I really like the new T-Mobile BlackBerry Curve. I've only had it for a few days, so don't take this as a "Long Term Road Test" (thanks, Ryan, for the car magazine parlance), but after two days on the test track color me impressed. The new Curve - officially it's not called Curve 2 - packs a brilliant display and zippy processor into a body that's thinner and more pocketable than it's closest cousin, the BlackBerry Bold 9000 for AT&T. While Curve's keyboard is smaller and more plasticky (chiclet-style) feeling than Bold's, I don't think that even die-hard Crackberry addicts will find anything to complain about with this QWERTY.
There's one glaring issue here, however: 3G connectivity is noticeably absent from T-Mo's new flagship BlackBerry.
Lack of 3G will no doubt be the stumbling block for some would-be Curve adopters. Honestly, you'll only miss it when browsing the Web. That's a big "only," I know, but I had no issues with Email, messaging, or voice quality when using the 8900 on T-Mobile's GSM/EDGE network here in the San Francisco, CA area this week. WiFi-enabled UMA calling is a bonus on the 8900, as TMo's HotSpot plan lets Curve users save on minutes and experience enhanced voice quality when talking over a UMA connection. The device automatically switches from GSM to UMA calling mode when an open WiFi network is detected.
UMA or not, call quality on the 8900 was stellar during my testing. I tried one-to-one calls, conference calls, the included stereo headset, and speakerphone, and came away happy in all cases. The integrated 3.5mm audio jack means that you can easily upgrade to a nicer set of 'phones to make full use of Curve's audio and video players.
Speaking of video, the 8900's 480 x 360 display is actually of higher resolution than the one found on Bold, even though it's smaller physically. The display is flat-out great, rendering text, images, and video in bright, smooth color that's easy on the eyes despite the screen's relatively small 2.44" diagonal measurement.
Which brings me back to the 3G factor. At this point, most cell phone buyers know what 3G is - or at least that they want it. T-Mobile's got a great piece of hardware in this latest Curve, so it's a shame that they couldn't get a 3G radio in there, too. In reality, Email addicts who occasionally foray onto the Web won't really miss 3G data speeds all that much. But who wants to buy a brand new phone with a two-year contract if they're getting yesterday's technology, right?
It's your call. Me, I think I might just prefer the 8900s hardware to Bold's, mainly because it's smaller, thinner and lighter without sacrificing any usability. But giving up 3G for the next two years? That's a bitter pill to swallow.