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Photos: BlackBerry Curve 8520 hands-on

BlackBerry is shaking off its business suit with a cheaper handset aimed at the social networkers of the world, featuring a new trackpad instead of the trackball of old

Flora Graham

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RIM has grabbed the trackball on the BlackBerry Curve 8520 and twisted it right off. In its place, it has launched an optical trackpad that's flat as a pancake and twice as responsive. Unfortunately, this tech nurple caused our sample device to turn a sickly shade of purple.

BlackBerry may be trying to throw off its business-suit image, but for the love of all that is holy, tarting up a perfectly nice entry-level phone as Barbara Cartland is no way to do it. We've seen the black version too, however, and it's not bad looking, if you're into Qwerty keyboards. A mix of glossy plastic and rubber trim make it stylish and easy to hang on to.

The trackpad is as sprightly as promised, and the cursor whips around the screen like a bat out of hell with the swipe of a thumb. We found it minutely less accurate than the trackball, but it didn't put us off.

The friendliest thing about the 8520 will be its price -- expect it to be free on contracts costing around £25 per month, when it comes out this winter. We like that BlackBerry is launching new technology on its cheaper mobiles -- just because we're skint doesn't mean we don't want to feel special.

Click through for more shots of the wonders of entry-level loveliness.

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BlackBerry hopes the Curve 8520 will tempt people who don't use smart phones to give one a go, thanks to its low price. It doesn't have 3G or GPS, but it does have EDGE and Wi-Fi, as well as heaps of features inherited from pricier Berries. Software such as the Facebook app, and the biggish Qwerty keyboard make it a fantastic social-networking phone. Facebook and Twitter can run in the background and alert you to new tedious updates, and you can merge Facebook and your contacts to see a friend's profile pic in your address book. Getting new apps is fairly painless thanks to the BlackBerry App World software bazaar.
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The Curve 8520 has a very sharp 63mm (2.5-inch) screen that does a fantastic job of showing off video.
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The top of the Curve 8520 has three media buttons and the speaker. Lay the 8520 on a table and the sound from the speaker bounces off and sounds mighty loud -- smart move, BlackBerry. There's also a standard 3.5mm headphone jack on the side.

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