We don't often comment on voice quality in reviews, as it's such a variable thing depending on so many factors, but the one thing that we've struck with other BlackBerry units also irked us with the Curve; they don't come with particularly good internal speakers, and working out where on your ear to place the phone for best audio quality can be tricky; this is of course exacerbated if you're in a poor reception area.
The Curve's keyboard may be smaller than that of the 8800, but it had little to no effect on our usage of it; in many ways the slightly smoothed keys of the Curve were preferable to the 8800's chunky buttons. The display screen was clear and easy to view in all lighting situations; RIM claims that the Curve automatically adjusts screen brightness depending on ambient lighting, and although we were hard put to spot this happening in action, we never had a problem reading messages. As with most smartphones, web browsing is a necessarily cramped affair, and it's a pity the Curve doesn't offer HSDPA to speed up its data churning abilities.
The 2-megapixel camera on the Curve gave us some very good pictures, and it's a definite boon being able to swiftly shift them off the phone by the simple adjunct of emailing them out as soon as they're taken.
One area where we really felt the difference moving from the 8800 to the Curve was in the area of battery life. RIM estimates battery life for the Curve at 17 days standby time and 4 hours talk time. With much the same usage as the 8800, we found the Curve running dry after around three days of moderate usage, including regular email checking. Critically, that was about a day less than we'd typically managed with the 8800. As it will charge via USB, it was trivial enough for us to recharge it, but it still irked.
That illicit liaison between the Pearl and 8800 we spoke of in the opening paragraph has yielded an attractive consumer-level BlackBerry phone. It's hard not to feel, however, that it's the older sibling to a BlackBerry yet to come that could include those technologies we feel are lacking -- critically HSDPA and Wi-Fi connectivity.