Congratulations on buying your BlackBerry Curve 8520! Now you might be wondering what to do with your new phone. I’ll take you walk you through the basic features of your device and what you can do with it. BlackBerry is a powerful platform and if this is your first smartphone, your going to be amazed at what it can do.
Basic Setup and Getting Started
The first thing you’re going to do is unbox your device, remove the back cover and pop in your T-Mobile SIM Card. To get the SIM card in, look at the diagram and slide the SIM under the metal casing in the device. It should slide in securely. Put the battery back in and close the casing.
UPDATE: I can’t believe I left this out but of course you should set up your email. Setting up your email is easy, you can do it online at your computer, or right from your device. See the official RIM site for step by step instructions on how to set up your email.
Your device will come with a MicroSD card but you should also consider upgrading. The SanDisk 16GB microSDHC Card is the largest of its kind on the market and it will ensure you’ve got plenty of space on your device.
At this point, your device is ready to be used. Before moving ahead, lets get it some basic free software that all BlackBerry devices should have. I recommend you download:
- App World – This is a one stop shop for software. Just go to www.blackberry.com/appworld/ from your BlackBerry Browser.
- Google Maps and Latitude – Get directions anywhere. Go to m.google.com/maps from your BlackBerry Browser to download.
- Viigo – This is for aggregating all your RSS feeds. Keep up-to-date on your favorite blogs and news. Visit www.getviigo.com to download.
- Poynt – This app is the ultimate Yellow and White Pages. Available in App World.
- Facebook – This should come preloaded on your device. If not, download it in App World.
There are a few more tweaks that you can make so your BlackBerry is a little more personal. For example, you can go into the Options > Screen/Keyboard and change the font sizes. You should also arrange the icons on your device, placing the ones you use the most at the top. To do this, simply scroll to the icon, and press the Menu button > Move or Move Folder.
For more tips about some basic device setup, see RIM’s official blog post about The First 5 Things I do When I Get a New BlackBerry. The comments have some excellent suggestions.
Contact Management and Social Networks
Now that you have your device setup done, it’s time to build your contacts and network. Staying in constant communication is a central tenet of the BlackBerry, and you’ll be amazed and how easy it is.
The Facebook app is a big part of importing your contacts. Once downloaded and run, it will update your contacts and provide pictures for them as well. Start exploring the application and let it take over your contacts. It should also populate your BlackBerry Calendar with Facebook events. Check out RIM’s blog post about the latest updates to this software.
The T-Mobile version of the Curve 8520 comes with a favorite contacts section on the homescreen. Personally, I think you should get rid of this because you’ll soon figure out that it’s rendered obsolete by much of the software available to BlackBerry. To get rid of it, you should change your theme. More on that later.
One of the great advantages that BlackBerry has over other platforms such as the iPhone, is its ability to run applications in the background. This means you can turn on all your favorite IM applications, and you’re always available. Your BlackBerry will come preloaded with IM clients such as Yahoo! Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, Google Talk, AIM and ICQ. You can find them in the Instant Messaging folder. If not, they can be downloaded from blackberry.com/instantmessaging. Another great feature of BlackBerry is that your applications are built into the Menu or BlackBerry Button. So if you’re using the camera, and you have Yahoo! Messenger installed, you can always take a picture and press the BlackBerry Button > Send As Y! Messenger
BlackBerry Messenger is going to be the easiest way for you to stay in contact with your friends who also use BlackBerry. The messenger is based on your PIN, which is found by either typing “mypin” in a dialogue box or going into Options > Status. Start adding all your friends with BlackBerry devices and you’ll soon have a list of contacts that you can message at any time. For more about the basic features of BlackBerry messaging, see RIM’s official blog post on the subject.
If you’re really into instant messaging, consider buying an IM client such as IM+ All-in-One Instant Messenger. This application will really help you stay in touch.
Multimedia and Entertainment
The BlackBerry Curve 8520 is built for music and entertainment. The top of the device has media keys for when you’re listening to music. This is a new feature to the RIM product line and it will come in handy if you listen to a lot of music.
You may have taken my advice above and bought a larger MicroSD card, which will really help you store all your favorite music to the device. You can also complement the music experience with some cool software for your device such as:
- Slacker Radio – Listen to over 100 stations programmed by music experts or create custom stations right from your BlackBerry.
- Shazam – Find out what song you’re listening to and purchase it. Available in App World.
- i2b – Sync your playlists from your PC to your BlackBerry over the air (OTA).
- Also, stay tuned for 7 Digital, RIM’s answer to iTunes.
Another feature that may be new to you is having a decent camera on your phone. The BlackBerry camera, while it isn’t the most powerful of mobile cameras, still provides with some fun integration into the device. For example, after taking a picture with your device, you can use the “send as” icon on the screen. This option is also available in the menu and will allow you to send the pic via email, Messenger Contact (BlackBerry Messenger) and MMS (also known as picture SMS). You can also send photos to Flickr, MySpace, Facebook, GoogleTalk, Yahoo! Messenger, and Windows Live Messenger.
Games aren’t the greatest experience on BlackBerry compared to iPhone, but you still have a wide range of puzzle and casual games at your finger tips. Some of my favorite games include:
- Fierce Towers – This is a great tower defense game.
- Ka-Glom – A connect four style game with amazing graphics.
- Texas Hold’em King 3 – By far the best poker game for BlackBerry. An incredible multiplayer experience too!
- Medieval Kings Chess 2 – Another Magmic hit, MKC2 is a challenging game for chess fans. Also, this is yet another awesome multiplayer experience.
You may be thinking that this is a lot of software so far but it really isn’t. Your BlackBerry device can not only store up to 256MB of applications on the device, you can also save your applications to your SD card via App World. See details about the latest release of App World to find out more.
Customizations and Accessories
Themes are an easy way to customize your BlackBerry and make it your own. Personally, my favorite themes are:
- iBerry 2.0 – This theme gives your BlackBerry that Apple look and feel.
- Opus – Elecite make great themes and this one provides you with multiple sets of customizable icons.
- Ulterior – Another Elecite theme based on an Alienware design for the gamers out there.
Accessories are a fun way to complement the BlackBerry experience. There are a number of accessories available from chargers, to docks and cases. Here are a few accessories you may like for your BlackBerry Curve 8520:
- BlackBerry Remote Stereo Gateway – Set these up in your home and you can play your tunes from your BlackBerry to your stereo.
- BlackBerry VM-605 Bluetooth Premium Visor Mount – This is for those with a car. It’s perfect for roadtrips!
- Jabra BT2080 Bluetooth – Talk on your phone a lot? This means your BlackBerry stays safe in your pocket while you talk.
Other Software and Fun Stuff
Your BlackBerry is an incredibly powerful device that can do almost anything you would want from a mobile device. Sometimes the feature isn’t native to the device, but there is almost always a piece of free or cheap software to help you do the trick. Some helpful applications that boost your device experience are:
LaterDude – LaterDude is a free application that lets you create events from the Call Log.
Gwabbit – gwabbit automatically scans incoming BlackBerry emails, finds contacts, and instantly transforms them into contact records within your address book.
TetherBerry – The web anywhere on your laptop from your BlackBerry!
EasyTether – The easiest way to tether your Mac to your BlackBerry.
LaunchPad – Creating launchers for your BlackBerry is an easy way to get quick access to your favorite websites.
BlackBerry Cool Users: What else would you recommend a first time smartphone/BlackBerry user do with their new Curve 8520?