The BlackBerry Curve 3G is the latest device in the BlackBerry Curve series and the best part about it is that it has 3G and is BlackBerry 6 ready. The Curve product line has always been the most accessible of all the BlackBerry models because of its low price point and popular form factor. The Curve 3G fits nicely into this series because it has everything you would expect from a Curve but just a little more spec-wise to make it fit for 2010. According to RIM, the Curve 3G is “designed the growing mass of smartphone purchasers with a distinctly powerful, approachable and affordable choice”.
With the Curve series, it’s clear that RIM intends this device to help them saturate an increasing global demand for smartphones. “The majority of people in the worldwide mobile phone market have yet to buy their first smartphone and the BlackBerry Curve 3G is designed to provide an extremely attractive and accessible choice that will help convince many of them to make the leap,” says Mike Lazaridis, President and Co-CEO at RIM.
So while many die-hard BlackBerry users will write this device off as a boring upgrade to the Curve series, the device isn’t really intended for them. The Torch is the smartphone for long-time Blackberry users and the Curve 3G is the smartphone for the feature phone user who is looking to convert. Click through after the jump and we’ll delve deeper into the Curve 3G and see what makes it tick.
Table of Contents
- Comparing the BlackBerry Curve 3G, Curve 85XX
- Battery Door
- Rogers Curve 3G Preloads
- Pros and Cons
- Where to Buy the Curve 3G
- Closing Thoughts
When we first saw the Curve 3G arrive at Rogers retail outlets, we could see that the box was like the Torch but a little bigger. It would have been cool to see Rogers/RIM use the more modern packaging which cuts out a lot of the unnecessary clutter. This particular box set also did not include the modern BlackBerry charger which features a small outlet plug that combines with the USB cord as a charger. Instead, the packaging with this Curve 3G came with the older, bulkier charger model. Perhaps this has something to do with cost savings and RIM is using the Curve 3G to get rid of stockpiles of old chargers.
When you first pick up the Curve 3G, it feels identical to the 85XX series. The chicklet style keyboard, size and weight are all nearly identical, if not totally, to the Curve 85XX.
Comparing the BlackBerry Curve 3G, Curve 85XX
As you can see from the official specs, the only size difference between the BlackBerry Curve 3G and the BlackBerry Curve 8500 is a single gram in weight. This single gram is in no way apparent and for all intents and purposes doesn’t exist.
The main point to take away from all of this is that if you like the modern Curve form factor, you’re going to really enjoy the Curve 3G’s.
The hardware on a Curve 3G is exactly what you would expect from the modern Curve series. The device features a trackpad, chicklet style keyboard and all the standard BlackBerry buttons.
The keyboard on the Curve 3G is the same keyboard you’ll find on the previous Curve models. While typing on the Curve 3G and the 8520 keyboard, they don’t feel absolutely identical, but there are a lot of reasons why that might be including general wear and tear.
There are a couple styles of keyboard that RIM make including the Curve chicklet style and Bold fretted keyboard. Personally, I much prefer the Bold style keyboard because I like the way my thumbs glide over the keys. If you prefer your keys to be separated and you type with a little less confidence, the chicklet keys are perfect.
What can one say about the trackpad other than it’s great? No more trackball replacements!
Anyone who has read a BlackBerryCool device review knows that a battery cover review is inevitable. The Curve 3G’s battery cover is no different than the 8520, other than it comes with a different texture. This means that if you wanted to, you can swap them. I’d like to see Curve users personalizing their battery covers and trading them like Pog. Anyone want to start the new battery cover craze?
The Curve 3G used in this review is running OS 188.8.131.522, which is a solid build but nothing to write home about. When the Curve 3G gets BlackBerry 6, that’s when this device is really going to shine.
There is a lot to say about BlackBerry 6 but it doesn’t necessarily have a place in a BlackBerry Curve 3G review since it will come with other devices and it’s not yet available for the 9300. For everything you want to know about BlackBerry 6, be sure to read the full BlackBerry 6 review.
If you spot a leaked OS 6 for the Curve 9300, please share the link in the comments.
The internal specs for the BlackBerry Curve 3G are based on hardware that is ubiquitous in the BlackBerry product line so the company can drive down the price of the smartphone and make it as accessible as possible. The major specs include:
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n (support for the ‘n’ spectrum is a great addition)
2.0 MP camera
320×240 pixel color display
1150 mAHr removable/rechargeable lithium-ion battery
256 MB flash memory / 256 MB SDRAM
Bluetooth® v2.1 + EDR
The major additions to this product versus the rest of the Curve series is 3G and the fact that it will run BlackBerry 6. Spec-wise, WiFi ‘n’ support seems to be the only advantage over the previous Curve models.
It should be interesting whether customers will see this spec sheet and go with the Curve 3G or an 8520/8530. When presented with both options, is BlackBerry 6, WiFi ‘n’ and 3G enough for the average customer to spend an extra $80 over the free options.
This might be the most difficult review I’ve ever had to write. How does one review a BlackBerry that they’ve essentially already reviewed twice (Curve 8520, 8530). The Media functionality is everything you would expect from a 5.0 device, along with a weak camera and video recorder.
