RIM (BlackBerry) came out with some brand-new BlackBerry handset designs last year that diverted attention from what it does best: make solid business smartphones for businesspeople. The BlackBerry Curve 8900 returns to the original remit, having picked up a few neat tricks along the way.

Unlike the touchscreen BlackBerry Storm handset, the BlackBerry Curve 8900 comes with a real qwerty keypad with raised keys and lends itself to two-handed text entry. Navigation is via a globular orb betwixt keypad and screen but, unlike previous models, it is grey rather than white and doesn't glow.

The BlackBerry Curve 8900 has the same smart, silver-edged look of the BlackBerry Bold handset as well as the attractive, white edged application icons on its 2.8in screen. The 480x360 display offers email, contact book, calendar, Web 'N' Walk, call log and SMS and MMS notifications. As ever, pressing the BlackBerry button just below the screen takes you to a whole screenful of other features and applications - with the BlackBerry Application Storefront launching, it's as well that RIM has structured the onscreen layout so well.

Getting online with the BlackBerry Curve 8900 is very easy. Click the Setup button and a Wi-Fi setup wizard is one of the four options offered (another is Bluetooth profiles). If Wi-Fi isn't active, the Curve offers to turn it on before searching for available networks. Logging on to our secure office network took less than 20 seconds overall, with the network name displayed discreetly at the very top of the screen. The Curve offers to prioritise the order in which it attempts to log on to your frequently used networks and to store details of any you make routine use of.

Email can be set up on the BlackBerry Curve 8900 using either POP or IMAP webmail servers, but it's also possible to hook in to a corporate email server using the BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) and replicate your Lotus Notes Domino account or equivalent.

Email management is as solid as ever with one-click access to options to instead send standard SMS or MMS messages. Busy business people will also relish the inclusion of Word To Go, Sheet To Go and a Voice Notes Recorder, all found in the Applications folder.

For more personal use, the BlackBerry Curve 8900 also offers direct access to the onboard 3.2Mp camera via a hardware button halfway down the righthand side - autofocus, zoom, flash and the ability to rename or file or instantly send photos to contacts make this a notable addition.

The BlackBerry Curve 8900 takes crisp, clear shots with plenty of detail - a huge contrast to identical ones we took on the Apple iPhone, for example.

The BlackBerry Curve 8900's video recorder is launched with a press of the BlackBerry button and, while the VGA quality is nothing to write home about, it's another feature that helps distinguish this model of Curve from other smartphones. Again, you can choose a file name to save it under.

RIM (BlackBerry) came out with some brand-new BlackBerry handset designs last year that diverted attention from what it does best: make solid business smartphones for businesspeople. The BlackBerry Curve 8900 returns to the original remit, having picked up a few neat tricks along the way.

The video player on the BlackBerry Curve 8900, however, is definitely a worthwhile feature. A BlackBerry media manager with built-in search means finding what you want is very fast and, as long as the original footage is properly encoded, plays smoothly even when the action is fast and the levels of detail high. A standard headphone jack can be used and the audio quality is impressive.

Perhaps more importantly, the BlackBerry Curve 8900 makes the grade as a phone. The distinctive broad speaker above the BlackBerry logo on the front Curve's front ensures volume isn't an issue. When you press the green dial button, your own number is shown at the top - invaluable if you need to give it out to someone - while assigned speed dial numbers as well as the usual alphanumeric contact list mean you quickly find the details you need.

Finally, the BlackBerry Curve 8900 won't embarrass you by being short of juice when you most need it. Its standby time of half a month is legendary and it has an impressive talktime of around six hours.

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BlackBerry Curve 8900: Specs

  • Quad-band GSM, GPRS, Edge smartphone
  • Wi-Fi
  • GPS (with BlackBerry Maps)
  • 3.2Mp camera
  • QVGA video camera
  • enhanced media manager
  • webmail and BlackBerry Enterprise Server email support
  • web browser
  • Word To Go
  • Excel To Go (editable)
  • Bluetooth
  • microSD card slot
  • 1400mAh lithium-ion battery
  • 15 day standby
  • 5.5 hour talktime
  • 60x109x14mm
  • 110g
  • Quad-band GSM, GPRS, Edge smartphone
  • Wi-Fi
  • GPS (with BlackBerry Maps)
  • 3.2Mp camera
  • QVGA video camera
  • enhanced media manager
  • webmail and BlackBerry Enterprise Server email support
  • web browser
  • Word To Go
  • Excel To Go (editable)
  • Bluetooth
  • microSD card slot
  • 1400mAh lithium-ion battery
  • 15 day standby
  • 5.5 hour talktime
  • 60x109x14mm
  • 110g

OUR VERDICT

What you don’t get on the BlackBerry Curve 8900 are 3G connectivity or a screenful of apps that you don’t really need – any extras you decide you need will soon be available from the Storefront. The result is a solid, smart but unflashy smartphone that offers all the business connectivity you need and keeps the multimedia features a click away rather than having them constantly on show.

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