hrs of video by maxing out the Berry’s 16-GB MicroSD storage. That’s about 20 hrs of pure YouTube taser-footage possibilities, though the sound quality is definitely sub-par. Viewing videos and pictures on the 2.5-inch, 480 x 320 pixel screen is fantastic; especially since the screen’s ambient light sensors adjust brightness deftly no matter how dark a room we were in.
In case you actually want to use your BlackBerry as a phone (it can do that!) sound quality is a mixed bag. Callers on the other end heard us perfectly — even while we played a high-decibel game of Halo. But voice quality on our end was kind of unacceptable — on more than one occasion, conversations sounded like they took place in a wind tunnel.
RIM spun the roulette wheel with the 8900’s software, but it didn’t quite hit the jackpot. The most daring of all changes is a total redesign of RIM’s much-maligned proprietary browser. Websites are now rendered in full HTML, which, combined with the high-resolution screen and fantastic color rendering, mean that we were finally excited to surf the Internetz on a BlackBerry. Unfortunately, while the web browser is a huge improvement, it lacks a certain intelligence found in other smartphones. Webpages frequently need to be resized manually — this is especially frustrating when reading long text-heavy pages (hello newyorker.com).
The “To Go” software series also suffers from a similar lack of attention to detail. Viewing Excel, Word and Powerpoint documents is a cakewalk but creating them felt like agony. Why, RIM do you make us use the Alt button every time we want to use a number key in Excel? And why does using the number-lock option act as a shortcut to changing the native language of the program?
At the end of the day, the very attractive Curve 8900 made it hard for us to settle for older BlackBerry models that lack the killer camera, video recording capability, Wi-Fi and media integration that this version masters. All RIM need do is refine the software a little more and this beast would be a true beauty.