Update: Dec. 8th, 2008, 8:30am EST - Rogers & RIM Officially Announce the 8900 >> *
Finally!! It seems like forever ago that we found about RIM's plans for the next-generation BlackBerry Curve, originally codenamed and referred to by all as the Javelin. The Curve 8900 just recently launched in Germany on T-Mobile, and has now made its way to North America, launching on Rogers in Canada first. RIM is a Canadian-based company, so it's nice to seem this early Christmas present from them!
It definitely felt like Christmas yesterday when I was able to score this beautiful package at a Rogers location in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Thanks Matt!). Earlier in the day when speaking to Rogers Customer Care agents they told me I was not going to be able to pick this device up until January... but to that I say Hah! I never was one to stop and take the first person I spoke to's word for it. Though we have yet to see the Curve 8900 be "officially" announced by Rogers, the reports are beginning to flood in that Rogers dealers are getting it in stock. If your local store doesn't have it just yet, give it a few days - it should be available everywhere soon!
In any event, the device is here and in my hands as I type so let's give it a run through, shall we?!!
Rogers BlackBerry Curve 8900 Unboxing
This device is slick. There are no other words to describe it really... overall it is just one slick device. From the form factor to the hardware to the silky smooth operating system the the BlackBerry Curve 8900 rises to the occassion with no fuss at all.
Having used the Bold over the past few months, the 8900's get up and go factor really came as no huge surprise to me, except..in one area... Browser speeds (more on that later I promise). The Curve 8900's one strike against it is that it lacks 3G. For some of you that's not an issue, but for others it is a big one. Unless sending and receiving emails and IMs while on a call is of critical importance, the 3G-lessness shouldn't come across as a big deal as the 8900's browser is quick! If you have been a previous 8300 series BlackBerry Curve owner (as I have) and think the Bold is just "too big" of a device for you to be using, do NOT pass the 8900 up due to it's lack of 3G. You will be missing out on an awesome device!
Body And Form Factor
The 8900 feels extremely comfortable in your hands. Previous Curve owners - think back to when you first held your Curve... it felt just oh so right. The 8900 has taken that feeling and improved upon it even further. Seriously. The BlackBerry Curve 8900 has great style to it. The lines on this device make it look sexy as can be with visual styling from the Bold and the Storm all mixed into one. It has a welcoming appeal to it that
compels forces you to pick it up cause you know it's gonna feel soooo good.
One thing that really irked me about the BlackBerry Bold that seems to have been addressed on the 8900 is the silver "trim" on the device. On the Bold it chips and scratches fairly easy - this does NOT seem to be the case on the 8900. On the 8900 it seems more solid and I walk away with the impression that I won't be able to scratch the trim just by plugging it in to my USB charger even though it's probably the same material. It just seems less likely due to how it's inlaid on the device. Some have referred to the trim as being cheap looking but I don't see it... it definitely adds to the 8900's sexyness factor. Bonus points for the 8900 right there! I wish RIM had implement the same thought on the Bold as they did here with the trim being more resistant to scratches.
Curve 8900 vs. BlackBerry Bold
Now I have to say I do love the battery cover mechanism -- it's easy to remove and replace -- but it also does scare me just a bit. The bottom piece feels like if I tap it the wrong way that it may just break. I could easily be wrong here... time will tell! I'm see ShopCrackBerry.com will be able to fill the need for Curve 8900 replacement battery doors should the need every arise.
Another issue I have is the SIM and Media card slots...a bit awkward if you ask me, but not really different from other BlackBerry devices for the most part. Even though the SIM is not located beneath the battery, the only way to get the SIM in/out is to first remove the battery. While the media card is hot swappable, I personally would have preferred and external slot for it, such as the one on the Bold and Pearl series devices. But this a matter of preference. Think back to Kevin's pre-release review of the Curve and he much preferred this new design (also found on the Storm), which I can also see. Most people don't change their media card all that frequently, so having to do remove the battery door (especially with an easy latch mechanism like the 8900 has) to access isn't that big of a deal, and the snap in / snap out of the card is very trouble free. On the Bold it can be a bit trickier sometimes to fiddle with the media card door and figure out if you have the card going in the right away. All in all it's only a minor concern for me - some will prefer the Bold's media slot placement while others will prefer it on the Curve 8900.
