RIM BlackBerry has kitted out its entry-level BlackBerry Curve smartphone with 3G connectivity. The BlackBerry Curve 3G 9300 smartphone looks identical to the BlackBerry Curve 8520, but adds 3G and GPS capabilities.
The BlackBerry Curve 3G is an inexpensive smartphone targeted at both the corporate and consumer markets. The Curve 3G is virtually identical in design to the BlackBerry Curve 8520, but swaps the combination of glossy black plastic and rubber sides for a more attractive, shadow chrome trim. The external volume buttons, camera key and shortcut button look as if they're bulging from the rubber edging on each side and are easy to press. Despite the Curve 3G's light weight, the build quality is impressive and the rear battery cover doesn't rattle (a common issue on previous BlackBerry smartphones).
A few design issues remain, notably the multimedia and lock keys on the top of the BlackBerryCurve 3G requiring a forceful press to activate, the smaller Curve keyboard emitting an annoying clicking sound when pressed, and the low resolution display. Although this is an entry-level smartphone, the poor resolution and below-average viewing angles make video playback and Web browsing inferior to many competing smartphones.
A real positive is the BlackBerry optical trackpad, which has replaced the trackball formerly used on BlackBerry smartphones. The trackpad has no moving parts and you simply glide your finger across an almost flat surface. It takes a little getting used to the speed of the on-screen movement and scrolling using the trackpad (the speed can be adjusted in the settings menu) but it's responsive and is a nice way to interact with a non-touchscreen smartphone.
The BlackBerry Curve 3G smartphone will initially ship with the 5.0 version of BlackBerry OS, but RIM has stated that the device is ready for BlackBerry 6 OS. The new features of the BlackBerry 6 OS include a WebKit-based browser, a completely redesigned user interface, new social-networking features, and an improved music library. While the BlackBerry Curve 3G offers the same software features as the Curve 8520 now, the latter won't be upgradeable to OS 6.
Any BlackBerry is primarily an email device and the BlackBerry Curve 3G supports email through the BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) or the BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES). Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents can be viewed and edited thanks to the on-board Word To Go and Sheet To Go applications. The current BlackBerry browser doesn't match Apple Safari's high standards on the iPhone and the low resolution display does hinder the mobile Web experience. It's also far too easy to accidentally click on links. In addition to 3G connectivity, the BlackBerry Curve 3G has Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth.
The low quality display also detracts from the BlackBerry Curve 3G's multimedia appeal, but a 3.5mm headphone jack, a suite of multimedia apps (quickly accessed by pressing the physical play button on top of the phone) and a microSD card slot go some way to improving the smartphone's feature set. Unfortunately, the basic 2-megapixel camera takes poor photos and there is no flash. It doubles as a video recorder, but the video quality also fails to impress.
The BlackBerry Curve 3G provides access to BlackBerry App World, RIM's third-party app store. It doesn't boast the same number of apps as Apple's App Store, or Google's Android Market, but most of the popular apps (such as Facebook, Twitter, eBay and Windows Live Messenger) are available.
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