The camera on the Curve 3G is the same as the previous Curve models: 2.0MP and no flash. It’s interesting that when RIM decides which components to use and which to leave out in order to control price, the flash is one of major components to get nixed. I find it amazing that in 2010, a flash is left out as a component but GPS is left in. Remember back in the days when GPS was something only the military could use and it required a car battery? I don’t either but I hear that was the case. Apparently a flash is too expensive to include in the Curve 3G and it makes the camera totally useless unless you have ideal lighting conditions. I would therefore suggest that if you’re going to launch a flash-less camera, you should do so at the beginning of summer, rather than the end.
Here is an example of a picture taken with the Curve 3G (original size 1600×1200) under ideal lighting conditions:
As you can see, the picture is really nice and the colors come through decently. This is a good enough photo for the web and nothing to complain about. But what about under darker lighting? Here is an example of a picture under less ideal lighting conditions:
BBCool’s Matt Cameron lurking in the shadows
This picture would be okay if you printed it and used it for toilet paper.
The BlackBerry Curve 3G’s video capabilities are also stymied by the lack of a flash. Not only can you not record video unless you have good lighting, but even under good lighting the video quality is less than desirable. See the below video for an example:
As funny as it is watching someone flip over a yoga ball, the video quality is barely good enough for the web.
The best part about a BlackBerry is the fact that it’s such a great communication tool. Messaging on a BlackBerry is better than any other smartphone on the market and so many people forget this. Sure, the Curve 3G is nothing spectacular and doesn’t have the bells and whistles you may see on Android, but it works really well for the everyday tasks and that is arguably the best feature you could ask for.
In terms of phone call quality, you can expect a fairly high standard of quality. The Curve 3G has no death grip and your service is as good as your carrier can provide. I rarely have problems with Rogers and the coverage is generally good.
One of the benefits to the Curve 3G having the same shell and casing as the previous BlackBerry Curves is that all the accessories are compatible. Not only does this mean that you can swap accessories with friends, but if you’re buying accessories from a store they’ll be cheaper because the manufacturer doesn’t have to make an entirely new product line. Here are some places you can find Curve 3G accessories:
The first and foremost thing to note about applications on the Rogers Curve 3G is that the device doesn’t come with the latest version of App World. While App World does come preloaded, it’s only version 1.1. After loading up App World and agreeing to the EULA, you still don’t get a notification to update the application. If you go to blackberry.com/appworld, the 2.0 download is available but how many users are going to know to do this? If this device is designed for a first time smartphone user, it would make sense to include the latest version or at least make the update process easier.
After installing App World 2.0, there doesn’t seem to be any other payment methods available for Rogers customers. There is no credit card or carrier billing options, and while the Top 25 is a nice addition, App World 2.0 looks a lot like 1.0 on the Rogers Curve 3G.
When it comes to browsing available content for a new device, it’s generally pretty weak. One company that consistently does a great job of having games available for a new device is Concrete Software. I once had a chat with Concrete Software about the fact that they’re always among the first to market with new device content and they had this to say:
The first people to get devices are usually the techie people that would have a higher percent of buying software. Also, most mobile software stores rank based on sales from all devices so every sale helps the ranking. If the ranking is separate for each device, visibility is one of the key deals in marketing mobile games so being there first will probably lock you into the top ranks for that device.
Also, RIM sends us the device months before release and the next device always builds off the one before it so the developers are going to have to do the work eventually. Why would someone then decide to lose the initial sales but still have to do the work later? I mean, let’s say they decided to not support the Storm on release, but do they support the Storm now? I would think so. They did the same amount of work we did just at a different time, but they lost sales at the beginning and they have to fight all our games to get visible. Another thing is that RIM and all device makers want games and apps on the device at release, and if you do that for them they will be more favorable to doing promotions and other opportunities with us.
This is very sage advice that all developers should take into consideration. Some developers I’ve asked about supporting devices upon launch have said “why should we? there are barely any users who own the device.” Concrete Software are setting a standard for device support and hopefully more companies follow their lead.
Pros and Cons
- BlackBerry 6 ready
- WiFi ‘n’ support
- Cheap and accessible
- Solid keyboard and form factor
- Didn’t launch with BlackBerry 6
- Strange App World issues (seems to be Rogers specific)
- Camera and video quality are awful
- Totally lacks a “wow” factor in every department
Where to Buy the Curve 3G
From the above carriers, it looks like Rogers has the best pricing at $49.99 on a 3 year contract.
The Curve 3G reminds me of a conversation I had with an unnamed RIM employee recently. We were talking about devices and saying how everything that comes out of RIM is incremental, and I suggested that they would be doing better in the mainstream media if they had something with a bigger “wow” factor. The response was simple “RIM doesn’t like being the first to do something.” The company is known for taking small, manageable and carefully researched steps before it goes to market. This seems to be exactly what the Curve 3G represents. The Curve 3G is a safe smartphone. It takes everything that people love about the Curve series, and gives it just a small, safe and incremental boost. Love it or hate it, this safe, incremental planning is one of the ways RIM came to sell over 100 million smartphones.
The question you need to ask yourself with the Curve 3G, is “are these incremental features worth the $80 on a 2 year plan, versus the 8520 which can be picked up for free?”. If you want BlackBerry 6 and 3G, then go for it. If you’re just looking for a basic communication tool and you’re not really into the latest OS or data, go for the 8520/8530.