Blackberry Curve 8320 – unapologetically geeky review

I have been using my Curve 8320 for a couple of weeks now, and have been playing with it an awful lot. I am beginning to work *with* it now rather than against it, and I have to say that frankly I love it with a passion bordering on the indecent: as far as geeky toys go, this is the ultimate; as far as a tool for an always-connected tech-head goes, this is where it is at.

It is not without its annoyances, and I will detail these later, but from its first principals, it is the tool which finally begins to solve the challenge of the final mile: bringing communications into our pockets at all times whereever they may be.

Of course, there is a wide social debate that all this connectivity is a bad thing. Rather than return from holiday to over 1000 emails, I am completely on top of what is happening, and I know what I have to deal with on my return to work – in the past that dread has been almost overwhelming, but now I am on top – I have not actually DONE any work on holiday, but I feel more relaxed because of my awareness. I feel that rather than being a tool of enslavement – always tied to work – it has freed me and made my work more flexible. It might be different in other vocations, but for me, as a Church of England Priest, this works.

The keyboard is small and encourages a thumbs-only typing style. Having used a Treo in the past I find this quite acceptable and fast. Symbols are quickly accesible through an alt-key but numbers are also on the alt list, so you have to press and hold to type in digits: I feel a numlock would have been better. Symbols are limited and I haven’t yet found ë. The trackball is an excellent navigational tool.

The screen is big and bright. It is good for web browsing and although it can adapt traditional html pages, it is best with those optimised for mobiles. The browser supports Javascript but cannot  understand some of the more recent AJAX or dhtml requests. This is a pity because this is the way that pages are developing. Many key players are integrating clients directly into the Blackberry, so Facebook and Googlemail are directly integrated. Sadly no SSH client has been found yet, so I can’t yet telnet into my servers for remote maintenance.

When at home it links into the WiFi network and using UMA calls and texts as well as data are routed over the internet. Occasionally on my lowish speed broadband, this has caused the voice call to be slightly garbled or broken: particularly when the network is busy. If I had better broadband then maybe this would not be a problem.

Of the annoyances, top of the list is the system’s apparant refusal to sync or export or import contact details. Bluetoothing a contact from another phone fails, the desktop has no contact import or export facility and I had to resort to manual re-entry: moving them via the SIM was unsatisfactory as all of these are now marked as ‘work’ and I will have to at some stage edit every one of these.

The phone doesn’t apparantly have a ‘fast-silent’ feature to quickly put the phone into silent mode. This is useful to me as I often have to ‘fast-silent’ in worship when I forgot or a pastoral visit. If you know of this, then please let me know: the ‘mute’ button doesn’t seem to do this.

Other than those issues, I think that both the principles and the practice of the Blackberry Curve 8320 are brilliant: emails in the middle of nowhere, facebook status updates in the middle of a Festival field, web browsing to find cinema times in the pub and pulling up a Google Map to find the way home (accurate to the nearest phone mast, so good enough before you switch on a bluetooth GPS!). With a GPS google maps can track your progress down the road, and there is some rudimentary route planning, but Tom-Tom it ain’t. Such connectivity we could only dream of in the past, and it can only get better: the final mile has been overcome, and the Curve is in front by a long chalk.

(This review written on my Blackberry Curve 8320 on Orange UK, which was a free upgrade on a monthly tarriff – Dolphin 25 (200 mins, unlimited texts) plus a £2.50 a month Blackberry tarriff offering unlimited data. How good is that?)