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7 reasons why the BlackBerry Curve 8900 is my perfect companion

Research in Motion via their PR company sent me a BlackBerry Curve 8900 to play with for a fortnight. I've just spent the last three days writing a post, of which by in the end of it thought was a load of boring, rambling nonsense, comparing the BlackBerry to a Windows Mobile device (which has been done anyway).
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Written by Zack Whittaker, Writer-editor on
The Blackberry Curve 8900
Research in Motion via their PR company sent me a BlackBerry Curve 8900 to play with for a fortnight. I've just spent the last three days writing a post, of which by in the end of it thought was a load of boring, rambling nonsense, comparing the BlackBerry to a Windows Mobile device (which has been done anyway).

Trust me, you would have fallen asleep reading the damn thing. Instead, I feel a few tests, as a student and on behalf of all students everywhere, would suffice to convince you, the fellow reader, to buy one. I'm under no obligation to write anything nice about the BlackBerry, but over the last few days, I've thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

There is a full image gallery on the BlackBerry Curve 8900; click here.

I shall now attempt to prove, why this particular phone, let alone a BlackBerry, is perfect for student needs beyond all reasonable doubt.

Trying to get home after a house party

A really good house party involves stumbling outside in the morning, not remembering who you were with last night, where your wallet is, or where about you are. So, to replicate this, my friend Elliot drove me (blindfolded) somewhere within a 2 mile radius of Canterbury with nothing more than the clothes on my back and my BlackBerry.

I turned on the BlackBerry Maps application which is pre-installed, and connected via the mobile network to determine where I was. The handy thing is the GPS inside the BlackBerry; provided you're outside, you can get a satellite fix, telling you exactly where you are. With the route planner, you can navigate your way from anywhere to anywhere.

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I managed to get back home within the hour for a nice cup of tea. Good job really, because it was bloody cold without my gloves.

Accessing university resources

When you finally pluck up that last bit of motivation to get some work done, you need something around you to get yourself going. For me, I can be stuck on a train and decide to read through some lecture notes. The browser in the BlackBerry OS is quite frankly, crap; I proceeded to download the Opera Mini browser, which is more than satisfactory.

With the browser, I've got full web access, as if I was on a laptop using Firefox or Internet Explorer. I sign into my virtual-learning environment where my lecture slides are (remember, most VLE's are full of JavaScript, Java, plug-ins and client-side scripts, so I'm amazed this worked).

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I flip through to the course content...

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Once you start downloading, it requires you go through the BlackBerry default browser; even though you may be using wireless connectivity, you may still need to connect through GPRS which could cost a fair bit if downloading large files.

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Once you've downloaded the file, the in-built presentation software allows you to view the file as if it was in PowerPoint. The other software includes a document and spreadsheet viewer; it's like having Office 2007 Standard on your phone, except to actually edit something, you need to pay for the premium version... *grumble*

Emailing my boss abuse whilst drunk

I, like many students, like a little tipple in the evening after a hard day screwing around studying. However after a night out, you get thinking about life, and work, and your boss, and how much of a total tool they are. My boss is lovely (I'm not on about Larry, although he is lovely), but thought I'd give her a good ol' midnight beasting in form of an abusive email.

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As you can see, it's not so easy when you've got big hands and using a tiny keyboard. I kept hitting the "B" key when I was aiming for the "N" key, and mashing the keyboard by accident is quite a regular thing. Plus, because I'm a native Nokia/PC user, I get confused between using the Shift button for numbers, when I should be using the Alt key.

Because the Alt key is so close to the number keypad, it also makes it a little difficult when typing in phone numbers. One extra Alt key to the other side of the phone would make it far more ergonomic.

Facebook, a dark nightclub, midnight munchies and media -->

Taking photos in a dark nightclub

Phone cameras have never been great, and while the megapixels may go up in size, so do the price - and the image quality still doesn't compare to an actual digital camera. Nonetheless, when you're out and about in town, hitting the bars and clubs, sometimes a quick snap will suffice. (The green viewfinder is present in the screenshot below.)

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The best thing about the camera is the "superfine" settings for the 3.2 megapixel camera, as well as the ultra-bright LED flash. By setting it to automatic, it'll work out how much light is vacant from the viewfinder, and will flash if necessary - saving you battery life. The viewing resolution really is that good; it's an excellent screen to view photos and videos on.

How do you get your photos off the phone? A simple USB lead from any computer to the device, which also charges it at the same time. The only thing is you need the BlackBerry software to unlock the memory, otherwise it comes up as an unformatted disk. Meh.

Uploading snaps to Facebook

When it comes to uploading your photos, it can sometimes be a nightmare. By downloading the Facebook for Blackberry application to your phone, it allows you pretty much full access to your Facebook profile and pages directly from your phone. Sure, you can use your browser, but this is incredibly quick (network dependant) and automatically refreshes. You start by taking a snap using the camera, and select the "Send to Facebook" option from the menu:

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Proceed through to tag your picture, even if it is just you in the photo, and you'll see it up on Facebook within a couple of minutes of taking it. Again, it's entirely dependant on your network speed, whether you're using wireless or 3G, and how big the photo is you are uploading.

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Ahh, there's me looking cheerful as ever. These applications aren't exclusive to Facebook either; there are plenty of applications out there to suit your needs, such as the Flickr uploader application or MySpace for BlackBerry... if you still use MySpace that is.

Ordering a takeaway with using mobile Internet

Finally, after all that drinking, hard work, walking home from the middle of nowhere down the road Canterbury, we get to midnight munchies. After all, by the time we get back in from all that studying, playing laser tag in the university chapel, and pulling retro stunts, we're pretty hungry.

Using the Opera browser, again it's pretty easy to order in a takeaway. Normally by typing in the name of a well-known chain of take-away restaurants, you'll have the option to type in your postcode or city. This way, you can get straight through to your local branch and order what you want much faster.

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Within a few minutes, I was able to order exactly what I wanted using my BlackBerry and my credit card, and without having to move from my sofa. I know it looks like a super-high resolution screen, but it really is this crisp, just like the pizza I was about to order.

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Updated: listen to your "banging tunes"

Just for Tammy, one of the content moderators behind the scenes, I want to quickly show you the music function. A phone isn't a phone nowadays without some form of multimedia, and this truly has it. From when I first listened to the music on my BlackBerry, I knew that the sound quality was beyond excellent. The BlackBerry has sound quality that rivals, even surpasses the iPod.

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And your own media center view:

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From here, you can listen to any MP3 file, whether DRM'd or not, watch videos converted from the BlackBerry Desktop software, and look at your pictures in high definition. Also, the headphone port is a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, so even if you don't have the dedicated accessory for the phone, you can plug in any headphones you like and still get crystal clear sound quality.

The BlackBerry may well run up a few charges along the way, with browsing and BlackBerry Maps, but it's certainly a damn good phone to use... and it "cleverly" stops you from emailing people when you're hammered too.

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