The BlackBerry Curve 8520 is a turning point for RIM. They have clearly realized that they have parts on their devices that can still remain perfectly functional while reducing their replacement and repair costs, as well as those of their customers. The 8520 is also a lower end device as noted by the cheap battery panel that pulls off without requiring a slider or a button. Since you’ve likely experienced the Curve 8900 at some point, I’ll use it as a point of reference.
Lets go through the new features with the BlackBerry 8520, and get a discussion going about the device. We want to hear your thoughts!
When you pick up the 8520, you’ll notice that RIM added extra rubber around the phone that reaches to over the bottom and top parts of the device. Gone are the silver convenience and volume keys that you’ve grown to expect. The buttons are still there, they just remain protected under the rubber coating. Compared to my 8900, the convenience keys and the volume keys require just a tad more pressure, but overall, work exactly as you’d expect. RIM did do something really special for this device. They added three media keys at the top for play/pause/mute, rewind and fast forward. Definitely a nice touch.
The 8520 continues in the lineage of RIM’s excellent keyboards. The keyboard feels quite similar to the 8900’s. They keys are shaped the same way. In comparing them side-by-side, the 8520’s keyboard has just a little more travel and the keys seem to be a bit taller than those on the 8900. The experience on both devices is fast and pleasing.
The 8520 screen appears to use the standard screen that you’ve been seeing for years on the 8300-series curve. It’s a standard 320×240 resolution that no one is going to get excited about. The 8900’s screen is obviously superior in terms of resolution, but also in brightness. Remember, though, the price point on the 8520 will likely be significantly less expensive than the 8900.
The camera is the standard 2 megapixel shooter that you’ve used to shoot pictures of the kids, your drunken buddies or the girl dancing on the table at the bar. Now, things get a little more complicated because RIM decided to eliminate the flash. It’s clearly not a deal killer though, since the iPhone folks have gone without for three iterations. You also won’t be able to do any geotagging because the phone doesn’t come with a built-in GPS.
RIM’s jump from a trackwheel to a trackball was a huge jump. It took me a few days to not have my thumb reach for the side of the device when I switched from an 8703e to an 8830. The optical trackpad is just as large of a shift. There certainly have been a fair number of trackball failures due to skin oils, dirty hands, make up and any other thing you may have put into your phone (I don’t want to know). The trackpad on the 8520 is as smooth as (fill in the blank). Yes, it really is that slick. You slide your thumb on the pad and the cursor moves exactly the way you’d expect. I can certainly see some scores on Brickbreaker either jumping dramatically because of the responsiveness of the pad or dropping significantly because of the responsiveness of the pad. Having set my pad to 80, you can move the cursor really quickly. To select, just press down on the pad as you would on the trackball. I certainly see the trackpad as a major step forward for RIM. Having recently received my BlackBerry Tour, I’m already wishing my device had the trackpad as well. The newer RIM devices like the 8900 and the Tour have the trackball inserted without an easy removal method for cleaning, though they do look better than those on the 8300 and 8800 series devices. The trackpad keeps the look clean without sacrificing functionality.
All in all, I’m pleased with the 8520. It runs OS 4.6 very well, probably due to the memory in the device. It’s not a high dollar phone, but I can imagine that it will serve its purpose very well. As a T-Mobile phone, the 8900 remains on top with a higher resolution screen, better camera, and nicer materials. Compared to the 8300-series, the 8520 is a nice step up, besides the lack of GPS and flash.
For those of you on T-Mobile, is the 8520 a big enough shift to cause you to move up to a newer device from a Pearl or 83×0? Are you 8900 users a little jealous that your device is lacking an optical trackpad? Anyone on a different carrier and so compelled by the optical trackpad that you’re willing to take the leap over to the 8520? What do you think about the rubberized buttons? Share with us in the comments, let’s keep the conversation going.