The BlackBerry Curve 3G 9300 is a perked-up version of the entry-level BlackBerry Curve 8520, with 3G connectivity and slightly more oomph under the hood. But its trackpad is frustrating, and it offers absolutely nothing to get excited about. Overall, the Curve 3G is the definition of 'decent but dull'.
You can find the Curve 3G online for free on a £20-a-month, 24-month contract. You can also pick it up for around £280 SIM-free.
Icing on the cake
The Curve 3G is definitely an improvement on the Curve 8520, thanks to its addition of 3G connectivity. We didn't complain about the lack of 3G on the 8520, because it offers Wi-Fi for when you need to do some serious Web surfing, and it's inexpensive. But 3G connectivity is now a feature that we're used to seeing on almost every smart phone, so it's good to have it on-board the Curve 3G.
It's not all sunshine, lollipops and minor upgrades, though. The Curve 3G has the same optical trackpad that debuted on the 8520, but it wasn't as responsive in our tests. We sometimes found it downright dumb, and needed to swipe at it several times to make it do what we wanted. After getting the hang of its quirks, we were able to use the trackpad, but it wasn't as fun or zippy as that which we've come to expect from a BlackBerry phone. It's surprising that a feature that worked so well on other models is such a disappointment on the Curve 3G.
Black is back
The Curve 3G has a staid, business-friendly appearance, and looks similar to the BlackBerry Curve 8900. It's trim and feels solid, but it won't win any awards for innovative design. We liked the Curve 8900 because it was smaller than the BlackBerry Bold 9000, which was RIM's top-of-the-line handset at the time. But, since then, the slightly smaller BlackBerry Bold 9700 has taken the BlackBerry throne, so the Curve 3G doesn't offer a huge advantage in the size department.
Work those fingers
Like its BlackBerry brethren, the Curve 3G's Qwerty keyboard makes it a great choice for people who love texting and emailing. The BlackBerry Messenger instant-messaging service lets you chat for free with other 'Berry owners, anywhere in the world. The phone also lets you use up to ten email accounts, with support for push email letting you get your emails as soon as they hit the server. The only downside to these features is that you must have a BlackBerry contract for the phone to work -- you can't just pick up a cheap SIM card from anywhere. If you don't have a BlackBerry contract, most of the phone's features won't work at all.
For social butterflies, there are solid Facebook and Twitter apps on the Curve 3G, with a decent choice of more from the BlackBerry App World store. BlackBerry apps tend to be more expensive than similar apps on the iPhone or on Android platforms, but there are plenty of free ones too, and they tend to be reliable.
Knocked for six
The Curve 3G sports the BlackBerry OS, which takes some getting used to if you're unfamiliar with it. A zillion options are accessible with a press of the menu key, but the phone is fairly easy to use once you're in the groove. The business-orientated user interface isn't a visual masterpiece or particularly fun to use, but it gets the job done.
RIM has stated that the Curve 3G will get an update to the latest version of the BlackBerry OS, version 6, which has just arrived on the BlackBerry Torch 9800. That should make the phone feel fresher and more consumer-focused, so it's something to look forward to.
In the meantime, the Curve 3G is nothing to get excited about. The address book, for example, is a boring list of names without any embellishment in terms of either styling or extra functionality. There are some fun features in there -- open a contact and you can see their Facebook profile picture, for instance -- but the list itself is as dull as a silent monastery. Happily, you can download apps that jazz up your contact list, home screen and other areas.
The Curve 3G also adds a sprinkling of musical spice in the form of dedicated media buttons along the top of the phone, and a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. Having our music easily at hand meant that the Curve 3G didn't feel like all business and no pleasure. We don't like the audio jack's position on the side of the phone, however, because, when we're using headphones with a big plug, it sticks out the side and makes the phone hard to pop in a pocket.
Finally, we have to give a shout out to the Curve 3G's battery life. With light use and the 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity switched on all day, the phone lasted 3 days on a full charge. We found it so refreshing to get such long battery life out of a smart phone that we gave the Curve 3G a big hug and a biscuit.
It's hard to get excited about a phone that only offers minor upgrades to what came before, and relies on a future software update for its only innovative feature. But, if you're looking for a perfectly adequate BlackBerry that ticks all the boxes, there's not much wrong with the BlackBerry Curve 3G 9300. Its trackpad is as responsive as a sloth, though, so, if you can stump up the cash for a beautiful BlackBerry Bold 9700, we'd suggest getting that instead.
Edited by Charles Kloet