The banner year for RIM continues. Their profits are way up from this point last year, their devices have been getting great reviews and their subscriber base is growing by the day. Their entree into the consumer market began with the BlackBerry Pearl - the 8100. This now comes in 8120 and 8110 variation depending on whether the user want GPS or WiFi added. They quickly followed it up with the 8800 - bringing a much needed redesign to their corporate clients. This is now also in 8820 and 8830 variations. My favorite of the lineup is the Curve - the 8300. Now, the Curve gets a killer feature set in the new 8320 from T-Mobile. WiFi is added and so is the very cool new "Hot Spot at Home" feature.
The 8320 sits smaller than the 8800, yet wider than the Pearl. It seems to take the best of both worlds, however - the big screen and great resolution of the 8800 and pocketable size and thinness of the Pearl. Add in rich media features and 2.0 megapixel camera, Stereo Bluetooth and now WiFi and it looks like RIM has a huge hit on its hands. Read on for a thorough review.
When I first held the BlackBerry Curve, I felt it improved upon many of the features found in both the BlackBerry Pearl and the 8800 series. It is very solid to hold, has a full QWERTY keyboard, a big screen, multi-media features and famous BlackBerry email capabilities. The 8320 adds some new features into BlackBerry's arsenal like WiFi, a 2.0 mega pixel camera and A2DP - Bluetooth Stereo Streaming capabilities.
The killer feature is certainly the Wifi and the "Hot Spot at Home" feature - but more on that later. First, here is all the "official" information you need.
Research In Motion is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of innovative wireless solutions for the worldwide mobile communications market. Through the development of integrated hardware, software and services that support multiple wireless network standards, RIM provides platforms and solutions for seamless access to time-sensitive information including e-mail, phone, SMS messaging, Internet and intranet-based applications.
RIM technology also enables a broad array of third party developers and manufacturers to enhance their products and services with wireless connectivity to data. RIM’s portfolio of award-winning products, services and embedded technologies are used by thousands of organizations around the world and include the BlackBerry® wireless platform, software development tools, radio-modems and software/hardware licensing agreements.
Founded in 1984 and based in Waterloo, Ontario, RIM operates offices in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. RIM is listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market (Nasdaq: RIMM) and the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: RIM).
2. Features - specifications
|Wi-Fi and Mobile Calling*
||Transition between Wi-Fi calling and T-Mobile's wireless network while you talk when used with a HotSpot @Home wireless router and HotSpot@Home optional service.
||Send and receive e-mail messages on your phone.
|GPRS/EDGE and Wi-Fi enabled*
||Access fast, wireless connections from anywhere on the T-Mobile USA network.
|Real web browsing*
||Get more pages and better Web content delivered efficiently to your phone.
||The quick, quiet way to stay connected.
||Send pictures from your phone to others.
|2.0 megapixel camera
||Take high-quality pictures from your phone that you can enlarge or print
|Micro SD memory slot
||Add more memory for multimedia files, data, and more.
||Play your favorite music wherever you are.
||Get unlimited any-network calling to any 5 people with a myFaves plan.
|Quad-band world phone (850/900/1800/1900 MHz)
||Use this phone in any of the countries where T-Mobile provides GPRS service.
|Instant messaging: AOL®, Yahoo!® and ICQ®*
||Send and receive instant messages with AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo!, or ICQ.
|Bluetooth® wireless technology
||Lose the wires and keep your hands free for more important things – Bluetooth lets you connect your phone to your headset or computer wirelessly.
||Put down the phone and keep talking with a convenient speakerphone.
Featuring a metallic finish, clean lines and soft edges, the BlackBerry® Curve™ 8320 smartphone is the smallest and lightest BlackBerry® smartphone ever to come with a full QWERTY keyboard.
It’s packed with incredible features*, including a camera, media player, Wi-Fi capabilities, expandable memory, Voice Dialing, BlackBerry® Maps and trackball navigation. Plus, you get all the core functionality you’ve come to expect in a BlackBerry smartphone—email and text messaging, instant messaging, web browser and advanced phone functionality.
The BlackBerry Curve—it’s your connection to everything that matters.
