Advantages Looks great, easy to use, massive improvement on previous models
Disadvantages Battery life not fantastic, can't compete with iPhone
|Look & Feel|
|Durability & Robustness|
|Battery standby time|
|Value for money|
|Range of features|
I've had a few Blackberry handsets now and having got used to each one for either 12 or 18 months, the enormous improvements in the handsets have impressed me every time. My most recent upgrade has been to the Curve 8900, which is, without a doubt, the best Blackberry that I've had to date and, probably, the best mobile phone I've had, full stop. Most businesses currently use Blackberry handsets, due to the ease with which they work alongside Microsoft Office products and, indeed, the Blackberry email server has only just started working fully on a Mac. I was previously paying £10 a month for a Blackberry web-based email account but this is now included in my tariff free of charge. I can also synchronise my handset with a Blackberry server at one of my client’s head offices, allowing me to accept emails from their corporate server whilst I’m on the move. This is effectively the business man’s iPhone – practical and as cool as it can be.
Navigation around the menus and within applications is, in line with other Curve handsets, facilitated via means of a small track wheel, which skips your cursor around like a mouse and is then depressed to execute a command. The track wheel on the 8900 is a massive improvement compared to my last handset, the 8310. The button is more responsive and far easier to click, without being too easy. The rolling mechanism is much smoother and intuitive; with the 8310 you had to use some force to get it to move around accurately but this version is greatly advanced.On the downside, over time my track wheel has started to become less precise. Indeed, for fairly lengthy periods of time, the wheel seems to give up the ghost and only works properly when you scroll one way. This seems to clear itself if you press and hold it down, but as the handset gets older, it seems to be happening ore often.
Other key commands are operated via the four buttons that sit next to the track wheel (two to the left and two to the right). These are reasonably intuitive and execute similar commands regardless of which function you are using.
The high-resolution display is such an advance from the previous models that it feels revolutionary. Web pages look gorgeously crisp and colourful, and offline applications including the selection of games included, are a pleasure to use. The resolution makes browsing far easier. The display actually has better resolution than the (supposedly) higher specification Bold and has a warmer, brighter contrast than any of the previous Curve handsets. The application icons on the standard menu do look a little as though they are trying to copy the iPhone (a big mistake) but you can customise the appearance to various different styles to get away from this, if you wish.
Frustratingly, the Messages menu continues to mix up emails and SMS messages, as it did with the previous Curve handset. Indeed, I have three different email accounts currently set up to 'push' through my handset and whilst they each have their own icon, all the messages appear via the one Messages menu too. This isn't confusing for me, as the accounts are all used for very different things, but I don't like it when the emails and SMS messages get mixed up. More frustratingly, my handset seems to have become haunted by the ghost of previous emails. Two of the three email icons now have a permanent unopened email envelope, indicating that there are unread messages, when in fact there are none. I’ve tried completely emptying all three mailboxes but to no avail. I’m loathe to reset to the factory settings in case I lose other stuff.Incidentally, setting up the various email accounts is really easy. If it's your first time with a Blackberry handset, the customer service team will usually give you help but the setup wizard installed is very self-explanatory. Remember to go to your service provider's mobile email web site first to register the handset IMEI and PIN and then you're pretty much sorted. Many (most?) of the big web-based email accounts are now supported by the Blackberry enterprise server and you can certainly get aol.com and mail.com accounts through the handset, along with Google, Yahoo and Hotmail. For users who want a phone for business and personal email usage, this is great news, but remember that warning about the messages merging into the one menu. You can, as usual, synchronise to desktop applications via a USB cable, but for most users, everything will synchronise wirelessly. The handset features the aforementioned Bluetooth, along with GPS and wi-fi as standard.
Blackberry handsets are useful for sending photographs and pictures because there are a minimal number of steps required to actually do this. Having taken a picture, you simply click the options button and then decide whether to save it, send as an email attachment or send as an MMS message. In the case of the email attachment, I don’t like the way that the message title defaults to the numerical file name and you have to delete this to change it. I tend to find email an easier way to send the messages; many of my friends can’t open MMS messages on their handsets and have to go to a website to do so. I sometimes find this to be case when others send me MMS messages on this handset and I’ve yet work out if this is a local setting.My handset automatically synchronises with my MS Outlook calendar, which is useful but I can’t say the format on the handset is particularly useful. The navigation is completed using the scroll wheel, either down to go to different time periods within one day, or across the top to change the days in the calendar. It’s extremely easy to get these mixed up and I often skip to different days without realising. It’s also harder to add a new appointment than I’d like, and I generally manage my calendar from my computer, using this only for reference.
Multimedia features now mean that the handset has wider appeal outside of the business market. The handset has an enhanced camera compared to previous models and it shows. The megapixels are up from 2 to 3.2 and this makes an enormous difference. The 8900 now actually feels like a usable camera phone and the interface easily enables new pictures to be sent as emails or MMS messages. There's also an auto-zoom feature, along with a flash, although I still struggle with pictures of an evening if there isn't tonnes of artificial light. The multimedia player can handle a host of audio and video files but the 100MB standard memory is tiny, leaving this unlikely to be a viable replacement for an iPod for those who've a mind to do so. On that note there is also a Blackberry apps store, to try and compete with the likes of Apple, though, not surprisingly, it's a long way off the huge variety that can be boasted by the Steve Jobs empire. There's also a 3.5mm headphone jack for those who want to plug in their headphones. The sound quality and volume are reasonably impressive for a phone handset but with only six volume levels, it's kind of either quiet or REALLY LOUD. Having the jack point on the side is ridiculous for anyone who wants to slide the phone in and out of a pocket too.
All Blackberry handsets come with a small number of ‘themes’, which can be administered by users. These are easily changed in the settings and give the menu options a look and feel. The 8900 only comes with two themes as standard, which seems to be a move to encourage users to download (i.e. pay for) additional content. There are various websites offering these themes, some of which are free. There are a lot more ring tones, message tones and alarm tones on this handset than I found on previous handsets. This isn’t something I personally tend to customise and I have a very ‘standard’ ring tone.To try and keep up with the iPhone, Blackberry now has its own ‘Apps Store’, from which you can download a variety of free or chargeable applications. To get started, you have to download a software upgrade and then an icon for the store will appear on your home screen. The store loads reasonably quickly but it’s not the easiest thing to navigate and I’ve often struggled to find anything interesting before I get bored flicking backwards and forwards. The trouble is that you have to flick backwards and forwards to find anything and you can’t scroll easily in the way you can with the Apple equivalent. I now also seem to get bombarded (a slight exaggeration) with new versions of the store software to download to my handset. This is all very well and good, but this will tie up the handset for a fair period of time. Once you’ve downloaded the additional applications, you can decide whether or not to display them on your home page.
The Blackberry Curve 8900 is available on a number of networks, both on consumer and business tariffs. For a reasonable monthly tariff (£25 upwards) the handset should be free on an eighteen-month contract.• A 24-month contract on Orange will get you 600 minutes and unlimited texts per month and a free handset for £25 a month.
Offers are coming and going all the time so make sure you shop around.If you want to try and get a used handset, you can expect to pay upwards of £125 but you could get a new one for about another £100.
So, overall the verdict here is good. The handset has improved in nearly every way compared to previous Curve models and now has the capability to operate sensibly for both a business or a personal user - or if you're like me, maybe a bit of both. It's not the iPhone though and for pure 'wow!' factor it's still left lagging behind the Apple masterpiece. Nonetheless, it's the most 'useful' handset that I've ever owned, as evidenced by the amount of different 'things" I use on it. Given that it's very easy to get for free as well, it's still highly recommended from me.Recommended
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