The highly anticipated device has arrived!
The rumors and speculation about the BlackBerry Curve 8320 for T-Mobile have been floating around the tech blog community for months and months, and now the time has come. The 8320 is here! Everything you have come to know and love with BlackBerry, with the added sweetness of WiFi!
T-Mobile officially began selling the device on September 22, 2007; two days earlier than was originally scheduled for release. Customers can choose between a dark grey that they call Titanium, or Pale Gold (same gold as the new Pearl from T-Mobile).
Handset Features and Design
The BlackBerry Curve 8320 is the second device released by Research in Motion that has WiFi/EDGE capabilities. The BlackBerry 8820 was the first device. The Curve has been portrayed by BlackBerry as the smallest and lightest BlackBerry smartphone ever to come with a full QWERTY keyboard.
Many T-Mobile users have been waiting for a long time to get the Curve; some didn’t wait and started using an unlocked version. I was one who could not wait, and took a small vacation to London in May of this year and picked up an unlocked Curve 8300 from O2 thanks to Tmag2005. Yes, this sounds like a serious addiction, but it was also a great vacation! However, I wanted one feature in particular that was offered on the 8320 that my 8300 did not have… WiFi. I have terrible coverage at my house, and I really wanted to take advantage of T-Mobile’s Hotspot at Home service.
Basically, adding this feature to your account will allow you to add your 8320 to your home wireless network, and then make unlimited nationwide calls without minutes being deducted from your monthly allowance via Unlicensed Mobile Access or UMA. This was going to be the answer to my coverage issues at home. Now, the unlimited calls only apply to calls within the United States; international calls still have the regular rates applied to them. This will be a great feature and will allow many users who haven’t done so already, to completely get rid of their landline. Calls made on WiFi will effortlessly transition to the T-Mobile wireless network when you move out of WiFi coverage, and vice versa. Now, another good thing is that calls started on WiFi, and then transitioned to the wireless network are still counted as a WiFi call, thus not deducting from your minutes. However, the downside is that calls started on the wireless network, and then transitioned to WiFi will still count against your minutes. I guess we can’t have our cake and eat it too.
The 8320 also comes with the same features we have seen on other 83xx/88xx devices:
Did you see where I mentioned Instant Messaging? In the past with T-Mobile we have associated that to be the included OZ Messenger client on the device. As some users found out the hard way, OZ Messenger uses your SMS allowance, and not your data package. The new 8320 does not have OZ Messenger installed, but rather the native IM clients for all the major IM providers such as: AOL, Gtalk, Yahoo, Windows Live, and ICQ.
Naturally like most all other current GSM BlackBerry devices, the 8320 is a QuadBand International phone. It weighs in at a mere 3.9oz, and its dimensions are 2.4” x 4.2” x 0.6”. It also contains a microSD slot and has a 3.5mm stereo headset jack.
Now for me, unboxing was twice as fun. I had picked up two 8320’s; one for me, and one for my better half. The T-Mobile 8320 comes in the same size box as all other past BlackBerry’s I have purchased. The nice thing about this box is that it advertises the Hotspot at Home feature.
Opening the box, I found my Titanium Curve sitting there waiting patiently for me to get my hands on it. The screen was covered with a special plastic sticker that tells of dialing shortcuts to check your minutes used, or account balance. The back of the device also had a protective sticker with a diagram and instructions on how to properly place the SIM card in the device.
The device was removed from the box and given to the friendly T-Mobile rep to ensure that all was working properly with the Curve. He had me remove my SIM card from my current device, put it into the 8320, and make sure that it was working properly. After a minute or so of the initial boot of the device, everything appeared to be working as expected.
I continued to look through the box of goodies and found many of the same things that I have been accustomed to seeing in the box. There was the standard travel charger, the USB cable, 3.5mm wired stereo headset, BlackBerry user tools CD, Tips and Tricks card, Getting Started Posted, and the most significant thing, other than the device itself, was a carrying case. Yes, you heard that right. Unlike the Curve 8300 on AT&T, this Curve came complete with a carrying case. The case is actually just a pouch that the 8320 slides into, which can then be placed in your pocket or purse for carrying around. It does include the sleeper magnet to take advantage of the in-holster/out-of-holster functions.