The BlackBerry Curve 8320 smartphone has all the features you need *:
Stay in Touch
- Wireless email: Send, receive, forward and reply to messages, and view attachments in popular file formats
- Advanced phone features: Speakerphone and Voice Activated Dialing, user-definable convenience keys and dedicated Send, End and Mute keys
- Instant Messaging: Connect with your IM contacts using popular applications like Yahoo!® Messenger and Google Talk™
- SMS and MMS*: Send text messages and images in an instant
- Media player: Listen to your favorite songs and watch video clips1
- Camera: Capture the moment in perfect clarity with 2.0MP, built-in zoom and flash
- 3.5mm stereo headset capable
Find the Info You Need
- Browser: Navigate and browse websites with a roll and click of the trackball
- Organizer: Synch and store your calendar data, address book and more
- Corporate data access*: Access your vital corporate databases and applications from anywhere
- BlackBerry® Maps: Get directions and view maps while on the road
- Wi-Fi® support so you can connect to virtually any Wi-Fi network2
- Tethered modem capability: Use your smartphone as a wireless modem for your laptop or PC*
- 64 MB of built-in memory and an expandable microSD memory slot1
- Bluetooth® capability for hands-free dialogue
- Full QWERTY keyboard layout for fast text and email composition
- High-resolution, light-sensing screen
- Rated for hearing aids (PDF): M3, T3
The BlackBerry Curve 8320 smartphone works with your organization's BlackBerry® Enterprise Solution to provide corporate-strength functionality, including enhanced security features and easier access to company information.
The BlackBerry 8320 smartphone also gives you Wi-Fi access**, which means that if your organization has deployed the BlackBerry Enterprise Solution, you can securely access all your corporate data over Wi-Fi networks, onsite or off. Your BlackBerry services will deliver the same functionality as when you’re connected to the mobile network.
Unlike traditional mobile phones, the BlackBerry Curve smartphone can be centrally managed and supported by IT departments. Remote address book look-up, single mailbox integration and push delivery of data from corporate applications are just a few of the features available.
- Wireless email
- BlackBerry® Maps
- Media player
- Corporate data access 1
- MMS 1
Size and Weight
- 4.2"/107mm (Length)
- 2.4"/60mm (Width)
- 0.6"/15.5mm (Depth)
- 3.9 oz/111g (Weight)
- QWERTY (Keyboard)
- Keyboard backlighting
- 3.5mm stereo headset capable
- Headset jack
- Integrated earpiece/ microphone
- Built-in speakerphone
- Mono/stereo headset, hands-free and serial port profiles supported (Bluetooth® technology)
- M3, T3 (Rating for hearing aids)
- Font size (user selectable)
- Color display
- Light sensing screen
- Polyphonic/MIDI ringtones
- MP3 ringtones
- Vibrate mode
- LED indicator
- 1100 mAhr (Removable/ rechargeable lithium cell)
Approximate Battery Life
- Up to 408 hours or 17 days (Standby time)
- Up to 240 minutes or 4 hours (Talk time)
- Expandable memory – support for microSD card
- 64 MB (Flash memory)
- RIM® wireless modem
- Tethered modem capability 1
- Works with BlackBerry® Enterprise Server for Microsoft® Exchange
- Works with BlackBerry® Enterprise Server for IBM® Lotus® Domino®
- Works with BlackBerry® Enterprise Server for Novell® GroupWise®
- Integrates with an existing enterprise email account
- Integrates with existing personal email account
- Integrates with optional new device account
- Password protection and keyboard lock
- Support for AES or Triple DES encryption when integrated with BlackBerry® Enterprise Server 2
- FIPS 140-2 Validated (FIPS validation)
- Optional support for S/MIME
- Wi-Fi: 802.11b/g
- North America: 850 MHz GSM/GPRS networks
- North America: 1900MHz GSM®/GPRS networks
- Europe/Asia Pacific: 1800MHz GSM/GPRS networks
- Europe/Asia Pacific: 900MHz GSM/GPRS networks
- EDGE networks
3. Design, operation
The 8320 really does take the best of both the Pearl and the 8800 Series. People either love or hate the SureType keyboard on the Pearl and there were mixed reviews of the full QWERTY keyboard on the 8800. The 8320 responds with a full QWERTY design with a wonderful tactile feel. Keys are similar in shape to the 8800 but with a much more "rubberized feel" and great spacing. Two finger typing was better on the Curve than any other BlackBerry I have tested.
The screen is wider than the Pearl, but no taller - pretty much identical to the 8800. Colors were bright and beautiful.
