Last night, I bumped into my good friend and total geek Ronen, who offered to let me play with the newest phone out there, the 8520. This is the one with the new trackball, and he asked me to send in my first impressions. I may not get into the technical side of things, but I hope to give an accurate description of my first few hours with the device as a regular BlackBerry user. Ronen did not want to do the review since he would be comparing it to the Bold which would find it lacking but compared to my 8330 this is a definite move in the right direction. You can find the 8520 Curve on T-Mobile’s website for $129 but Amazon has a much better deal offering it for only a penny with a 2 year contract.
The outside: Coming from the Verizon 8330, this device is definitely a bit sleeker to hold. The black plastic and rubber coating is an ascetic upgrade from my curve, that’s for sure. It is quite a bit lighter, but it did not feel cheap or flimsy. It is a smidgen wider and taller and maybe a drop thinner, but overall it keeps to that general good feeling that a BlackBerry gives your hand now-a-day. No more of that 8800 wideness, you can still easily type with one hand or two. Among the many differences between this 8520 and my current 8330 are the Media buttons on top. There are 3, rewind, play/stop/mute, and forward. Their functionality was marred for me by the speaker, located right behind the buttons. I found that my finger would bump or scrape against the protrusion, and it takes away from the overall sleekness. I am a stickler for smooth edges, and sadly, this BlackBerry continued to disappoint as it has a few places where the plastic meets rubber that catch your finger. Not a deal breaker by any means, just a personal pet peeve.
Getting back to the outer design, the outside buttons are covered in plastic, a new feeling but the work just as well. The plug (micro-usb) and the headphone jack are on the left side, consistent with the curve mentality. The black of the BlackBerry displays the camera, with no flash; it’s just a hole in the back of the blackberry. The battery cover is a little strange, when a groove to pop off the cover instead of a button to push. Under the cover, the micro SD card is not under the battery, so that you can remove it without losing power. The battery is the same as the 8330, which was convenient since I forgot that micro usb charger.
Moving on to the front of the BlackBerry, it is consistent to what I have seen from the other next-gen BlackBerrys, with the smooth black face. The keys are all easy to use, and though some people write about the subtle differences in keyboards between different models, to me they are all basically the same, and easy and comfortable to use. Of course, this brings me to my favorite part of this BlackBerry, and probably the only reason you kept reading this review, the new optical track pad. In a word, it is absolutely Awesome! It is responsive, comfortable, smooth, etc, etc. It follows the flicks of your finger exactly as the old “ball” did. I felt zero lag time, and found that I enjoy scrolling through emails or playing games more with the track pad than the trackball. It also feels much smoother going from the hard buttons or the keyboard to the track pad, since there is not a depressed circle for the ball. I did find that I was moving the track pad if I went from the call to end button, but I am sure that another few hours would have me used to it in no time. I am sad to be going back to my 8330, that’s for sure.
On to the display: The operating system is 22.214.171.1249, for those who need to know the nitty gritty. When you power up this device, it defaults to the Fave Five display. Adding someone was easy, and hiding the display is just as easy, although it steals an available icon. The operating system was smooth and quick for the time that I had it, not freezing up or taking a long time to run programs. I installed a few programs without any issues. I also had no signal issues, from Manhattan to jersey and back. The wireless setup was easy and quick, and it connected to my network without any issues. The speakerphone is clear and loud, and the speaker in unhindered by the back cover. The BlackBerry came with a full assortment of chat programs, as well as a welcome amount of games! This was the first time I had seen this, not just beloved brickbreaker. (By the way, brickbreaker with the track pad will take a little time to get used to, after years of rolling the ball hard to the left/right.) The camera took decent pictures, but compared to the 8330 2.0 MP camera, there was not too much of a difference. I did see that the video camera was a little clearer, with 5X zoom as opposed to the older curves.
Overall, it is a serious upgrade for those who have not moved onto the future BlackBerrys, and are stuck in the 83XX area or lower. Is this the device to make you jump networks, with the Bold and Tour out there? I don’t think so, with the camera being 2.0 mp and there not being any GPS. With the promise of a device with Wi-Fi, GPS, 3.2 MP camera, and track pad rumored to be on the horizon, I think this BlackBerry will be for those who detest the trackball, and for those who use T-Mobile. There is little other about the device to make one jump and flee their current situation.
Let me know if I missed anything. This is my first article on BerryReview but I have been a long time reader so be gentle with me.