Product Type: Blackberry Smartphone
Newest Review: ... had its own issues. Back onto the 8310, it was easy to change the covers, had a decent camera with flash and the gps made blackberry maps h... more
A Real Smoothie
Blackberry Curve 8310
Member Name: plipplop
Blackberry Curve 8310
Advantages: Easy to use, excellent features, very simple layout, good design, durable
Disadvantages: Battery problems, not easily customised
Blackberry handsets are available on all the major networks, but the range of handsets differs according to which network provider you go with. I signed up for a good deal with Vodafone, particularly because I'd previously found them to have good network coverage and because the customer service was generally better than some of the competition. At the time I took out my current contract, the 8310 handset (from the Curve range) was brand new and exclusive to Vodafone, but I think it has since become available on other networks. The Curve series of handsets is certainly my personal favourite of all those available. The basic shape, screen-size and overall design remains consistent; it's only really the functions that improve as you go from the 8300 to the 8310 and then the 8320 and 8330.
The size of the handset suits me perfectly. I've never been in a quest to get the smallest handset that you can find, simply because I've got quite big hands and fingers and can otherwise not work my way round the keypad. The 8310 sits in my hand perfectly, although the size was initially a bit of a culture shock when making a call and this is the most noticeable thing when you switch from a conventional handset to a Blackberry. They are rather chunkier than a normal phone and you have to get used to holding the handset in a different way to make best use of the microphone and audio speaker. I find the 8310 much more practical and intuitive than any of the Nokia or Motorola handsets that I've had when I'm on a call. It took me forever to work out which menu to use to put a call on hold or switch to another call with the former two suppliers, but with the Blackberry it just seems to be the most obvious button to press. Adjusting the volume during a call is equally simple and I find the quality of sound just as good (if not better) than your conventional mobile phone.
The large screen and 64MB of memory as standard mean that the 8310 is much better for texting too. For starters, I can fit much more onto one screen, so long texts are far easier to read and quicker to type too. I particularly like the way that once a contact is in my phone book, text conversations are saved as a string too, regardless of whether the sender replied to a message or sent it off the cuff. This is confusing to traditional mobile phone users though, as I find myself referring to messages that they've long since deleted. It's not such a friendly phone though - things like smiley icons and other symbols are very constrained by the traditional keyboard and I do miss being able to insert pictures into messages to liven them up a bit. I find picture messaging fairly easy on this phone although arguably slower than some of the Nokia phones on the market. By the time you've taken the picture and it's stored itself on the phone memory (it's amazing how those few seconds can pass) you then have to go into the message option and work your magic. It's not a hugely lengthy process, but it does seem a bit slower than some of the more youthful multimedia handsets on the market. The built-in camera is reasonably good. The 2 mega pixel specification isn't the best I've ever had in a phone but the resolution is adequate enough for basic pictures / messages.
The email options are good. You can either subscribe to the Blackberry enterprise service and use email that way, which normally synchronises with a personal of business Outlook account or you can actually set up some web-based email services to come through your handset. As I switch between using a Mac and a Windows-based PC, I find this rather complicated and subscribed to the Vodafone business email option, which uses the Blackberry Enterprise service. Neither of my web-based email accounts (www.mail.com and www.aol.co.uk) is compatible with the Blackberry software and as I no longer have a corporate Outlook email account, I had none to link to the handset. To complicate this further, the Vodafone email account cannot be accessed via Safari or Firefox on a Mac, so to configure my handset I had to use a Windows XP laptop and then set it up to go to my Blackberry handset. I'm sure I over-complicated things, but I would see myself as a fairly regular phone user and would therefore see this as a key area for improvement. The customer services guys seem to suggest that everything is very simple, but I found the contrary to be the case. Once in use, the email works pretty well although the handset essentially merges texts and emails into the same list so you have to think about what you're sending and receiving. Attachments continue to be an issue. Microsoft documents can be opened and viewed, as can Adobe PDF documents but they've not really got to grips with making them easy to view - and you can't amend them and resend.
The handset's very secure, with good password / encryption. There are various security settings, including a keyboard lock, which can be set to completely clear the phone memory if a certain incorrect number of attempts are made to access it. Unlike some conventional mobile phone handsets, there is no quick way to unlock the phone (such as a flip phone that unlocks when opened) so the longer the password you have, the longer it takes to get in.
The web browser has improved since my last Blackberry but not enormously. The GPRS signal means that there are still lots of signal black spots (particularly on trains) and the speed of loading pages even when in signal is quite poor. More importantly, a great number of web sites remain wholly unsuitable for Blackberry browsing; the high number of images and banners simply means that they take forever to load. Some simpler sites work quite well (Yell is very good for getting numbers and addresses on the move and the BBC web site is a good stop-off for news headlines) but the convention of grabbing some information and going is generally the same. You wouldn't really browse the Internet for pleasure using a Blackberry handset.
The handset comes with a fairly good music player, but again, this falls foul of the Windows / Mac conflict, in that the software that comes with the handset is intended for a Windows user. There ARE ways round this, but in essence you drag music files into a basic folder, once you've found it, by connecting the Blackberry as an external drive to your Mac. In usage, the music player is good, particularly because the volume and sound quality are better than your average iPod and also because the large screen shows off any artwork quite nicely. The memory capacity soon disappears if you load too much on though - mine filled up with about seven albums and then, curiously, simply wouldn't load anything else, even if I substituted each album for an equivalent.
The 8310 comes with Satellite Navigation, a service to which you need to subscribe, but I got given a year's free subscription at connection. I use it sporadically, generally when I'm in the car with one of my friends who don't have it installed already, but it is a genuinely usable alternative, with clear vocal directions given and a clear, large visual to follow. The driver could use it hands-free, but without a cradle would be reliant on listening to the voice. There's a ridiculous pedestrian option that should work well in theory, but never seems to be able to find your location and continually asks you to input where you are - which could be a problem if you want it to tell you where you are. It works fine on the drive mode but not the walk mode.
Given that the maunfacturer is appealing to a different market, there is limited capability to personalise the phone too. You can have one of two or three profiles on the main screen, two of which are quite jolly and colourful and one of which is quite bland. You can choose from a simple range of ring tones, or load your own on, but it's not a quick and easy task and this isn't a phone for someone who wants a new tone each week. The volume control only has fixed modes (loud, quiet, normal, vibrate etc) and I've yet to find one that actually sits at the right volume if I'm in a normal office environment - either too quiet or too loud.
The handset is also really, really durable. Mine has been dropped and slid around all over the place, and at about five months old, the glossy, metallic finish is still as new. The only real issue I've had with is the battery. My original battery didn't really charge properly and had to be replaced in the first week; my second battery has lasted about four months before doing the same. Working properly, the battery lasts a good 36 hours with normal usage before being recharged, but I've gotten into the habit of carrying a spare battery in my case in case I forget the charger.
Blackberry handsets are now increasingly well-priced, and I was really pleased with the deal I got on this. For £40 a month, I get unlimited text messages, plus 750 cross-network minutes. I also pay an additional £10 a month for the email account (optional) and the handset was free. There are no other charges - so it's actually pretty good value for money (that's based on an eighteen month contract).
So, all in, I'm really pleased with the handset and the supporting contract. I'm confident that this will see me through the full eighteen month period before I want to change, at which point I'm sure a free upgrade will be offered. Highly recommended.
Summary: My favourite Blackberry handset - so far.....
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