On the front of the device, under the screen, there is the trackball - front and center - with the "Escape" or "Back" key to the right and the "Menu" key to the left of the trackball. To the left of the Menu key sits the familiar "Green" phone key which places calls or accesses the phone menus and to the far right is the "Red" end or cancel key.
The top of the Curve has the traditional BlackBerry "Mute" button on the left-hand side. There are Volume up and Volume down buttons along the right hand side of the device. Also on the right hand side of the device is a dedicated convenience key pre-programmed for the Camera.
Along the left hand side you can find the mini-USB charging port (The Curve can charge off an AC adapter, the PC or the car,) a full 3.5 mm earphone/headphone port and a dedicated "Convenience" button which is by default set to the Voice Dialing Program.
The Curve is designed with a full QWERTY keyboard. Each key can also double for a number or symbol with a push of the ALT key. The keys are close together - but not too close by any means. I also found them to be bigger and easier to push than the Treo keys. The keys are contoured with flat faces and rounded sides.
One very nice feature is the inclusion of the Micro SD card which sits in a dedicated slot under the back cover of the 8320. While this might be a little inconvenient, it is certainly better than the placement under the battery (which how the 8100 is designed.) In reality, I find that once I insert a memory card it stays there. If you frequently swap out your memory cards, you might find the placement inconvenient.
The intangible element which is hard to describe is how nice this thing feels in your hand. Heavy, but not really - more solid than anything. It has a nice rubberized texture on the sides and parts of the bottom and back. Where the original 8800 felt sort of "cheap" by blackberry standards, the 8320 feels rugged and not fragile. It is also beautifully thin - as thin as the Pearl. It is noticeably shorter and thinner than the 8800 fitting nicely in a pocket or purse. My Test unit was in a pale Gold color which was really nice.
The 8320 as an Email Device:
BlackBerry devices are known for their email capabilities and the 8320 certainly excels in this area. The 8320 can handle up to 10 personal email accounts and also works with the BlackBerry enterprise Server for all your corporate email needs.
BlackBerry Internet Service
BlackBerry Internet Email™, part of BlackBerry Internet Service™, allows users to access up to ten personal and corporate email accounts (such as Yahoo!® and Microsoft® Exchange) from a single device
Wireless synchronization (optional setting)
- Messages deleted on your handset will be automatically deleted from your email account.
- Messages read on your handset will be automatically marked as read in your email account.
- Messages sent from your handset will appear in the ‘sent items’ folder of your email account.
Account configuration features include:
- Reply-to address
- Friendly Name
- Auto Signature
With BlackBerry Internet Service you can also create a special BlackBerry email address just for your device. The device you are using has already been set up with a special address that looks like this: (name)@tmobile.blackberry.net.
BlackBerry Enterprise Server
Users can also select the BlackBerry Enterpriser Server option. Users can use this option to associate the BlackBerry Pearl with a Microsoft® Outlook, IBM® Lotus® Notes® or Novell® GroupWise® work email account and to take advantage of advanced wireless data synchronization capabilities. If a system administrator has provided an enterprise activation password, users can set up email using this option by selecting the I want to use a work email account with a BlackBerry Enterprise Server option in the setup wizard of the handset. If the user does not have an enterprise activation password, contact the system administrator.
Email setup was a snap. I used the BIS (BlackBerry Internet Service) and had my email up and running very quickly. The BlackBerry was not able to automatically configure my IMAP account, but I was able to very easily input the settings and get that working perfectly.
When email arrives, the LED in the upper right hand corner flashes red. Simply navigate to the messages icon and there is your email. A simple push on the trackball and a click of reply and you can easily type in your reply. One more click of the trackball and you send your email. It could not be easier.
The full keyboard is a nice addition. Although, I find that my emails are just as quick using the Sure-Type keyboard on the Pearl, I must say that it is nice to use a full keyboard and not have to wonder if the right word will be displayed. They keys worked well for me - more responsive than either the 8800 or the Treo or MotoQ keys..
The 8320 as a Phone:
I found the call quality of the 8320 to be generally very good. I always had strong signal and never had a problem hearing callers. Callers on the other end told me that my voice sounded fine and clear. Even on this island on which I live, the T-Mobile signal was very good. The Curve is a full featured phone. You can make conference calls, use call forwarding, set individual ring tones and pictures for your contacts, access your call log - pretty much everything you need a phone to do.
