It's been a long 3 months for BlackBerry fanatics wanting Sprint/Nextel's push-to-talk functionality. Now the carrier, which unveiled the BlackBerry Curve 8350i back in September, has finally made the smartphone available for sale today at Sprint.com.

In developing the Curve 8350i, Research In Motion included everything that BlackBerry users typically expect from their smartphones, including push e-mail, messaging, multimedia player, Bluetooth, rollerball, microSD card slot and a QWERTY keyboard, plus a few extras. But what Sprint is really plugging is the iDEN push-to-talk technology (with the Nextel Direct Connect service).

The press release touts it as the most advanced push-to-talk BlackBerry ever, offering:
•  Group Connect that can instantly set up group conversations with up to 20 participants.
•  International Direct Connect that enables instant connections between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru.
•  Talkgroup feature that connects groups (up to 200 people) at once within the same local market and fleet.
•  GPS and integrated business solutions, including a big selection of GPS-enabled programs, plus thousands of other third-party apps
•  Built-in Wifi that allows customers to send and receive emails or browse the web while talking on the phone.
•  2 MP camera with digital zoom, flash and video recording
Cast in a ruggedized all-black casing, the phone itself is slim, at 4.4" x 2.4" x .7", and weighs 4.7 ounces -- which is very respectable compared to to other smartphones. But Boy Genius bemoaned the fact that it's slightly larger than other Curve models -- "around 2mm taller and 1mm thicker than the other Curves (8300, 8310, 8320, 8330)" -- as well as some lackluster signal strength. Still, overall, it looks like a solid phone with excellent communications options (especially if you're responsible for corralling an enormous crew of people).

Sprint is currently offering it for $149.99 with a 2-year commitment and mail-in rebate. It will be available in brick-and-mortar Sprint stores on January 11.

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