Phones aren’t something I’ve been into, and not something I ever wrote about (or ever planned to), but I feel this post will be helpful to many people choosing between these two devices, and out of all my sites, I feel this is the most relevant one I can throw this post up on. I’ll primarily stick to the main points I noticed, and on practical use, rather than on the specific technical differences between each Blackberry.
Hard choice, but comes down to two points. Do you really need 3G? and are you willing to switch carriers or do you want to stick with your current one?
The Blackberry Curve 8900
Build / Form Factor
It might not be noticeable in the pics, but the 8900 has a much better build than the Bold. The device is physically smaller and more comfortable to carry with one hand (the Bold must feel like a classic Gameboy to people with small hands), letting you type with one hand comfortably.
The trackball is solid and much more accurate than the Bold’s, which feels flimsy and feels worn out after a few days. If you have a bold and hold it up to your ear and keep tapping the trackball without actually pressing it down, you’ll notice it makes a sound kind of like the sound your keyboard makes when you tap it without actually pressing it down. This isn’t much of a problem and not something I notice in practice, but it does feel cheap. The 8900s also feels perfect at the default sensitivity (70).
The keyboard buttons are raised higher than the bold and are physically separated. The keys aren’t as slippery and it’s much harder to mistype. They also feel ‘heavier’ and nicer to push overall. Having the numbers in red on the 8900 (all white on the Bold) is also a nice touch, but while I prefer the 8900’s keyboard, I have absolutely no problems with the Bold’s after getting used to it.
RIM definitely took issues present in the Bold into account when designing the 8900. The right convenience button (camera by default) on the 8900 must be pressed down harder and held down longer before the camera application is invoked. This gets rid of the annoying “could not start camera” error or pitch black pictures of your pocket that occur when the camera shortcut key is pressed down accidently on the Bold.
This might just be me, but on the Bold, my index finger tends to naturally get in the way of the camera when I’m taking pics. I need to be aware of it and intentionally keep it out of the way. This doesn’t happen on the 8900. Speaking of cameras…
The camera on the 8900 has 3.2 megapixels (compared to the Bold’s 2 MP) and autofocus. It doesn’t sound like a big improvement, but it’s huge when you see pictures side by side. Pictures taken on the 9000 look grainy, like a traditional camera phone pic, and the color temperature is off even with the white balance set to auto.
If you don’t use your phone for snapping pics, apps like Flickr for Blackberry and the Facebook Blackberry app, might change that habit. You’d be glad you chose the 8900 vs the 9000 anytime you’re stuck without your SLR and need to capture a moment.
The screen on the 8900 is slightly smaller than the Bold. It also has a longer ratio compared to the Bold’s wide screen. It’s hard to say which is better, but using bothdevices, I prefer looking at the 8900, especially when reading. The resolution is higher (480×360 vs 480×320) and the screen color temperature is richer. Text is sharper on the 8900, and colors look more natural than on the 9000. Overall, both screens are amazing, and some may opt for a slightly larger screen than a smaller one at a higher resolution.
The battery on the 8900 lasts a few hours longer than the Bold, but it may last significantly more depending on how you use your BB. I like having a lot of apps open and I use the blackberry a lot, for IRC, browsing, email, AIM, etc. The Bold’s 3G antenna (which cannot be turned off) saps a lot of power, as does its slightly faster processor.
The 8900 doesn’t have the leather plate on the back (though eventually we might see 3rd party battery covers featuring this). The chrome battery cover on the 8900 looks good and feels sturdy, and many people prefer this to the leather. I personally prefer the leather battery cover on the 9000. It has a more CEO-of-a-fortune-500-company vibe to it.
The 8900 comes with 256 megs of RAM compared to the 9000. This might result in better performance in some apps against the Bold’s 128 megs of RAM and faster processor.
Both are small as hell for storing media and you’ll wanna upgrade ASAP.
Never buy the memory card from the phone retailer. Tmobile here charges $40 for a 2 gig micro SD card. AT&T charges $25. My bro got his from Radioshack for$8 (probably with a friend’s discount).
The Blackberry Bold 9000
First and most important in your decision on which BB to get: carriers. Here in New York, the 8900 is only available at T-Mobile (and soon Verizon), and the Bold is only available with AT&T. YMMV here, but AT&T has significantly better coverage and a higher voice quality. As a consumer, AT&T just feels more mature and better to do business with. It’ s the small things like offering insurance for $2 cheaper and giving you twice as long to opt-in for it as T-Mobile (30 days vs 14 days), more competent tech support and less time on hold, etc.
A big reason I migrated over from T-Mobile was because T-Mobile’s website sucks. I avoided T-Mobile’s site so often I missed payments. The site reminds me of GoDaddy. Promos and prominent colors (pink?!) all over the place competing for my attention.
In T-Mobile’s defence, their prices are usually much cheaper than AT&T. Also, T-Mobile has excellent coverage, be it as good as AT&T or not, and the 8900 supports UMA.
In regard to carriers, you might want to go with a carrier that has a lot of authorized branches in your area. This can make service/repair/upgrades less of a hassle later on.
The bold has a faster processor. This might be something to consider if you use your BB like you use your laptop (having lots of stuff open), though having twice as much RAM (8900 has 256, bold 128) would be better in some cases, I didn’t notice much of a difference in performance in practice.
I did notice AIM and MSN crash (raised exceptions) a few times when there were too many things open on the 8900. “Too many things” included far more than you would practically have open in a real life setting. We’re talking a few games, the browser, a video etc open simultanously. I can’t confirm that this is what caused AIM or MSN to halt for a bit and then crash, but it’s just a pattern I’m beginning to notice. It doesn’t always happen and will probably be addressed in the next OS patch/release. I’m going to migrate away from the official AIM client and into BeeJive when I find a torrent $20.
3G support is great, but it’s something I noticed I can live without because I usually do most of my major web browsing when I’m close to wifi anyway. The only time I really wish I had 3G when I’m on the Curve is when I’m using Google Maps. It takes a little longer to load, but this con doesn’t outweigh the other pros the 8900 offers. If you plan on tethering Internet to your laptop, 3G should definitely be something to look into.
Also note that the 3G antenna cannot be turned off. This means a much lower battery life than the 8900. Not much of a problem if you have a car charger though, and you’ll use the blackberry much less over time compared to when you first bought it, so don’t be shocked if you notice 1/2 the battery is drained after 2 hours of continous usage.
The 9000 looks leet. I don’t know what’s so attractive about the 9000, but it’s probably just the fact that it doesn’t look like the older Blackberrys. The 8900 looks nice, but it grew on me; Not something I found particularly eye catching at first. The 8900 being numerically less than 9000, and the fact that the 8900 has a smaller form factor, sort of make the 8900 seem like a watered down Bold, or a step backwards, but it really isn’t. From what I noticed, this is the #1 reason people choose the Bold over the Curve, only using ‘carrier’ or ‘3G support’ as logical reasons for justification on their choice/purchase after the fact.
The Bold came with a slick leather bolt holster, and the 8900 came with a little girly pouch. The pouch is actually pretty nice; It fits snuggly and does a good job of protecting the phone when I’m carrying it around directly in my pocket. Only problem is it’s one more step taking it out of the pouch. It’s also harder to show off than having it visible on your RIM belt holster. Fortunately, the holster made by Speck is pretty good.