The latest BlackBerry Curve is the next in a line of affordable email devices, following the offering of prepay Pearl models with inclusive, or heavily discounted, mobile data access.
The Pearl models had the SureType keyboard, while the 8520 is from the Curve family, meaning you have the traditional QWERTY keyboard. It’s a compact, slimline device that feels comfortable in the hand, with prominent buttons that are surprisingly accessible.
Part of the outer shell is rubberised to allow a better grip and offer more protection against bumps and knocks, with various shortcut keys embedded in the rubber.
To appeal to a younger market, RIM has also included media control buttons for the first time – a set of keys in a rubberised strip across the top of the device allow you to play/pause, fast forward, rewind and skip tracks without the need to take the phone out of standby.
Keep on track
An optical trackpad replaces the rollerball seen on previous incarnations, allowing you to smoothly navigate by sliding your finger in a certain direction. It’s an efficient solution that works well for applications, in particular the web browser and for moving around the menus.
However for a grid based menu, the rollerball was actually perfectly good, so the switch isn’t as significant or revolutionary as you might expect. But you better get used to it because all future BlackBerry models are going to be utilising an optical trackpad (except the touchscreen models of course).
On the rear of the phone is a 2-megapixel camera, with a fixed focus and no flash, and on the front a QVGA resolution display that is quite a step down from the 8900 and Bold models. The screen also has a much lower contrast, which will affect the enjoyment of any films you may want to watch, but to be honest it makes little difference for the more everyday tasks of reading emails or surfing the net.
Push email delivery is the BlackBerry smartphone’s raison d’être and the Curve 8520 doesn’t disappoint. Anyone who’s owned a BlackBerry device will appreciate the simplicity and convenience of having emails pushed directly to the device, whilst managing your messages is easy thanks to the logical and intuitive messaging application. The device also supports SMS, MMS and Instant Messaging, with all message formats handily stored together within the same application.
Some people may forget that most BlackBerry models are still not 3G, but this has never been an issue for the excellent email service that RIM provides. Wi-Fi can be used to up the speed, while the 8520 also retains GPS that is becoming a standard across the range. The network you get the 8520 on may decide on what specific navigation package comes on the device, or you can use Google Maps instead.
Work, rest and play
A host of programs are embedded on the device for both business and entertainment purposes. Alongside the multimedia apps are MemoPad and Voice Notes, plus a suite of Office apps to open Word, Powerpoint and Excel documents.
For entertainment needs there’s a fully-functional media player onboard, with support for music, pictures and videos. The music player lists tracks by Songs; Artists; Albums or Genres. You can create new playlists on the move and there’s support for Album Art and a shuffle mode. A 3.5mm stereo headset jack allows you to hook up your own set of headphones. The handset also includes Stereo Bluetooth for a wireless music experience with compatible headphones.
BlackBerry Media Sync is included in the box, enabling you to quickly sync music and video with iTunes or Windows Media Player. Five games are provided too; the pick of the bunch are BrickBreaker, Sudoko and Texas Hold’em poker.
If all that isn’t enough then users can of course access BlackBerry App World, an ever-growing database of applications covering games, entertainment and productivity.
As an on and off BlackBerry user for many years, battery life has been an area that has gradually moved users away from having something that could last for a week at a time, to another gadget that needs to be charged daily. The staying power of the 8520 could actually help see a return to those glory days.
BlackBerry’s latest email/smartphone device is an affordable model featuring an optical trackpad to replace the traditional rollerball, along with a QVGA resolution display and 2-megapixel camera. The top of the phone now has three multimedia keys for play/pause, fast forward and rewind, for use with the integrated media player. The handset also includes Media Sync software for the PC and access to BlackBerry’s AppWorld store. There’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, with a 3.5mm headphone jack on the side, above the Micro-USB charging/data socket.