Oh, we'd hate to be a RIM BlackBerry 8800 owner right now. Just months after the 8800's release, Research in Motion has released a sleeker and sexier model that'll make you wish that you had waited a while longer--the world of technology can be so cruel. The RIM BlackBerry Curve (aka BlackBerry 8300) is the smallest and lightest full-QWERTY BlackBerry to date, and we're absolutely stoked on the design. It feels more like a cell phone with the compact dimensions, yet you still get the advantage of a full keyboard for easy messaging. We want to be clear that the BlackBerry 8300 is more about the revamped design, rather than new features. The device does offer a few improvements, such as a spell-checker for e-mail and an upgraded 2-megapixel camera, but it still lacks the big items on a our wish list, namely Wi-Fi and 3G support. And to be fair, the BlackBerry 8800 may still be a better fit for power business users with its GPS functionality and lack of a camera (an increasing security concern at workplaces). That said, for consumers and mobile professionals, the BlackBerry Curve is a beautifully designed and well-rounded device that delivers great e-mail functionality, a little multimedia fun, and solid performance.
The RIM BlackBerry Curve is available now through Cingular/AT&T for $199.99 with a two-year contract and after mail-in rebates. The carrier said it plans to launch the BlackBerry 8300 later this spring, and we will, of course, keep you updated as get more information. Hopefully you won't have to wait too long.
Simply put, it was love at first sight. Though we don't fully understand the name--it's no curvier than the BlackBerry Pearl or any of the other latest BlackBerrys--the RIM BlackBerry Curve offers a best-of-breed design that beautifully combines a full QWERTY keyboard into a sleek and compact form factor. The silver-and-black color scheme is standard but attractive nonetheless. We'll admit there's a slight resemblance to the Palm Treo 680 from the front, but it's much thinner and more manageable in terms of size. In fact, it's the smallest and lightest full QWERTY BlackBerry to date at just 4.2x2.4x0.6 inches and 3.9 ounces. By comparison, the BlackBerry 8800 measures 4.4x2.6x0.5 inches and 4.7 ounces, while the Treo 680 measures 4.4x2.3x0.8 inches and 5.5 ounces.
With such a slim profile and small weight, the Curve is comfortable to hold and use as a phone, even though it has a wider body than regular cell phones. The outer edges also have a soft-touch finish to give it a rubbery texture, thus making it easier to grip. In general, the device has a solid construction, but we did notice the slightest separation between the front faceplate and the phone's body on the left side. However, we're not concerned that this is something that will cause the phone to break.
On front of the device, there's a 2.5-inch diagonal, 65,000-color screen with a 320x240 pixel resolution. The display features a light-sensing technology that automatically adjusts the backlighting of the screen as well as the keyboard, based on your environment (indoors, outdoors, a dark room, and so forth). In addition, you can customize the screen with various themes and wallpaper, as well as adjust the font size, family, and style. We didn't have any problems reading the contents of the screen under various lighting conditions, and both text and images were sharp and vibrant.
As with all BlackBerry models, the Curve does not have a touch screen, but we still found the device easy to use and navigate with the provided controls. You'll find these controls beneath the screen; they include the Talk and End/power buttons, a Menu shortcut, an Escape key, and the trackball navigator. You can adjust the sensitivity of the latter under the Settings > Screen/Keyboard menu. Along the right side, there is a volume rocker and a user-defined launch button that's set to activate the camera by default. The left side holds a mini-USB port as well as another programmable convenience key, and--good news--the BlackBerry 8300 is equipped with a 3.5mm headset jack, so you can plug in Walkman-style headphones.
One of the biggest complaints about the BlackBerry 8800 was its keyboard. RIM switched up the layout and feel of the keyboard on the 8800, and many users found the buttons to be slippery and cramped. Happily, the BlackBerry Curve's full QWERTY keyboard offers a better typing experience, as it reverts back to the styling of the keys found on the BlackBerry 8700g and 8700c. This means you get more spacing between the buttons, and they're tactile and less slick.
Finally, the camera lens, flash, and self-portrait mirror are on the back of the device, and a mute button is located on top. The 8300 is equipped with a microSD slot, but it's inconveniently located behind the battery. The RIM BlackBerry Curve ships with a travel charger, a USB cable, a wired stereo headset, a belt holster, and reference material. For more BlackBerry add-ons and downloads, check out our cell phone accessories page.
The RIM BlackBerry Curve doesn't offer anything revolutionary in the features department (read: no Wi-Fi or 3G support), but as mentioned previously, there are some slight enhancements. First, the Curve adds a new spell-check functionality for e-mails. As you would expect, the feature will look for any spelling errors in your messages before they're sent and offer alternatives to misspelled words. Spell-check is also available for memos, but not for text messages. You can turn this feature on under the Options > Spell Check menu, where you can also find settings to ignore acronyms, words with numbers, add words to a custom dictionary, and more. During our review period, the feature worked great, and it definitely comes in handy--especially if you're sending messages to clients, your boss, and other professionals.