Device Setup and Activation
I could hardly wait to get home and start transferring data and activating my new 8320. First thing I did was to make a backup of my data on my existing BlackBerry. Next, I turned off my old BlackBerry and pulled out my SIM card. I transferred the SIM card along with a 2GB microSD card into the new 8320, replaced the battery, slid back on the battery cover, and I was in business. It took a short time for the device to boot up, and then I was greeted by the Device Setup Wizard.
You get three options when the wizard appears: Run Setup Wizard, Remind Me Later, and Don’t Ask Me Again. For new users unfamiliar with the BlackBerry and how it operates, I would recommend going through the Setup Wizard. It only takes about 10 minutes, and it will guide you through setting up the language you will be using, setting the correct date and time, transferring contacts from your SIM card, setting owner information, setting font style and size, setting up or creating an email account, and it will guide you through some of the basic buttons that you will find on your new BlackBerry.
For a change, I actually followed the instructions sent with the device in order to make sure I had everything setup properly. The next step was to setup the WiFi on the device. There is an icon on the applications screen that looks like a little WiFi router. Simply move the cursor to that icon, where you will see the words “Set Up WiFi” at the bottom of the screen. Press the trackball, and you will then be taken into the Setup WiFi wizard. The easiest way to begin is to simply let the 8320 scan for available networks. It easily found mine, as well as my neighbors. I selected my network and was then prompted for the WEP key. It validated my key, and then brought up a screen that gave me the option to change the name of the network for the way it would appear on the 8320. you could leave it as is, or change it to something like “Home” or “Office”. I decided to just leave it the way it was. After all is done, you will get a confirmation screen that the network was successfully added and then just click on “Finish” to exit the wizard. I checked my coverage indictor at the top right corner of my screen and I was now showing that WiFi was connected and that I was active on UMA.
The next step for me was to restore all my device data. There are two easy ways this can be accomplished. Number one is to use the Switch Device Wizard in Desktop Manager v4.2, and number two is to simply open Desktop Manager, and click on the backup/restore button, and to restore a backup file of your data. Since I had just backed up my device, I chose option number two. I had done this time and time before with the many BlackBerry’s I have owned, but this time, the BlackBerry just didn’t agree with what I had just fed it.
All of my data and information transferred over, but I now no longer had UMA signal in the house. I tried turning off the WiFi and then back on… nothing. I deleted the connection altogether and set it up again. I got connected to WiFi, but no UMA. What in the world was going on? I had seen the UMA coverage when I was in the T-Mobile store, and it was there when I first setup WiFi at home on the 8320, but where had it gone?
Since it was getting late at night, and I had no more solutions of my own that I could come up with, a call to T-Mobile Customer Care was placed. I was connected with Tier 1 support at first and described my problem to them. This was not the first they had heard of it, because they actually had a solution already in the computer. The tech told me that I would need to completely wipe the device, and then restore again, and that would fix the problem.
I was skeptical of that solution, but I gave it a shot anyway. A short time later, my device had wiped, and I was in the process of restoring my data again. Everything came back up as expected, and I went into the WiFi setup and added my network back on. The 8320 connected to my network with no problem, but I still did not have any UMA showing in the top right corner. I informed the agent that the problem still existed; she stated there were no other solutions listed if the posted solution did not work. She suggested that I may need to speak with Tier 2 support who handles all PDA/BlackBerry issues. Of course, that was going to have to be my next step, so I had her transfer my call over to them.
The call was answered by the most energetic tech that I have ever spoken with. I explained my problem to her, and she stated that I was her first call for tech support on the 8320. She looked through her database and found the solution that the previous tech had given me. I told her that I had been there and done that, and nothing was better. She put me on hold and conferred with another tech. When she came back on line, she informed me that I would need to wipe the device again and do a selective restore of my data. She walked me through the process, and told me only to restore very few things such as: address book, messages, auto text, saved messages, etc. In total, I think I only restored about six files.
After the restoring was complete, I gave it a shot again and setup the WiFi. My network appeared again and shockingly so did my UMA connection! It appears that this worked. She did not know what in the complete restore was causing the problem, but this was now the solution, and she updated their database with our newfound solution. I thanked her for her time, and by now it was nearly 1:30am and I needed to head off to bed.
How to Set Up WiFi
Step 1 - Begin WiFi Setup
Step 2 - Begin Scan for Available Networks
Step 3 - Select Available Network to Connect To
Step 4 - Enter WEP Key for Network
Step 5 - Connect to Wireless Network!
