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BlackBerry throws a slick Curve

BlackBerry throws a slick Curve

The scoop: BlackBerry Curve (model 8300), by Research in Motion (available exclusively through AT&T), about US$200 (after rebates and service agreements).

What it is: The Curve is the "smallest and lightest" full QWERTY keyboard BlackBerry smart phone available, slightly smaller than the enterprise-class 8800 device. Like other BlackBerry smart phones, the Curve features wireless e-mail access, text messaging, PDA functions and a cell phone (runs on the AT&T EDGE network).

Features include voice-activated dialing, Bluetooth (headset profile and the ability to connect wirelessly to a GPS receiver), speaker phone, conference calling, and an updated media player for music and video files. The Curve has the same trackball for navigation as the 8800 and the BlackBerry Pearl, allowing for easier one-handed navigation.

The Curve includes a 320- by 240-pixel display with 65,000-color support and light-sensing technology that adjusts screen brightness depending on the user's environment.

Why it's cool: Unlike the 8800 device, the Curve features a 2.0 megapixel digital camera with built-in flash and zoom features. The 8800 didn't have a digital camera, because RIM wanted to support enterprises that have policies banning the use of digital cameras in the workplace. In this case, companies who don't have such policies, or employees who have jobs that could benefit from the use of a digital camera on a smart phone, can look to the Curve instead of the 8800.

Some caveats: Like most of the BlackBerry devices these days, the keys are small and crowded together, which can cause some fat-finger typos. The location of the microSD card is even worse than the 8800 -- it's truly behind the battery. With the 8800, there was a slight chance you could remove the memory card without removing the battery -- on the Curve it's impossible. Putting the microSD card in such a difficult spot prevents users from truly benefiting from the ability to transfer files from the microSD card to a PC and back.

Grade: 4 stars

Speaking of the BlackBerry, RIM announced a new one last week that we can't wait to get our hands on. The 8820 is the company's first dual-mode BlackBerry, which means it can connect over the EDGE/GPRS/GSM cellular network as well as over a Wi-Fi network.

RIM says the device will be able to "seamlessly switch between cellular networks and Wi-Fi connections," which means fears about carriers losing data revenue as users connect over Wi-Fi may finally be subsiding (though I have a feeling your voice traffic will still work only over the WAN). Cool features include built-in GPS, support for the Bluetooth stereo profile and voice-activated dialing.

The device will be available through AT&T later this summer.

Lots more Cool Tools goodness online at www.networkworld.com, including the weekly Cool Tools Video show and Twisted Pair podcast.


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