Under the hood of the Curve 8900
Like the Pearl Flip and the BlackBerry Storm, the Curve 8900 makes the switch from Mini USB to Micro USB. I had no issues with Mini USB (plus have lots of spare cables and chargers lying around for Mini USB) so I'm not really a big fan of the change. I really don't have an issue with it either... just a few $ spent at any electronics shop and it becomes a non-issue. Typically this port is located on the upper left side of the BlackBerry. On the Curve 8900 the Micro USB port is on the lower right. It's a bit awkward at first, but I'm sure will be second nature within a few days.
In closing on the Body and Form factor, I must mention the way the Camera is concealed... it's great! It keeps dirt and dust out and makes the device look much more fluid as opposed to the BlackBerry smartphones which predate this design which feature a more open look that (which collects dust and pocket lint!).
Keyboard and Trackball
Always a main concern of mine, I'm positive others out there have the very same concern and question... How does the keyboard feel?? Coming from the Bold, the 8900's keyboard, while seemingly tiny at first in comparison, feels great! After 20 minutes with the new Curve it already feels as if I have owned this device forever. This is probably the best "narrow" full QWERTY keyboard you are going to ever find on a samrtphone.
I do have one qualm with the 8900's keys though... they are a little on the "clacky" side. I remember the original Curve suffering from this as well. For comparison's sake, I will say it's not as "clacky" as the original Curve series but it's still not as quiet of a typing device as I like. But I guess that will depend on the user as well. I pound away at my keys all day long so the clacking gets loud and a bit annoying after a while. Other users may not be quite as "abusive" to their keyboards and thus not mind it. Some people I know prefer a lot clackiness on the keyboard as it's another form of device feedback and helps you get into fast typing rhythm. The final verdict on the key board? Coming from any other BlackBerry device a user should find this keyboard comfortable, even if you have larger hands and fingers (as I do). If asked for which I prefer,I would be taking my Bold's keypad over this one based on the size of my fingers. However, a lot of folks (especially those with smaller hands) are going to feel right at home here and absolutely love this keyboard bar none. Even if you prefer a big keyboard but want a smaller form factor, the Curve 8900's is easy to get used to and really is that good.
Onto the TrackBall... the infamous, much talked about, black, aka "atomic" trackball. Aside from the obvious fact of this thing being harder to get dirty due to its color... it does over all feel smoother to me. It's more like I'm gliding through the menus rather than "scrolling" through the menus. Some of this feeling may be attributed to the fact the 8900's 528 MHZ processor makes for a speedy OS experience, but I'm going to suggest the trackball plays a major part in this improved feeling.
The trackball is the same size as any other trackball - it looks as though I might be swapping out the white ball on my Bold and picking up a black one. But personally I think it goes beyond the color of the ball itself. It has more to do with the material of the ball (definitely different) and how it sits within the housing. The black trackball seems to be set perfectly in the device so that it doesn't allow for "gumming up" or the build up of dirt - which is a common problem for all other devices - even the Bold. This trackball does not give me the impression that it will be an issue, but I guess time will tell on this as well.
We have all heard the raves about the BlackBerry Bold's brilliant 480 x 320 display, with even our own Dieter Bohn (WinMob FanBoy) proclaiming its greatness in the Smartphone Round Robin Round Table Podcast, but let me say... RIM didn't slack on the 8900 either! With a high resolution (higher then the Bold's) 480 x 360 screen, the 8900 packs even more pixels into a slightly tighter area (the display is a bit narrower than the Bold's). The snap shot above does not do it justice. The colors are amazing and the display provides great contrast and makes great use of that high resolution. Others have mentioned in their reviews the 8900 seems to have a "warmer" feel to it... I can see this, but it is in no way an issue with the device.
OS And Software
Currently shipping with OS version 188.8.131.52, the 8900's operating system seems to be a blessing from RIM and has actually revived my faith in the fact they do not intend to release devices with buggy OS' (ie Bold, Storm), but can still put out an OS that feels complete and not have me wondering if should back my device up today for fear of some crazy app error that's gonna wipe my device. Maybe I shouldn't be that surprised - Edge devices are old hat for RIM. The 3G on the Bold and touchscreen on the Storm must complicate things just that much more.
