The T-Mobile BlackBerry Gemini 8520 is slated as a low-end BlackBerry Curve, and it will definitely suit the intended market. While Power Users are going to yawn, early Pearl owners are going to want to upgrade to this device, especially because we’ve heard it’s going to come in some beautiful colors.
Before reading this review, as usual it’s not a commercially available device and therefore may not be the device you pick up from T-Mobile.
The 85xx Series Devices
The BlackBerry 8520 is a new-generation Curve and while the xx20 is the only device in the series so far, it surely won’t be the last. In the coming months (year), we can expect a rollout similar to that of other BlackBerry devices. The BlackBerry 8510 will have GPS and the 8530 will be CDMA.
About the OS
The 8520 that I’m using is running OS 188.8.131.52, which seems to be the consensus around other sites who have got their hands on the device. While OS 4.6.1 is decent, it isn’t the OS 5 that we’ve all been waiting to use. Because this is a pre-release device, it could possibly ship with OS 5, which would be a dream come true.
The first thing that hits you about this device is obviously the trackpad. The shift to a trackpad is likely in response to the number of complaints from BlackBerry users about having to replacing the trackball because it got sand or dust in it. The trackpad seems impervious to this sort of damage and is sure to make your device last longer. At first, you may find the trackpad doesn’t respond exactly how you remember the trackball responding. Make sure to go into your settings, in the same place where you change your trackball sensitivity, and crank it up for a smoother trackpad experience.
While I like the new trackpad strategy, there is a learning Curve (pun intended). While navigating menus and browsing the internet, I found I was missing the mark a lot. This is because the trackpad requires a slightly different approach which I can only explain as “swiping” versus “rolling.” With a trackball, you can almost feel the cursor movement but with the trackpad, I felt I had to swipe my finger across the pad, and adjust. If this doesn’t make sense, all I can tell you is that it feels weird at first but you get used to it quickly. I didn’t test the trackpad in varying lighting conditions but I’ve heard this may have an impact on the responsiveness.
3G versus EDGE
Not having 3G doesn’t really have anything to do with RIM, and this is a decision that is made at the carrier relation level. It’s the same deal with WiFi, where I wish every BlackBerry came with WiFi but it’s clearly the carriers who put the kibosh on it. Since WiFi saves on data, carriers don’t want it on their consumer devices because they want their customers eating up large amounts of costly data. While it would be great to have 3G on all BlackBerry devices, EDGE is still a large market that needs servicing.
BlackBerry 8520 specs
For a consumer device, the 8520 has an average screen size and resolution at 320 x 240 pixels and 65,536 colors in TFT. For a device that is rumored to be a consumer phone, I’m a little surprised at the lack of consumer features. For example, the camera megapixels have been downgraded from the average 3.2 that comes with devices today, to only 2 megapixels with no flash. Picture and video are therefore going to be less than attractive for this device.
The battery has 1150 mAh (Milliamp Hours), which means it won’t be able to store as much charge as previous Curve devices. Perhaps this is where no flash will actually help in that there is less charge but less to use up the charge.
The first thing you notice about the form factor is the rubber bezel. The bezel gives it an Otterbox feel that makes you think you could drop it and never worry about scratches. Looking at my 8300 devices, the sides and corners are scratched up which would be almost totally eliminated with this device. The side keys are rubberized too, which will mean sand and dust won’t be able to get into the crevices and lock up your convenience keys. Overall, when you pick up this device, you immediately get the sense that it’s a sturdy device that will last a long time.
Although the form factor does make for longevity, there are some downsides to this new form factor. The fact that the case is completely rubberized, means it’s missing the charging contacts. This means there are a ton of accessories that won’t be compatible with the device. I don’t see how charging docks will work with the device. Also, signal boosting accessories will have a difficult time as many of them require access to the contacts to boost the signal. It’s not only the lack of contacts which conflict with accessories out there, it’s also the case market. I can’t see anyone being able to buy a new case for this device, as it already has one. Perhaps this is part of what seems to be the 8520’s strategy of being indestructible. RIM has seen the money in the case market, and decided to cut the middle man out.
Another big improvement on the 8520 are the media keys at the top of the device. These media keys are a great addition for the consumer who likes to listen to music on their device. I personally use my device as my main music player, and while the keys don’t really help the browsing experience, they’re great if you have a playlist going.
As I’ve already mentioned, the battery cover on the 8520 gave me a big headache. For some reason, I simply can’t get the thing open without using some aid such as a key. Bla1ze from CB pointed out that the 8520 he’s been using has the complete opposite characteristics and it’s really easy to open. At this point, it’s clear that we’re all just reviewing pre-release devices and we can’t be certain of the experience.
The keyboard on the 8520 is like the Curve 8900 in the way the keys are positioned, but the keys themselves feel like the 8300. While the keys on the 8900 were lower, the 8520 feel raised, and will surely remind you of typing on your 8330.
Overall, this device is going to be a hit with the Curve market, and I’m interested to see where and what carriers pick up the device. This 8520 is branded T-Mobile, so we’re sure to see it with them, but other EDGE supporting carriers will surely pick it up as well.
As this is just one man’s opinion, I’ve sent the device over to Nan Palmero whose going to give it a whirl. He’ll have much more insight than myself. I can’t even work a battery cover.
More beautiful pictures of the BlackBerry Gemini 8520
Picture comparison of the BlackBerry Gemini 8520 with the BlackBerry Curve series