Blackberry Curve: a smartphone for the here and now
Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business
July 24-30, 2007; Issue 926
High Tech Office column
While Canadians joined Americans in the media frenzy
late-June release of Apple’s
iPhone, they joined the rest of the world
in having to learn to be patient: it’s not available here, and even if
you bought one in the U.S., you can’t unlock it for use with a Canadian
mobile phone service.
But we can get the latest from Canadian-based Research in Motion:
the Blackberry 8300 Curve ($349 with a three-year Rogers plan).
Blackberry devices first won market share by offering always-connected
e-mail. Later models added phones, web browsing and the standard sort
of PDA applications: calendar, contacts, to-do list, etc. Blackberries
have become wildly popular, but carry a business-only cachet.
Most recently, RIM has released models with less
features: music and video players, built-in cameras, even (gasp!)
games. Some models have kept the QWERTY mini-keyboards of the
originals, others (like the Pearl) use a more svelte phone-style
keyboard combined with SureType software to ease text entry.
The Curve sports a full keyboard, combining it with
multimedia and fun features and that model’s little trackball for
screen navigation, packing it all into a device small enough to fit
into a pocket. I prefer this model’s full keyboard to the Pearl’s phone
keypad style. With this one, what you type is what you get, no
artificial intelligence guesswork required.
There’s a 2.5-inch 320x240 pixel full-colour screen,
well for displaying photos or web pages, a USB port (also used for
charging the unit), volume buttons and (hurrah!) an easily accessed
MicroSD cards can be used for extra photo or music
Connected to a computer, the Curve appears as a drive, which makes it
easy to copy photos, music or other media files.
Out of the box, with no memory card plugged in, there
were about 500
megabytes free for media files. The Curve supports card capacities of
up to four gigabytes, a hefty amount of storage for a smartphone. This
is the first Blackberry to use a standard sized audio jack, making it
possible to use higher quality headphones to listen to music.
There’s a built-in two-megapixel camera with flash and
It’s easy to snap a photo and then e-mail or instant message it to a
recipient. Quality wasn’t bad. (No video recording, however.) Windows
desktop software based on Roxio’s Easy Media Creator can be used to
(somewhat slowly) convert PC video clips to a size and format viewable
on the Curve.
Built-in Bluetooth allows the Curve’s music player to
be used with
wireless headsets. I connected Motorola’s classy MotoRokr S9 headphones
and used them without problem both for listening to music and for
hands-free phone operation.
As with all Blackberries, the Curve provides
access to e-mail sent to an account with a Blackberry server. Rogers
plans include such accounts. As a user of Google’sg-mail webmail, I was
pleased that pointing the Curve’s web browser at g-mail’s web page
offered a link for Google’s Blackberry software. That installed itself
onto the Curve giving my existing g-mail account the same go-anywhere
ease of use. Performance over Rogers’ higher-speed Edge connection was
pretty snappy, and I could view JPEG, Word, Excel and PDF e-mail
attachments without a problem.
Talk time is rated at four hours; standby time about
17 days. It
includes software for both Windows and Mac computers, though the Mac
software is relatively bare bones. Apple’s iPhone looks sexier with its
large screen and lack of physical keys. The Blackberry Curve, with its
real keyboard is probably more practical. Besides, you can get one here
and now. Now if only data plans were more affordable! •