First impressions of the T-Mobile BlackBerry Curve 8900 with high res, GPS, and updated keyboard

Summary:T-Mobile may not have the latest and greatest Windows Mobile phones, but they were the first to launch a Google Android device with the G1 (see my review) and are one of the first to sell the latest and greatest RIM BlackBerry devices. They were one of the first with the Curve and Pearl and are the only US carrier currently supporting the BlackBerry Pearl Flip. The latest device to hit T-Mobile is the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 that is currently available in Canada from Rogers. The T-Mobile RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 should be a super hot seller since it offers almost the same specifications (differences are important and noted below in detail) and functionality as the larger and more expensive BlackBerry Bold in a lighter and sleeker package. I've had the Curve 8900 for the last few days and if I didn't have such a need for an Exchange server solution I would be one of the first in line to buy the Curve 8900.

T-Mobile may not have the latest and greatest Windows Mobile phones, but they were the first to launch a Google Android device with the G1 (see my review) and are one of the first to sell the latest and greatest RIM BlackBerry devices. They were one of the first with the Curve and Pearl and are the only US carrier currently supporting the BlackBerry Pearl Flip. The latest device to hit T-Mobile is the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 that is currently available in Canada from Rogers. The T-Mobile RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 should be a super hot seller since it offers almost the same specifications (differences are important and noted below in detail) and functionality as the larger and more expensive BlackBerry Bold in a lighter and sleeker package. I've had the Curve 8900 for the last few days and if I didn't have such a need for an Exchange server solution I would be one of the first in line to buy the Curve 8900. In addition to my thoughts and video below, you can check out my image gallery for still photos of the BlackBerry Curve 8900.


Image Gallery:A walk around the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 from T-Mobile.
Image Gallery:BB Curve 8900
Image Gallery: Curve 8900 in hand

The RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 is promoted as the thinnest and lightest full QWERTY BlackBerry device available and may soon take the crown as the most popular BlackBerry device. I enjoyed my time with the Bold and was saddened when I had to return it due to lack of Exchange synchronization. The Curve 8900 should be more appealing than the Bold for many people because of the lower cost and sleeker form factor with a slightly higher resolution display. While the Bold has the BEST QWERTY keyboard on the market, it is quite wide and not that pocketable of a device. Many people still do not have access to 3G wireless networks through T-Mobile or AT&T so the 3G support may not be that important at this time. If 3G is important to you, then the Bold remains the BlackBerry of choice.

In the box: The retail packaging is what you see with any typical T-Mobile BlackBerry device. There is currently only one color variation offered, Titanium, but like most T-Mobile BlackBerry devices I am sure we will see other color offerings in the future. The retail packaging includes the Curve 8900, slip case, battery and charger, stereo headset, USB cable, 256MB microSD card (should have been at least a 1GB card since they are so cheap today), BlackBerry user tools CD, Getting Started Guide, and Tips & Tricks card. The Tips & Tricks card is something you should really check out because there are some very handy keyboard shortcuts included.

Out of the box first impressions: Since I spent about three weeks with the BlackBerry Bold, I wasn't that surprised by what RIM was able to do with the Curve 8900. However, the Curve 8900 display also looks amazing and the smaller form factor is attractive to me. The keyboard on the Curve 8900 is very similar to the Bold keyboard with the keys angled to the right and left and well spaced for easy typing. After charging the battery and turning on the Curve 8900, I asked myself why anyone would really even think of picking up the larger Bold with shorter battery life at a higher price.

Specifications: The specifications for the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 include:

  • Quad-band GSM/EDGE:1900/1800/900/850 MHz
  • BlackBerry OS 4.6
  • 512 MHz processor
  • 256MB ROM
  • microSD card slot with SDHC support (256MB card included)
  • QWERTY keyboard and trackball
  • Integrated GPS/A-GPS receiver
  • 802.11 b/g WiFi with support for T-Mobile UMA service
  • Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP support
  • 2.44 inch 480x360 pixels 65k colors display
  • 3.2 megapixel camera with flash light and auto focus
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • 1380 mAh battery

    Dimensions:
  • Weight: 3.87 ounces
  • Length: 4.29 inches
  • Width: 2.36 inches
  • Thickness: 0.53 inches

The differences between the BB Curve 8900 and BB Bold are as follows:

  • Bold has 624MHz processor and Curve 8900 has 512MHz
  • Bold has 1GB internal flash ROM and Curve has 256MB
  • Bold has a/b/g WiFi and Curve has b/g WiFi
  • Bold has 3G wireless radio while Curve is limited to EDGE
  • Bold has a 2 megapixel camera and Curve has a 3.2 megapixel model
  • Bold has a larger 2.75 inch display and Curve has a 2.44 inch display
  • Bold display has a resolution of 480x320 and Curve has a resolution of 480x360
  • Bold has a 1500 mAh battery (4.5 hours talk time) and Curve has a 1380 mAh battery (5.5 hours talk time)

So looking at the bottom line the Bold has a slightly faster processor, 3G wireless radio and more integrated memory while the Curve has longer battery life, lighter weight, higher resolution and smaller display and better camera. Looks to me like the choice comes down to whether or not you want a 3G wireless radio and larger device or smaller device and slower wireless data speeds. T-Mobile's UMA network is also an important factor to consider that appeals to many folks.

