“No BlackBerry Curve 8900 for you!”

“No BlackBerry Curve 8900 for you!”


You’ll probably see plenty of coverage on Australian tech sites about today’s launch of the BlackBerry Curve 8900 – the sweet but sadly GSM-only smartphone which we already revealed last week.

But don’t get too excited: Vodafone which is currently the sole carrier of the 8900 will sell it only to big business customers at the top end of town.

APC has confirmed with Vodafone that the Curve 8900 won’t be made available on any of its popular Business Cap or Personal Cap plans nor will it be offered for outright sale at $929 (despite that claim being made by a RIM representative during this morning’s press briefing). It won’t even be on display at any Vodafone store.

No the only way to pocket this delightful device will be if you’re an employee of one of Vodafone’s corporate or Business One customers. The rest of you still making do with an old 8700-series brick or the first-gen Curve 8300 can go without.

Take a good look – this might be as close as you get to the new Curve 8900

We can see the thinking behind Vodafone’s decision – the GSM-only 8900 is better suited as a fleet workhorse and makes a sensible update to hundreds of the above-mentioned devices. Email is what the BlackBerry does best and RIM’s highly efficient compression is perfectly good for shuttling email over the narrow GSM pipeline.

(We’re less convinced about the usability of other services over GSM such as Web browsing and Google Maps but we’ll withhold judgement until we’ve done a side-by-side comparison of the Curve 8900 and the Bold 9000. It’s also worth noting that while RIM touts the 8900 as being EDGE Telstra operates the sole EDGE-enhanced GSM service in Australia – the GSM networks of Vodafone and Optus run on steam-powered GPRS which is good for only about 70Kbps in the real world.)

And there’s no doubt that most mobile professionals and alpha geeks would prefer in the 3G HSDPA radio waves of the BlackBerry Bold 9000.

But there are certain to be many BlackBerry users living and working beyond the reach of the 3G networks and who would love to be able to trade up to the Curve 8900.

That’s because there’s a lot to like about this second-gen Curve. The Bold-inspired design is a delight while the form factor – from the thin 1.3cm profile to the compact hand-friendly size and 110 gram weight – is perfect for just about any pocket purse or paw.

The 2.4 inch 480 × 360 HVGA+ display screen is brighter and sharper more so even than that of the Bold 9000 with a punchy 512MHz Xscale processor (compared to the 8300′s 312MHz chip) delivering great performance while running background apps.

The 8900 also sports the updated BlackBerry OS 4.6 with the same classy UI HTML email support iTunes integration and multimedia playback (including DiVX videos) as the Bold. The 3.2 megapixel camera is a welcome bonus alongside inbuilt GSP and 11g Wi-Fi.

Then there are subtle new touches such as the dedicated keyboard lock button on the top-left corner (so you don’t need to remap one of the two ‘convenience keys’ on either side).

Sadly all that geeky Curvy goodness remains out of reach to the majority of users. We hope that situation will change because the Curve 8900 – and the legion of BlackBerry users living outside the big smoke and not employed by big business – deserve a better deal.