With all the fuss surrounding the arrival of the Storm it's easy to forget that most people still buy a BlackBerry to keep up with their email while on the move and aren't all that fussed about it's other myriad of features. The Curve 8900 is designed to appeal directly to these folks, as it takes the classic Curve design and updates it with a few useful tweaks.
Out of the box the 8900 doesn't look all that different to previous Curve models as it's got many of the same raw ingredients. As ever the front is split pretty evenly between the screen at the top and the full QWERTY keyboard at the bottoms, with the mini trackball holding court in-between. Look a bit closer, however, and you can see that RIM has made some subtle changes. For starters the chassis looks a lot classier as there's now a chrome band that frames the front of the phone with a glossy black finish used for the face of the handset.
The 8900 is also noticeably slimmer and lighter than its predecessors and two buttons have been added to the top of the chassis for putting the phone in and out of silent mode and switching the keylock on and off . As they're flush with the case (the top part of the case seems to act as a kind of elongated rocker switch) they take a little getting used to, but keeping them flush does at least give a sleeker look. Another welcome tweak is that the handset includes a standard headphone jack rather than the propriety one used on previous models.
As the device is physically smaller than previous models, the screen has also been reduced in size slightly, but this is offset by the fact that RIM has upped the resolution to 480 x 360 pixels. As a result text and graphics look exceptionally sharp, and colours are also very vibrant making pictures and movies look really stunning too.
The 8900 is also the first device to feature RIM's new ‘Atomic' trackball which has been redesigned to be more resistant to dust and dirt and also to have smoother action. It certainly feels smoother under your thumb or finger, which makes it faster to scroll around webpages or through lists of text and icons.
The keyboard also seems to be slightly smaller than on the previous models, but it's still one of the best found on any mobile device. In part this is because it has individually raised keys rather than a single membrane as on some smartphones, but it's also because the keyboard layout is well thought out and the keys are just so tactile. It really is great for tapping out emails or entering webpage addresses.
Internally there are some changes too. The 8900 features a faster processor as RIM has moved it over from the 312MHz model used on the 8200 series to a faster 512MHz processor here. And while the 8900 doesn't feel quite as speedy as the Bold, it is faster than most of the other devices in the BlackBerry range and definitely feels very zippy when you're using it.