BlackBerry 8900 Long-term Review

BlackBerry 8900 Curve,
OS v4.6.4.310 (Platform 4.2)

For the past few months I’ve been using the BlackBerry 8900 as my primary cell-phone. So, having become familiar with the popular device, I thought I’d share a few thoughts.

A lot of reviews are written by writers who have played with a device for a few hours, and are rushing to publish to gain maximum Google-juice. But a phone is not a gadget that can be fully appreciated until you’ve lived with it for a while.

If first impressions were everything, I’d still be enjoying the Nokia N95 8GB. It wasn’t until using it for a few weeks, that it became apparent that using the Symbian OS is about as much fun as wearing a pair of shrinking underpants.

The 8900 is a good phone. It’s attractive, well-built and the OS (v4.6) is easy to use and logical (especially if you’ve owned a BlackBerry before). The “chicklet” keyboard on the latest Curve models is better that the tapered keyboard on the more-expensive Bold.

My version of the 8900 still has the troublesome trackball (which tend to degrade over time before becoming unusable), but RIM are replacing these with a small touchpad, which I’ve played with and found to be just as intuitive and responsive.

The 3.2mpx camera is pretty good. In good light it can take quite exquisite shots. The included flash will not bleach the backs of your eye-sockets, but for indoor snaps it’s not terrible. The camera software also has a handy option to send shots direct to an outgoing email, MMS, IM or, if you have the app installed, your facebook account.

The major problem with the camera, and in fact the phone itself, is that it’s too slow. The phone has a decent UI and all the features (short of 3G) that you need, but it’s just too sluggish. Not painfully slow, but annoyingly so.

Downloading the app SoftReset, which replicates the processes of pulling the battery to clear down the phones memory, is a good start. With another similar product, QuickPull Free, you can even programme the software to do a scheduled re-boot in the middle of the night, ensuring that your phone has a clear head in the morning.

The lack of snappiness is not critical, but a faster processor and more memory would certainly make for a less frustrating experience. Be careful with downloading certain apps too, some can crucify performance.

My final gripe is that the supplied browser is as about as much use as a scarecrow made of birdseed. I’ve installed Opera Mini Beta 5, which is an improvement, but there is no way of making it the device default browser. RIM has recently acquired Torch Mobile, who developed a shit-hot Webkit-based browser called Iris – so BlackBerry owners can expect improvements in the future.

On a personal note, the 8900 does everything I want a smart-phone to do. And when it comes to email and twitter (using the awesome Ubertwitter app), the BlackBerry is unsurpassed. If RIM can throw in a cracking browser and more processing guts into the next generation of Curves, the device will continue to be the smartphone of choice for those consumers who can’t quite say goodbye to a physical keyboard.


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