The OS is snappy and responsive, navigation is a breeze and the 8900 feels like it wants to be put to work. Complete satisfaction on the OS front from this device.
A lot of the improvements can be felt in the 8900 OS and it clearly shows in the web browser as well. We all remember Kevin's documented issues with the browser on the Bold and while they have gotten better, they are still not near where the 8900 is. There has been some talk in the forums about RIM doing something different on the 8900 in the way treats Edge, and while I haven't stumbled across any official word on the subject, after using the device for a while during my testing I'd totally have too say *something* is going on here. I'm not sure exactly what it is... maybe it's just the speedy processor and glitch free OS working to their full potential or maybe something even more tech-cool is at work. Or maybe it's the fact the 8900 has twice the RAM. THANK YOU RIM!!
8900 left, Bold right. Twice as much Memory on the 8900!
Feel free to inform me in the comments if ya know something else that's going on here, but the fact the 8900 does not come with 3G seems like it will not be an issue for this device as I found the pages load just as fast (some if not faster) on the 8900 then they do on my Bold. Have a look at the comparison chart below for the details. Nothing really earth shattering but it does perform well.
*UPDATE* A lot have asked for the Bolds 3G numbers, here they are and in all fairness the Bold is running stock 184.108.40.206 that Rogers ships with it. Clearly showing the Java issue on some sites compared to the 8900's 220.127.116.11.
Packing a 3.2 megapixel camera, the 8900 takes nice looking pictures. I have never been one to rely on a BlackBerry (or any other device) camera for those precious moments, but if you need that quick pic fix, the 8900 will not disappoint. You can see the comparison between the Bold and the 8900 as taken below:
(Here is where that "warmer" screen makes itself known)
Battery life is included in this section. It fits into the OS. If the OS isn't on par don't expect the battery life to be. Now to keep this section fair I'll outright state I have not had the time to give this a battery a typical 2-3 day torture test. I haven't even had the device for 24 hrs yet. But I can say with all the testing I have done between WiFi, web browsing and just general messaging and BlackBerry Messenger, from a full charge the device has only moved one block which is indicative of it meeting or exceeding the 83XX series devices.
Call Quality And Media Sound
This is something that I don't usually pay too much attention to, but in this case it was suggested to me that the Curve 8900 actually has a noise cancellation system implemented into it to improve call quality. Apparently a second microphone has been placed on the back of the phone which picks up background noise and then the software cancels it out for improved voice quality. If you look at the bottom of the camera assembly, there is a little slit opening and it does look like "something" is in there. I tested the Curve 8900 out with a few people and while I can't say for certain that the system really is there...I can say that the over all call quality on this device is really nice and loud and clear... a good phone on both ends of the wireless line is my conclusion.
The device's media sound is also up too par. Like the Storm, the Curve 8900 has one internal speaker vs. the Bold's two. While it does not have the same bass of the Bold, the 8900 still holds its own when listening to music or watching videos, which is just plain awesome on that high resolution screen.
This is a great device. The overall build of the BlackBerry Curve 8900 has me loving it. Now the question people keep asking me is What device do you prefer? or What will be your daily device? and I have to admit, while the BlackBerry Curve 8900 packs a lot of punch into a very small, sexy package I am still a Bold man myself.
The only real factor here stopping me from swaying the other way is the size of the 8900. It's a bit too small for me if you can believe that! My Bold just feels better to me in my hands. When holding the 8900 I feel like Andre the Giant holding a beer can. It's a compliment to RIM that they can build such a small device that contains so much performance.
The lack of 3G here was never even a factor for me, at least in the short time that I have had the device, and I think that will be the cas moving onward as well. I guess the best way to put it would be that while it would be nice if the 8900 had 3G, the device itself is so good otherwise that unless you really need to talk and email at the same time the few extra seconds for browsing and downloading compared to the Bold shouldn't deter you from considering this as your smartphone of choice. From the sheer amount of people that have said they are waiting for the Curve 8900 over all other devices out there, I don't think RIM will have any issues getting these devices off the shelf. The 8900 is definitely worthy of the Curve name, and is a next step to build upon the success of the 8300 series.
That's it for me folks! I hope you have enjoyed my review on the BlackBerry Curve 8900. Please leave any comments and questions you may have in the comments and check out the Curve 8900 forums for more conversation. Keep Crack'n!!