Is the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8520 Right for You?

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Research In Motion's (RIM) brand new BlackBerry Curve 8520 is now on sale in the United States, through T-Mobile. The Curve 8520, RIM's third iteration of the Curve, falls directly in the middle of both RIM and T-Mobile's Curve product lines.

After T-Mobile initially released the Curve 8320 in September 2007, it quickly became one of the carrier's best selling smartphones. More than a year later, T-Mobile was the first U.S. carrier to release RIM's second-generation Curve, the BlackBerry 8900. And today, the carrier is first to offer the next Curve, the BlackBerry 8520.

T-Mobile's BlackBerry Curve Family: Curve 8900, Curve 8520 and Curve 8320

Tuesday, I attended RIM's Curve 8520 launch event in New York City, where the company showed off all kinds of up-and-coming wares along with the new device. I spent quite a bit of time with the new Curve and was able to mostly size it up.

Now, on to the Curve 8520 features and technical specifications, as well as my breakdown of why the new Curve could be a perfect fit for you--or not.

And if you're interested in additional BlackBerry devices, check out my takes on the BlackBerry Curve 8900 or Tour 9630.

How to Tell if the BlackBerry Curve 8520 is for You

First and foremost, are you a T-Mobile customer or are you considering switching to T-Mobile? If not, you'll want to pass on the new Curve 8520, since it's currently a T-Mobile exclusive. (Additional carriers, including Verizon Wireless, are expected to release the Curve 8530, dubbed "BlackBerry Aries," in the future, and AT&T will likely get its own 8520 variant.)

If switching your carrier to T-Mobile is a possibility, you'll want to make sure that T-Mobile provides adequate service in the areas where you live, work or spend most of your time.

The best way to determine if you reside or work in an area with strong T-Mobile coverage is to speak with a friend, colleague, neighbor, etc., who uses the carrier on a daily basis. Get general impressions of each carrier's coverage in your areas. Then check out the appropriate online coverage maps. And visit a T-Mobile retail location to speak with company representatives. In other words, do a bit of research.

If you find that T-Mobile coverage isn't up to snuff where you roam most often, you'll probably want to avoid the BlackBerry Curve 8520--at least for now.

Next up, some quick technical specifications from RIM:

  • Quad-band GSM/EDGE/GPRS (850/900/1800/1900MHz)

  • Wi-Fi (802.11b/g)

  • UMA support; T-Mobile HotSpot @Home Wi-Fi calling

  • 2.0 MP camera with 5X digital zoom and video recording (No flash)

  • 256MB Flash Memory

  • High-resolution 320 X 240 pixel screen

  • 1150 mAHr removable/rechargeable cryptographic Lithium cell battery (same as Curve 83xx family)

  • DataViz Documents To Go

  • Support for BlackBerry Media Sync (iTunes playlist sync)

  • BlackBerry OS v4.6.1

  • Expandable memory slot for up to 16GB of storage

  • Support for the messaging capabilities of the BlackBerry platform, including push e-mail, popular instant messaging applications and premium phone features

The feature that really jumps out at me about the BlackBerry Curve 8520 is the brand new trackpad that replaced the traditional BlackBerry trackball found on the majority of RIM's newer devices. The Curve 8520 is the first BlackBerry to sport the trackpad, and I like it very much. It's not quite as sensitive as a BlackBerry trackball, so I bumped up the sensitivity settings, but it didn't take long before I felt like I'd been using it for years.

Trackpad on RIM's BlackBerry Curve 8520 from T-Mobile

This trackpad addresses one of RIM's most common BlackBerry issues: stuck, dirty or broken track balls. Ask heavy BlackBerry users how they feel about the current trackball navigation system, and you'll probably get very similar responses about how the trackballs need to be replaced often. The new trackpad has no moving parts and there's less room for dirt or grit to sneak into the device's internal components. It's a welcome improvement--as long as it stands up to the test of time.

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