The 8320 also includes Voice Signal's speech recognition "Voice Command" software which worked quite well. Simply say "Call X" and the Voice Command software confirms your selection, asks you whether you want "home" or "work" or "mobile" and places the call. No voice training was necessary.
When a call came in, a simple press of the Green phone key or the trackball answered the call. The 8320 also has an excellent speaker phone option which was loud and clear. Call Waiting, Call Forwarding, Conference Calling and more were a handled very easily on the 8320.
4. PIM, Multimedia faetures
The 8320 as a PIM (Personal Information Manager)
All your PIM needs can certainly be handled by this phone. Since this is primarily a business device (that many consumers will use) it handles calendar, address book, tasks, memos and attachments with ease.
The Calendar program is very easy to use and quite powerful. It easily Syncs with either Outlook or most other popular programs and it can import your data from a .csv or tab delineated format. It was easy to navigate to the date wanted with the trackball. Click the trackball and you can easily navigate down to put in the subject of the appointment, change the date, time, duration, set alarms and set recurring appointments.
The address book can also import your information from Outlook or other programs and can also import Vcard files. I found that it even imported the pictures that I used with my contacts from Outlook. One of the nice features of the BlackBerry address book is the ability to highlight your contact, then push the menu key and scroll to send them an SMS message, email them or call them. The BlackBerry software makes these tasks very intuitive. Contextual help built into each application can also guide the user through the various tasks and capabilities.
Tasks and memos can also easily be imported and were easy to use on the Curve. The nice amount of real estate on the screen and the bright, self adjusting light of the screen coupled with clear fonts made reading memos and tasks quite nice. One nice feature found on the Curve (as well as other newer Blackberries) is Voice memos. it is so easy to just record a message and send it to a contact. They receive a simple .wav file which most other phones can open easily.
The BlackBerry Curve is capable of viewing attachments in most formats - PDF's, Spreadsheets, Document and Power Points (albeit scaled down) but it cannot edit these files or open them in any other form than from attachments. For most business users, this is adequate functionality. On the horizon is Documents to Go for the BlackBerry which, if priced similarly to the Windows Mobile version, will take the BlackBerry world by storm.
The 8320 is much more of a "Media Centric" device that the 8800 and it has better Media features than the Pearl. This version of the 8320 was linked to T-Mobile media services which are somewhat paltry compared to AT&T and Verizon. A click on the main "Media" icon brings up a nice media screen with easy navigation between Music, Video, Ringtones and Pictures. Music sounded crisp through the Curve and the standard 3.5 mm jack makes plugging in your headphones a snap. You will want to think about using a combo Earphone/Microphone setup since you can take calls while listening to music
There is an icon on the 8320 for T-Zones which is for shopping games, tones, music and graphics. Music sounded really good. Downloading the new Flipside MP3 player allowed me to have cover art and use an iPod like "Cover Flow" system for navigating my music. What is even cooler than that is that the Curve supports A2DP - Streaming Bluetooth Stereo. So, you can stream music and listen through Bluetooth Stereo Headphones (look ma, no wires.)
Music can be loaded using the desktop manager software onto the Micro SD card (to save space) into the Music subdirectory. Simply navigate to the music and play a single song, play all of your music, shuffle your songs and even show the playlist on the screen. Music is arranged by songs, artists, genres and you have the ability to shuffle your music as well. There are no audio controls except for volume - but music sounded very good on the Curve - certainly rivaling the sonic quality of pretty much any MP3 player.
The 8320 ships with a sample video which was remarkably smooth. Getting my own videos to play was another matter altogether. While the Curve does support several different video formats, most videos had to be converted to work properly on the Curve. Fortunately, unlike the older versions of the Pearl and 8800, the 8320 now comes with a Media Manager desktop program based on Roxio's Media Manager software. There are options for Video conversion built in which made life much easier than on the Pearl and the 8800.
The Camera in a 2.0 Mega Pixel design with flash and a multitude of photo settings available. Overall picture quality was about what you would expect for a typical 2.0 mega pixel design.
Assigning your MP3's as ringtones was very easy, provided you have the song copied in the "Ringtone" folder on either the Micro SD card or the device itself.
There are many free games, however, which can be downloaded from the BlackBerry Help bookmark in the web browser. I found Solitaire, a fishing game and several others which were easy to install, fun to play and looked great on the BlackBerry screen.
