Toybox: Blackberry Curve finds the way home

Among the phone's nicest features are the built-in GPS and the Google Maps application, which easily switches between map view and satellite image

After having played with an iPhone, I thought I would never be impressed by another phone again. Well, at least not for a long time. So, when I got sent a Blackberry Curve 8310 to test, I didn’t think it would get me very excited.

I also thought the fact that I got a personal training session on how to use the “Curve”, plus a 30-page user guide (which says “experts in simplicity” on the back page) quite hilarious. “God, how complex can it be to use?” I thought to myself, knowing I would be seriously turned off if the phone made me feel stupid.

But, the 8310 is actually quite straightforward. And while it is nowhere near as easy to use or as good-looking as the iPhone, it’s certainly a nice smartphone.

To begin with, there’s the form factor: the 8310 is much smaller, slimmer and lighter than I thought it would be. It also has a gun-metal grey finish, which goes fabulously with the corporate suit.

The 8310 has an awful lot of very small buttons. They’re laid out like a mini-keyboard. It took this first-time Blackberry user a while to get used to them, but now I’m texting (and typing Facebook messages) without any trouble. It is all relatively easy to navigate using the trackball.

Among the phone’s nicest features are the built-in GPS and the Google Maps application, which easily switches between map view and satellite image. However, the phone did have some trouble finding my location. After about 10 minutes it came up with a blank map of New Zealand, placing me roughly where Auckland should be on the map. When I sought an address in San Francisco, it came up with a detailed map instantly.

The display is a bright 320x240-pixel, 2.5-inch screen and I had no problems viewing it in direct light.

The shortcut key for voice commands is located on the side, and the onboard 2-megapixel camera is activated by a button on the other side. The camera — for taking still photos — has an LED flash, and there is also a little mirror for self-portraits, which is located below the camera. Volume buttons are located on the side of the phone, with the mute button on top.

The onboard media player supports most music formats, including MP3, WMA and AAC. I also found the screen decent enough for watching videos. The 8310 has 64MB of memory, but this can be expanded with a microSD card. There is a mini-USB connector, for synching and charging, and a headphone jack on the side. The 8310 also has Bluetooth capability, which supports headsets and short transfers.

On the downside, there is no wi-fi or 3G connectivity, which means the 8310 is reliant on GPRS bandwidth.

While there are no doubts about the 8310’s ability to easily take care of phone calls, emails, contacts, calendar and tasks, and it’s a great companion for the normal business user who occasionally needs to whip out Google Maps for a satellite view of a certain address or to get driving directions, it has its limitations. If you’re a real geek, the 8310 may well leave you wanting more. The Blackberry Curve 8310 costs $999, including GST, from Vodafone.

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Tags GPSGoogle MapsBlackberry Curve

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