Putting the 8320 to use
It was bright and early on Sunday morning and I was eager to start testing out my new 8320. I grabbed it off my nightstand, unplugged it from the charger, popped it out of my Seidio holster and looked at the screen…. NO UMA!!! What in the world is going on with this thing??? I turned off the WiFi connection, and then reactivated it again. A few short moments later it came back up, and UMA was present again. I’m not sure what the problem was, but I was sure glad that I got the UMA back.
For most of the day Sunday I was with the family at Sea World in San Antonio. Trust me, I made sure I stayed out of the splash zone during the Shamu show. I did not want to ruin my brand new 8320. During the day Sunday, I was just using the GSM network, and everything worked as expected. I got home late that night and low and behold, when I walked into the house, it automatically switched to WiFi/UMA as it was supposed to.
Now my wife’s Curve wasn’t being as cooperative. It did not switch over, and no matter what I did, it would not work. I ended up having to wipe and selective restore again on it. I was not a happy camper. Why is this so difficult? After it was reloaded, everything was now working again. It was bedtime, and I needed my rest after a long day of keeping up with my three year old at Sea World.
Monday morning brought more stress to my life. I took the 8320 off the charger, and there was no UMA again. I’m beginning to think that the WiFi antenna in the 8320 just is not picking up a good signal in my room. My laptop has no issues, but I’m sure the antenna in the 8320 is not as good. I may have to get a signal booster and see if that solves my problem.
I went downstairs and the UMA came up. I made several calls today, and the quality was very good both on UMA and on the wireless network. I also had to test out T-Mobile’s claim that the transition between WiFi and the wireless network would be seamless. I made calls from WiFi and left my coverage area, and it did transition onto the GSM network without a glitch. The same was also true calling from GSM and going to WiFi.
I discovered that when on a call via UMA, you can still send and receive data over your BlackBerry. I had not heard of this benefit being advertised before, but it is very beneficial if you need to make a call and send an email at the same time.
Now with UMA halfway working for me, I decided that I should try out the service on another WiFi network. My wife dragged me to a Starbucks, and it seamlessly switched to the T-Mobile Hotspot. These settings are pre-programmed in the device, and the user does not have to do anything to get this to work.
I then traveled over to my parent’s house to see about adding a different personal secured network. I obtained my dad’s WEP key, and his network was added to my list. The 8320 immediately connected and went to UMA. I received a call while at his house, and while on UMA the call was very choppy. I switched the WiFi off during the call and it switched to the GSM/EDGE network and the call clarity returned to where I could hear the caller. I’m not sure what the issue was, but this was the first time I had any such problem.
Numerous users have reported that the WiFi data is no faster than the EDGE network. I personally haven’t had much time in the past two days to completely test this out. However, from my initial observations, it appears that WiFi surfing is faster than EDGE. I’m sure there are numerous things that could have some influence on this, but I’ll just conduct my own little test real quick and see what happens.
I cleared the cache on my 8320 before each test and did a very simple test. I pulled up http://www.cnet.com from WiFi, and then again from EDGE. It took 23 seconds for the page to completely load on WiFi, and 37 seconds to load on EDGE. Obviously WiFi is faster, but all in all, there was not that much of a difference. Where I did notice a real speed difference was when I was downloading applications like Viigo. This loaded almost instantly. I was very impressed!
The 8320 comes with a nice leather storage pouch. This is great to use if you like to carry your blackberry in your pocket or a purse. It will protect the device from scratches and scrapes, and the sleeper magnet will help save your battery life by putting your device in standby, and of course, you can take advantage of the in-holster functions.
Now if the storage pouch is not your cup of tea, there are numerous other options available for you to choose from. Check out the CrackBerry Store for the complete selection.
The Included OEM Pouch. At least the T-Mobile 8320 comes
with a protective covering in the box (the AT&T 8300 did not),
but the pouch doesn't exactly scream 'Consumer' style.
I really want to like this device, but I’m not so sure that enough of the bugs have been worked out yet. My primary reason for getting the 8320 was to get improved coverage at my house. With the UMA going in and out all the time, I’m not so sure I have achieved that. I think T-Mobile just needs some time to work the kinks out, and thus these are the issues that early adopters like me have to deal with.
The device overall is great. It has everything that most users have come to love on the 8300 with the added benefit of WiFi.
I didn’t discuss everything there is to do with the new 8320. I just wanted to get this info out early to everyone who was thinking about getting the device. If you have more specific questions about something I haven’t covered, post it in the forums and let’s talk about it.