5. Web browsing, Wifi
I do believe (and some disagree with me) that the BlackBerry web browser is tops in the mobile browsing field. Of course, the new iPhone (based on the Safari Browser) is providing a strong challenge to my theory. The BlackBerry browser loads text first and quickly adds the graphics. Web pages that took close to 30 seconds to fully load on a Windows Mobile phone with a 3G connection took almost half as long to load on the BlackBerry.
Setting bookmarks was very easy as was putting in an address to go to.
One nice feature of the BlackBerry is the availability of free "Push" web services like weather, Reuters news and others. The BlackBerry will periodically go online and update the content and push it right to your phone.
I found the trackball great for web browsing - it was very easy and intuitive to move up, down, left or right on the screen using the trackball.
Wifi and Hotspot At Home:
Without a doubt, the killer feature of this particular BlackBerry is the Built in Wifi and the "Hot Spot at Home" feature from T-Mobile. When users activate the "Hot Spot at Home" option, they receive an optimized Wireless router (although I found previously set-up routers worked fine) which is specifically designed to allow the phone usage to have priority for bandwidth. Whichever router you use - the process is quite simple.
Run the Wireless setup utility on the 8320 and connect to the WiFi network or T-Mobile Hotspot of choice. From that point on, whenever you are in range of that particular network, your 8320 will automatically transition from the traditional GSM network to your wireless network. The signal strength meter and the Data Connection (either GPRS or EDGE) will be replaced with a wireless icon and the letters UMA. UMA is an acronym for Unlicensed Mobile Access which is an access technology that allows subscribers to switch between fixed and mobile networks, without dropping a phone call.
UMA enables subscribers to switch between a Wide Area Cellular Network (WAN) to a Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN). This delivers high-performance, low-cost mobile voice, data and IMS services to subscribers over the broadband Wi-Fi access networks, dramatically increasing mobile service usage and decreases the costs for operators. It uses Bluetooth or 802.11 for wireless connections in your home or office.
The beauty of this is that the transition is seamless and call quality was great. The added bonus is that UMA calls don't use minutes. So, if you primarily use your 8320 at home or at the office and you have access to wireless networks at both places, you will use very few minutes.
NOTE: There is one unique feature that is important to note here. If you start a call on UMA and then "transition" to GSM, the transition is smooth and minutes will not be charged (at least at this point) because the call originated over a UMA connection. In the reverse situation, if you initiate a call over GSM and transition to UMA - you will still be charged minutes for the duration of the call.
The bottom line is the Web surfing and downloading over WiFi is faster than GPRS and EDGE and calls over WiFi don't cost you anything - two good features built into the 8320.
The "Hot Spot at Home" feature sets you back only $19.00 a month for a single line or $29.00 for a family plan.
Bundled Software and Accessories:
The BlackBerry 8320 come very nicely equipped - much better equipped than pretty much any other smartphone. In the box, you get the Phone, AC charger, USB charging/Data cable, an earbud headset, stereo earphones with a Microphone, a Micro SD card Adapter, manual and CD with a great video tutorial.
Software is pretty standard issue. BlackBerry does have lots of free downloadable add ons from the BlackBerry Home page or Help page of the web browser. News readers, Push content, games and free wallpaper and ringtones can easily be found if you look for them.
6. Overall Conclusions
I love my Pearl. That being said, I think this is BlackBerry's best device to date. The 8320 is so nice to hold and use. It feels solid - there is no squeaking like the 8800 and the Pearl. The keys are very tactile and easy to use. BlackBerry Email just can't be beat and it works flawlessly on the 8320.
Throw in a good 2.0 Mega Pixel camera and full media capabilities along with flawless Synchronization with Outlook and you have (almost) the perfect device. Powerful enough for the business user and die-hard BlackBerry user and fun for those looking to also use this as an MP3 device, Video viewer and Camera.
Bluetooth Stereo is a great addition and its uses will only continue to grow.
Toss is the built in WiFi and the "Hot Spot at Home" Feature and you might just have the most feature rich Smartphone on the market today.
Final Grade: A
Pros; Great size, feel and build quality. Nice set of features, great email capabilities. A good Media device. Built in WiFI is a killer feature
Cons: Call quality was good but not great.
The BlackBerry 8320 is available for $249.00 from http://www.tmobile.com after a $50.00 rebate. You can find it for less on Wifefly or Amazon.com as well.