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BlackBerry throws a Curve ball

Canadian vendor Research In Motion (RIM) this week rolled out the BlackBerry Curve, its smallest and lightest full QWERTY smartphone to date.

The Curve, also known as the 8300, follows on from the successful design of the Pearl and the features of the Pearl’s bigger, more business like brother, the 8800, by packing a full QWERTY keyboard, a large display and the now familiar trackball.

Having got our hands on one here at telecoms.com, we have to say one thing – it’s cute. Really cute. Like a friendlier, more curvy version of the 8800.

The unit comes in at 4.2” x 2.4” x 0.6” and weighs approximately 3.9oz making it pretty easy on the pocket. But the trade off its that the keyboard is a little fiddly to use at first.

RIM has also taken on board criticism over the Pearl – it’s first foray into the prosumer space – by upgrading the camera to a more reasonable 2 megapixels with built in flash.

Under the hood, it is all pretty much what you would expect from BlackBerry, we did not notice any significant differences between the software on the Curve and that on any other recent device like the 8800.

But RIM has upgraded the desktop client with Roxio Media Manager, which allows users to search for media files on their computer, view and organize them, rip MP3 files from CDs, add audio tags, create playlists and automatically copy or convert pictures, music and videos for optimal playback on the Curve.

The display makes for pretty good viewing and the Curve played MP4 videos satisfactorily. The decision to include a standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack also means that you can use you own headphones, or even a Bluetooth set.

James Hart, marketing director for RIM EMEA, said that as RIM increasingly targets the prosumer space, it will include more multimedia capabilities on its devices.

A microSD card slot boosts the storage of the device up to 2GB, although no card is included as standard.

The Curve is GPRS/EDGE capable, rather than full blown 3G and when we asked why, Hart said, “The speed of the network does not matter so much the way the files are compressed over the BlackBerry network.”

Fair enough, the device seems to transmit email over GPRS fairly quickly (our operator did not support EDGE) but we did feel that it chugged a bit when sending a 700kb photo and then again when using the BlackBerry maps application.

Wifi would not go amiss but as yet, only one Blackberry device, the 7270 has wifi built in.

The systems administrators at Informa towers would not let us mess with the Microsoft Exchange server, so we used the Desktop Redirect client instead. Like with previous versions, this enabled us to have our corporate email forwarded onto the BlackBerry as long as the desktop was running. Web-based email accounts can also be set up to push mail to the Blackberry via an online configuration tool.

All in all, the Curve is a pretty good stab at a prosumer device. It takes all the good bits of the Pearl and the 8800 and packs them into a device that is a comfortable form factor somewhere between the two.


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