The Curve family in RIM's BlackBerry line-up has been updated time and time again. The first Curve to come with 3G capabilities, the Curve 3G 9300 is one of the many upcoming BlackBerry products representative of RIM's slight shift from being an email-centric mobile phone to a social networking-worthy device. This is further reinforced by the fact that the device comes BlackBerry OS 6 ready - of which one of the new features is a preloaded app called the Social Feed that collates newsfeeds from popular social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Talk, Microsoft's Windows Live and more.
However, do bear in mind that the unit we tested came with BlackBerry OS 5; RIM representatives have informed us that the upgrade is not possible yet.
Design-wise, the BlackBerry Curve 3G 9300 has not deviated much from its predecessors, sporting the trademark BlackBerry keypad. In fact, the phone looks exactly like its predecessor, the 8520, retaining the optical trackball, which is a welcome addition for a phone with its small screen. On the down side, the BlackBerry Curve 3G feels and looks like an entry-level phone: tacky and flimsy, made worse by a rubberized back that is evidently not scratch-resistant. Buttons flanking the left and right sides of the phone protrude like unsightly bumps.
Nonetheless, the phone feels nice in our palms and is extremely lightweight at 104g. And for what it's worth, its stout and square form factor will fit nicely in pockets.
The good news first: the 9300 comes with 3G connectivity, making surfing and social networking less of a hassle, and speedier. Wi-Fi functionality is available, which makes the limited data connectivity options (only EDGE GPRS) on the previous Curves feel very obsolete. The Wi-Fi option also makes it less expensive for users to stay connected online.
Having a QWERTY keypad is expected for a BlackBerry, but our messaging experience on the Curve 3G was less than pleasant mostly due to the cramped layout and raised buttons. To be fair, there was good tactile feedback from the keys, but we found that the only way to type coherently was to use our fingernails.
The BlackBerry Curve 3G 9300 comes with media shortcuts located at the top. They are user-friendly and self-explanatory: from left-to-right, backward, pause/play, forward, but it has one grave weakness: the buttons are stiff and extremely hard to press, especially so for the two outermost buttons since they have been positioned on the phone's curves.
The diminutive 320 x 240-pixel screen actually looks pretty decent, but one has to squint when surfing the net or checking Facebook. And if you are looking to take decent photos, its 2-megapixel camera with fixed focus is definitely not something you would like to rely on. For quick snapshots, sure - but be forewarned that photos are extremely fuzzy, and noisy, with discolorations seen prominently when you zoom in. Likewise, captured videos are grainy and spot discolorations. Audio is decidedly average with weak bass.
On a different note, there are two more shortcut keys, one on each side of the phone, which allows you to easily direct to apps of your choice. You can easily assign them under Options > Screen/Keyboard.
Taking in account its multimedia limitations, the BlackBerry Curve 3G 9300 remains a predominantly business-centric phone. It has a generally fuss-free and simple user experience and a decent battery life of slightly over a day with constant pulling of social feeds from Twitter/Facebook, emails, and multimedia usage. If you are one of those who barely touch your mobile phone, save for checking emails and the occasional calls, the device is definitely an apt choice.
We aren't unable to get the recommended retail price for it at this moment, but odds are, you're likely to wait for BlackBerry OS 6 to be rolled out before committing to this device.