Mobility

First Impressions: Vodaphone Blackberry Curve 8900

Wayne Rash is senior correspondent for eWEEK and a writer with 30 years of experience. His career includes IT work for the US Air Force.

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The new version of the Vodaphone BlackBerry Curve, now affectionately called the 8900, is an updated edition of the smartphone that shipped a year ago.

While there is a lot that’s new about the Curve 8900, the updates are more evolutionary than revolutionary. That’s not to say the new Curve isn’t a nice PDA, but unless you need GPS or a screen with higher resolution, there’s no real need to replace your existing Curve.

The biggest change to the new Curve 8900, built by Research In Motion for Vodaphone, is that GPS is now included with the phone. This wasn’t possible in the past because GPS and Wi-Fi couldn’t co-exist due to space limits. Now you get both features, along with software that can provide turn-by-turn directions, show you images of your location and provide other location-based services if you choose to download them.

The Curve 8900 also has a screen that has higher resolution than the previous screen, and it has a 3.2 megapixel camera with image stabilisation. The other features, including a built-in music player, a slot for a micro-SD card, Wi-Fi capability that supports voice as well as data, and a good keyboard, are carried over from the previous Curve.

The Curve 8900’s most obvious differences are mainly cosmetic. While it is fractionally thinner than its predecessor, it’s also slightly longer. The black face and keyboard use flatter keys for some functions, but the differences are minor. The screen features icons are white outlines on a black background, instead of little pictures as in the older version. Again, a minor detail that probably appeals to some and is said to be more trendy.

Perhaps the greatest problem with the new look is the fact that the numbers on the keypad are printed in dark red on a black background, which makes entering numbers harder in dim light. Worse, for the 10 percent of the male population with red-green colour-blindness, the numbers are invisible in any light, an accessibility faux pas on RIM’s part.

On the other hand, the Curve 8900 has a processor that’s nearly twice as fast as the older version, which means that some Web pages seem to load a little faster and some applications run better.

However, in reality, this is a moderate upgrade to what was already a very good smartphone. In the UK, the new Curve 8900 comes ‘free’ with a two-year O2 contract, prices range from £19.95 to £73.41 per month. You can buy the phone for £339.99 directly from Amazon.co.uk.

If you don’t already have a Curve and you want to get a device that will do a nearly seamless job of handling your e-mail, will connect to your company’s e-mail server and has an embedded GPS, then this new Curve will prove useful to you. Vodaphone’s global coverage, its voice-over-Wi-Fi capability, its location-based services and the nice collection of multimedia applications make this an excellent product.

But the previous Curve was also an excellent product—it has nearly the same set of features and functions as the 8900, it is easier to use in some cases, and it is less expensive. If you already have a Curve, there’s little reason to replace it with the 8900.

Conclusion

The BlackBerry Curve 8900 smartphone combines GPS, Wi-Fi, global calling, a full QWERTY keyboard, location-based services and new browser in a sleeker, thinner package. However, the enhancements in the new BlackBerry Curve won’t be enough to convince all current Curve owners to give up their older BlackBerry smartphones.