BlackBerry Curve 8520 talking points: trackpad, flash and keys

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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!

Convenience Keys

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.

Keyboard

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.

Screen

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.

Camera

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.

Optical Trackpad

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.

17 Responses to “BlackBerry Curve 8520 talking points: trackpad, flash and keys”


  1. 1 Kyle

    After reading your article, I can’t help but think about price. Because this is an introductory device, that clearly uses a lot of recycled parts, the pricing point will hopefully be REALLY low.

    How amazing would it be if within a year, this was the new free BlackBerry? I would love to see all the users who got a Pearl because it was free, switch to this.

  2. 2 Karl

    I cannot believe that RIM has gone backwards with this device in terms of it’s camera (no flash and 2.0 mp) and lack of GPS. That being said it is a nice device but it sure won’t be replacing my Bold.

  3. 3 Fraser

    The optical trackpad is a welcome advancement. BlackBerry needs a precise pointing device, and while the glowing trackball looks cool and was an improvement over the trackwheel, it always feels like using an old-fashioned mouse upside down. Do you think the trackpad will find its way onto the higher-end units?

  4. 4 Robert Losch

    I’m a little surprised they would remove both flash and GPS from a model that had both before. It will have to be a very low price point (free - $50) to be appealing to most. At the low price it could quickly grab a lot of first time BlackBerry users, but I think anyone looking to upgrade their aging 83xx will look towards higher models as they would lose functionality they have become used to.

  5. 5 AgBand

    This device is not intended to be an upgrade but rather an introductory BlackBerry. I think it is supposed to cater to the same kinds of people that chose a Pearl.

  6. 6 Dave Woodbridge

    Seems like an ok device, but do we really need another low-end, handicapped BlackBerry around? While I applaud RIM’s effort to expand their product line over the past two years, does anyone else feel like they’re offering lots and lots of variations of exactly the same thing…?

  7. 7 Kyle

    @Dave Woodbridge - They are definitely offering a ton of variations these days. While I don’t love every single BlackBerry that RIM releases, I can always see a market for it. I bet this comes from data they receive from sales.

  8. 8 daniel b

    I’m not with ya’ll on the problems associated with the lack of gps, flash, etc… I think for the right market (someone who uses their BlackBerry first and foremost as their communications hub) this is a perfect phone, and for cheap. If what I cared most about was the browser, I’d get an htc hero, or the iphone. Now, I’m not saying I’ll trade in my Bold for it, but I do love the optical trackpad.

    My real concern with RIM these days is the OS, not the hardware. They spend all of their time developing new handsets, and yet the OS is still outdated and full of memory leaks. There are iphone games that are 100 mb. If a BlackBerry ap is over a meg, I begin to worry. That’s a problem.

    Just my 2 cents…

    Daniel

  9. 9 daniel b

    Truth about this being a nice upgrade from the pearl. But don’t you think that for anyone other than a business/communications-centric person, BlackBerry OS just doesn’t cut it anymore?

  10. 10 LouTreize

    When I first heard about the 8520, I was sure that this would be the first ‘Pay As You Go’ BlackBerry. Sounds ludicrous right? Adding to what Kyle said about this Curve being the new “free” (maybe, hopefully)…imagine having a BlackBerry in this list of ‘Pay As You Go’ phones - http://is.gd/1Pfvu (Rogers) - Wouldn’t that kick-start something special?

    Is having no GPS and flash that much of an issue? RIM just flooded the stores with 8900s 9000s 9630s 9500s 9530s and soon, Onyx. Being a low-end device that shouldn’t bother anyone imo — iPhone 3GS doesn’t have flash remember? And I think it was right for RIM to hand over the optical trackpad to this model (instead of the Onyx), it’s just enough to give it importance within their current lineup.

    Nan, as always, thanks for your insight.

  11. 11 Chad

    I just played with this phone this morning. Its ok. Feels cheap. The trackpad I did like but may be frustrating in the end.

  12. 12 Robert Losch

    While I understand it’s not considered an “upgrade” device, there will be plenty of 83xx and 81xx users looking to replace their aging phones. If they used GPS even a little, it’s going to be a hard sell. Maybe RIM did it on purpose though to try and move some of their basic users to higher level devices. Either way I’m sure they will sell tons of these to new users, especially if they can hit a low enough price point.

  13. 13 Nan Palmero

    Also, please note that this is a pre-production model, so changes may come along the way. The key word is “may.” The optical trackpad is excellent.

  14. 14 Dennis Bournique

    I see the 8520 as a refreshed 8320. Same basic specs, 2 MP camera, 320×240, WiFi, no GPS, no 3G. Refreshed with a cleaner industrial design, music keys and touchpad and at a lower price. A better Curve for less money, can’t complain about that

    It’s not intended to be the ultimate BlackBerry but to drive sales at the low end and introduce more people to the BB experience. I think they will sell a lot of these especially if the contract price starts to approach free.

    Still hoping for a 3G, GPS equipped BlackBerry on T-Mobile soon though.

  15. 15 W4LNUT

    I have a bold right now and I would switch it in a heartbeat. I simply prefer curve-series keys and there’s something great about touch-sensitive navigation. It’s been working for the classic iPod wheel since the 2nd generation iPod.

  16. 16 Whicmobilephone

    Price positioning looks like it will be biggest influence behind the design of this handset. Mobile trends have shown in the last few months, that customer are opting for lower level handsets across all makes. Blackberry look like they wants to cash in on the entry level market thats increasing

  1. 1 BlackBerry

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