BlackBerry Curve 3G Review: A Slight Update to a Successful Product Line

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blackberry curve 3g side

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

Initial Impressions

  • Unboxing
  • Comparing the BlackBerry Curve 3G, Curve 85XX

Hardware

  • Keyboard
  • Trackpad
  • Battery Door

Operating System and BlackBerry Six
Internal Specs

  • Processor
  • Memory
  • Battery

Media

  • Camera
  • Video

General Usage
Curve 3G Accessories
Curve 3G Applications

  • Rogers Curve 3G Preloads

Conclusions

  • Pros and Cons
  • Where to Buy the Curve 3G
  • Closing Thoughts

Initial Impressions

blackberry curve 3g

Unboxing

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.

Maybe it makes sense to link to our BlackBerry Curve 8530 review here.

We also reviewed the T-Mobile 8520 here.

If you’re a new BlackBerry user, you may want to check out the setup guide for the 8520 here.

Comparing the BlackBerry Curve 3G, Curve 85XX

blackberry curve 3g comparison picture

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.

blackberry curve sizes

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.

Hardware

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.

Keyboard

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.

Trackpad

What can one say about the trackpad other than it’s great? No more trackball replacements!

Battery Door

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?

BlackBerry 6

The Curve 3G used in this review is running OS 5.0.0.832, 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.

BlackBerry 6 Review and Guide: FAQ, Tips and Tricks and Impressions

If you spot a leaked OS 6 for the Curve 9300, please share the link in the comments.

Internal Specs

blackberry curve 3g back

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
GPS
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.

Media

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.

Camera

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:

blackberry curve 3g pic example

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:

blackberry curve 3g pic
BBCool’s Matt Cameron lurking in the shadows

This picture would be okay if you printed it and used it for toilet paper.

Video

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.

General Usage

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.

BlackBerry Curve 3G Accessories

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:

BlackBerryCool Store
BlackBerryCool Mobile SuperStore
ShopBlackBerry

BlackBerry Curve 3G Applications

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.

Conclusions

blackberry curve 3g side pic

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • BlackBerry 6 ready
  • 3G
  • WiFi ‘n’ support
  • Cheap and accessible
  • Solid keyboard and form factor

Cons

  • 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

Rogers Wireless
Telus
Virgin

From the above carriers, it looks like Rogers has the best pricing at $49.99 on a 3 year contract.

Closing Thoughts

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.

  • Mail4kak

    i got my first smart phone last winter which was a 8530. i did not have any knowledge of the smart phones but i was hooked to it after having it for a few days. i upgraded to the 9650 in june after learning about blackberry. i do love my the blackberry and cant wait for os6 to come out on Verizon. i just wish they weren't some much behind from the other brands. meaning i am surf the web more then sending and receiving emails but i am limited to what can be done compare to other smart phones. i hope OS6 would change this.

  • http://www.moldremoval.com/region.php?country=1&state=48 Mold Removal Oklahoma

    The BlackBerry Curve 3G is the latest device that used lots of people now a days.

  • http://hopp2it.com/blackberry/blackberry-curve-review/ Jeff

    I love my Blackberry Curve! I have the 8530.

  • jv

    nice name

  • troy schlaht

    whats    the  differance   with  the  blackberry   curve   3g   and  the  blackberry  curve  3g  s   whats   the  differance   between  them   let  me  know   as  soon   as   posiable   thanks. email  me   at   tschla26@gmail.com   please   no  rude   comments   thanks   or  email  me   at   web30ca@yahoo.ca    

  • troy schlaht

    whats    the  differance   with  the  blackberry   curve   3g   and  the  blackberry  curve  3g  s   whats   the  differance   between  them   let  me  know   as  soon   as   posiable   thanks. email  me   at   tschla26@gmail.com   please   no  rude   comments   thanks   or  email  me   at   web30ca@yahoo.ca    

  • http://www.frontpagetickets.com/chicago-bulls Pattie Willey

    According to RIM, the Curve 3G is “designed the growing mass of
    smartphone purchasers with a distinctly powerful, approachable and
    affordable choice”.