BlackBerry Curve 8900 - black (AT&T)
Editors' note: The RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 for AT&T is similar to T-Mobile's Curve 8900 in design. For this review, we will be concentrating on the different features and performance compared with the T-Mobile version. For a full description of the smartphone's design, please see our review of the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 for T-Mobile.
First offered by T-Mobile, the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 is now available from AT&T for $149.99 with a two-year contract. The smartphone is largely like T-Mobile's version except it offers support for the carrier's various services, including AT&T Navigator, and free access to AT&T's nearly 20,000 Wi-Fi hot spots. The hardware improvements and additional features include the high-resolution display, a full HTML Web browser, and a faster processor, and make it a great upgrade from the BlackBerry 8300 series.
However, unlike T-Mobile, AT&T has a fairly good stable of QWERTY devices and the Nokia E71x and the Samsung Jack give the Curve a good run for its money. For $50 less, both smartphones offer many of the same features and add 3G support, which the Curve lacks. The RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 is a good messaging smartphone and if 3G isn't important to you or you're a BlackBerry loyalist, you'll be very happy with it. Otherwise, we think the Nokia E71x and Samsung Jack offer a slightly better value.
As we noted earlier, AT&T's RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 has features akin to the T-Mobile model, but it adds a number of AT&T services, including AT&T Navigator, Yellowpages.com Mobile, and AT&T Music. The Curve 8900 also supports the recently launched BlackBerry App World, which you can use to peruse the catalog for new applications. The catalog has a basic, but easy-to-use, interface and features a fairly comprehensive database of applications, which you can view by category, top downloads, or featured items. You can also search by title. We downloaded several programs, including Facebook and Pandora, over AT&T's EDGE network with no problem. The Curve 8900 also comes preloaded with a number of apps and personal information management tools, such as Documents to Go Standard Edition, a Calendar, a task list, a memo pad, a voice recorder, a calculator, a password keeper, and more.
The Curve offers quad-band world roaming, Bluetooth 2.0 with stereo Bluetooth support, Wi-Fi, and GPS. The only thing missing in the wireless department is 3G support, which again, you can get with the Nokia E71x or the Samsung Jack. Alternatively, if you want to keep it within the BlackBerry family, you can upgrade to the BlackBerry Bold. However, we realize not everyone needs 3G, and for occasional browsing, the EDGE speeds are satisfactory (see Performance for more).
The Curve 8900 is equipped with a 3.2-megapixel camera with video-recording capabilities, flash, autofocus, 2x zoom, and image stabilization. In camera mode, you get a choice of three picture sizes and three picture qualities. There are white balance settings and the capability to add various effects to your photos, and with the built-in GPS, you can also geotag photos. The camcorder records clips in two formats (normal and MMS) with sound and offers video light and color effects.
Picture quality was OK. Even though we could make out the objects in the picture, the overall image looked hazy and somewhat gray, and video quality was a bit murky. Once done, you can share photos and videos via e-mail. You can also send photos via multimedia message or upload them to Facebook or Twitter. Of course, you can also set them as your background image or assign them to a contact. The BlackBerry Curve 8900 has 256MB of internal memory, and the microSD expansion slot can accept cards up to 16GB.
AT&T packages the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 with an AC adapter, a microUSB cable, a wired stereo headset, a soft protective case, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check out our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900;GPRS/EDGE) BlackBerry Curve 8900 in San Francisco using AT&T service, and call quality was decent. There was a bit of a background hiss during lulls in the conversation and some occasional crackling, but for the most part, we enjoyed clear audio with good volume. We didn't have any dropped calls and were able to use an airline's voice-automated system with no problems. Friends didn't report any major issues on their end. Speakerphone quality was quite good and almost more impressive than regular voice calls, since we thought the sound was much more pristine.
We were able to pair the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones. With the 3.5mm jack, you can also plug in your favorite pair of headphones for listening to music. While the BlackBerry's media player is fairly basic, we were happy with the sound quality when we plugged in our Bose On-Ear Headphones and listened to tracks. We also checked out a couple of video clips. An MPEG-4 file played back smoothly with clear picture and synchronized audio, but YouTube videos took a while to buffer and even then, the stream wasn't the smoothest.
The Curve 8900's full HTML Web browser is a great improvement over past models. Navigating sites is easier with the Page and Column view options and onscreen cursor. There are also zoom in and out functions. That said, it still trails the competition in terms of usability. Using AT&T's EDGE network, CNET's site came up in 55 seconds, while mobile sites for CNN and ESPN loaded in 15 seconds and 25 seconds, respectively.
The RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 comes with a 1400mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 5 hours and up to 15 days of standby time. We are still conducting our battery drain tests but will update this section as soon as we have final results. According to FCC radiation tests, the Curve 8900 has a digital SAR rating of 1.01 watts per kilogram.