A walk around the hardware: Like the BB Bold, the amazingly crisp and beautiful 480x360 resolution display is the first thing that jumps out at you after you turn on the device. The 320x240 resolution display on my Sunset BlackBerry Curve looks outdated compared to the 8900, but is still a decent smartphone display. It is just tough to ever go back to a QVGA display after you have been spoiled by higher resolution displays.

Above the display on the front is the handset speaker and indicator light. Something brought over from the Bold design are the two top buttons that are integrated into the black plastic that let you quickly toggle the mute function on the right and lock the handset on the left. I actually missed these buttons at first and found them when I was trying to mute the phone. A black trackball is found below the display with the four common BlackBerry hardware buttons. The QWERTY keyboard is below these buttons and looks very similar to the Bold keyboard with keys angled to the right and left to optimize ergonomics for fast text entry. I was able to immediately pick up the Curve 8900 and enter text quickly.

The number keys are colored red and are in a phone keypad layout on the left side of the keyboard. All the other shortcuts and keys you expect are present on the Curve as well.

On the left side you will find the lanyard opening and left convenience button. The left button is set to voice dialing by default.

On the right side you will find the 3.5mm headset jack up top with the volume toggle switch below that and the right convenience key almost at the center. The right key is set to launch the camera application by default. A microUSB port is down further on the right and is used to sync and charge the Curve.

The two buttons I mentioned above (mute and lock) are found integrated into the black plastic along the top. The only thing on the bottom is the microphone opening.

The 3.2 megapixel camera and flash light are located along the top of the back. Almost the entire back comes off to reveal the battery, SIM card, and microSD card slot.

There is soft touch rubber around the sides and bottom with silver highlights around the front and dark gray/titanium color elsewhere. It is a very attractive device that feels great in your hand.

Experiences and some first thoughts: I used the Curve 8900 quite a bit over these last few days and with a new project I am managing I spend a lot of time on conference calls so it was a perfect time to test the Curve during calls. Reception was excellent with T-Mobile and I was able to make hours of calls without any of them being dropped. I kept the speakerphone at 50% volume and it was plenty loud for all my calls. The mute button on top worked like a champ and was much appreciated during some of these calls. On other devices the mute button is often hid in the menus.

I am a quick learner on QWERTY keyboards and picked up text entry on the Curve in just a few minutes. I am able to fly through text messages, Twitter and Facebook updates and emails. It is more tightly spaced than the Bold, but extremely functional and a pleasure to use.

The camera takes some very nice photos that I found were better than the XPERIA X1 3.2 megapixel model. Video recording was also decent, but not as good as the still images.

I also made a couple of calls over WiFi using the UMA functionality on the Curve and that worked very well. The Curve is designed to automatically switch between WiFi and GSM and calls started on one wireless technology continue being billed at that rate even if the device switches to the other technology.

I tried GPS out with Google Maps and it performed as expected from a new device today.

The browser and other applications and utilities included as part of BlackBerry OS 4.6 appear to be the same as what I saw on the Bold. That is to say you probably will only need to load up a couple 3rd party applications to have a very functional mobile device with a flawless email experience.

I really wish my company had a BES because if they did I would be one of the first in line for a Curve 8900. I think it is a fantastic BlackBerry device and honestly don't think 3G is really that important on a device that's main focus is email and not web browsing. I have gotten by with EDGE on T-Mobile for quite a while and with the WiFi capabilities on the Curve 8900 you could always jump on a WiFi network if you had some intensive wireless needs. Shoot, even without a BES it is going to be tough for me to avoid swinging by the local T-Mobile store and if that happens you know I probably won't be able to resist walking out with the new Curve.

The current Curve is still a good device, but if you want a better camera, beautiful display, and integrated GPS receiver then I definitely recommend you pick up the Curve 8900 and have no hesitancy in recommending this for BlackBerry fans.

Pricing and availability: The T-Mobile BlackBerry Curve 8900 will be available for US$199.99 with 2-year contract and minimum data plan beginning 11 February 2009.

If there is anything you want me to test out on the device, please let me know and I'll try to respond. I will only have the Curve 8900 for a couple of weeks before I have to send it back to T-Mobile, but may post a follow-up/wrap up review post.

Topics: Mobility, BlackBerry, Hardware, Wi-Fi

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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