BlackBerry Curve 3G 9300 Review

I’ve been using smartphones for more than half a decade now having tried almost all types of smartphones except for one, the BlackBerry. Five years ago, BlackBerry would be synonymous to enterprise phones. An ordinary consumer wouldn’t even dare to get one. But now, it’s totally different. You’d see normal people carrying a BlackBerry even if they don’t have an Outlook email. “CrackBerries” are so addicted with their phones. Check out our full review of the BlackBerry Curve 3G after the jump, my first for a BlackBerry smartphone.

BB 9300 Curve 3G is equipped with BlackBerry OS 5. It’s not the newest OS from the Canadian company but is very capable, stylish and very clean. The OS is as snappy as my iPhone. Swiping on the optical trackpad is a smooth as butter.

Display is at 320×240 pixels — not the clearest screen around but it’s more than decent. The Curve 3G is just an upgraded version of the BB 8520. The main difference is, you guessed it right, its 3G-capable.

They’re like twin brothers; they look, feel, and weigh exactly the same. One is more of a runner with its 3G speed. The build is on the “plasticky” side though. You’d feel it is an entry level smartphone, which it actually is. It’s so light you wouldn’t feel it inside your pocket which I really liked.

Curve 9300 and Bold 9700

Just like the Curve 8520, Curve 3G has the multimedia buttons at the top, to pause, forward, back and play music. The phone can play a slew of audio and video codecs. I was amazed that the phone can even play .avi files. The speaker is really loud. I was able to play an entire episode of Glee inside the car using it’s built in speaker. It has a 3.5mm headphone jack and the sound quality is above average. The phone could easily replace your regular mp3 player.

BlackBerry did not upgrade the camera of the phone. It is still using the same 2MP camera found in the 8520. The camera is decent but not something you’d be printing off of. It’s not awful but definitely not great. There’s no Flash by the way but you can record videos.

One thing I like about the BlackBerry line is the consistency with its qwerty keyboards. I heard a lot of good things with it. I’m happy to admit that everything they say about the keyboard is true. You’ll get a good feedback whenever you type something. It’s a bit on the harder side of “clicking” compared to the Nokia C3 and the higher end modes like Bold 9700. What I love about the BlackBerry keyboards are the shortcuts you can do with it and some customizations. This is what I missed the most from using touchscreen phones. You will still get the 4 standard buttons like the call, end, back and BB menu buttons plus the optical trackpad that also acts as an Enter button too.

The unit I got didn’t come with the “App World” app so I had to download first to get some apps on the phone. The phone came with BBM, several IM clients like YM, GTalk and Windows Live messenger, Twitter app and Facebook. You can set up your personal email with just a few clicks. One unique feature of BlackBerry OS is the unified inbox which I totally love. The few apps they have is so integrated with the system like the Facebook and Twitter app. Everything is connected to the unified inbox so you would be reading all your messages from Twitter, email and Facebook in one inbox.

WiFi is not so straightforward when setting up. I had several problems connecting to my home network. Bluetooth connection was simple. Connecting it to the computer via the USB port would give you access to its folders. You can easily drag and drop multimedia files on it.

Bold 9700, Curve 9300 and Curve 8520

Personally, the 3G speed is not maximized on this phone. The reason for this is the browser. The browser is still a bit clunky especially when compared to iPhones and Androids. It’s like you’re still using a browser from a Windows Mobile in 2006. I don’t need 3G speed to send IM messages nor BBM messages. I don’t need it for tweeting as well. It’s probably more useful when browsing Facebook.

I never had an issue making calls. No signal attenuation issues here. The line was clear on both ends. The battery is not so great when 3G is activated. With heavy use of YM and BBM, this phone could only last you under 12 hours. This is mainly caused by the 3G. This is at par with any smartphones these days. It’s not really the phone’s nor its battery size’s fault but rather how you use 3G in a day.

Curve 9300 on top and Curve 8520 at the bottom

By far, this is one of the best messaging phone available. That is if you’re only sending text messages, BBM-ing, tweeting, posting Facebook entries and sending a thousand emails everyday.

If you’re lifestyle is limited to those tasks, then I suggest you join the bandwagon. If you have more than 5 close friends using BBM, I suggest you get this phone. BBM-ing is really addicting, it’s like you have your own chatroom with friends. You can broadcast a post, upload picture to everyone and send files. This is the one aspect of the BlackBerry that I never got to know until now. After 2 weeks of using it and around 10 friends on BBM, I easily got hooked with it. You could also say this is a good social network phone.

The unit is estimated to sell for Php15k to Php18k depending on where you buy it. Expect telcos to offer postpaid plans for this. You also need to shell out about Php1,500 a month to get unlimited BIS (internet and BBM services) on this device.

Is this phone for me? I’d say no. I could easily get a Nokia C3 phone with almost the same features except for the BBM for half the price. If your friends are using BBM already and you’re thinking of jumping to the smartphone ship, this is one of the best phones you can get. If you’re a BB 8520 user, I could not recommend getting this phone. You’re better off getting a Bold 9700 if you really want an upgrade. You won’t need the 3G most of the time anyways. But if you’re thinking of joining the BlackBerry cult, this is a solid entry level BlackBerry phone.

BlackBerry Curve 3G 9300 specifications:
2.4″ screen with 320×240 pixel color display
Full QWERTY keyboard
WiFi 802.11b/g/n
3.5mm stereo headset capable
2.0MP Camera
2GB microSD card included
BlackBerry OS 5

BlackBerry OS 6 is set to be finalized and released in the first quarter of next year. The Curve 3G will be able to upgrade to BB OS 6 while the Curve 8520 is stuck with OS 5 so that’s something to consider.

HTC Desire S Review

Launched just last month, the HTC Desire S is an attempt to refresh the original HTC Desire and hopefully bank on its popularity and accolades. Check our full review of the Desire S after the jump and see if it lives up to expectations.

Before moving forward, I suggest reading up on the HTC Desire review here first so you’d understand why this is an impressive handset during its time.

The Desire S came out about 10 months after the original Desire so expectations are a bit high, so much more that the Desire HD is also in the market and could compete with this one in terms of price point. The first Desire is still being sold at a much lower price though that model is already in its end-of-life (EOL) stages.

One would actually think that the Desire S is just a refresh of the Desire with a Super LCD instead of the original, more expensive and scarce AMOLED display. Oh and they dropped the optical trackpad altogether which makes the Desire S shorter compared to the Desire.

At first glance, the Desire S specs resembles that of the original Desire. The changes are not that huge — a later version CPU running at the same 1GHz speed, a bit more RAM, more internal storage and a front-facing VGA camera. The Desire S also comes with Android 2.3 out of the box while the Desire has yet to get 2.3 until now.

HTC Desire S specs:
3.7 inches S-LCD touchscreen @ 480 x 800 pixels
1GHz Scorpion processor (Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon)
Adreno 205 GPU
768MB RAM, 512 MB ROM
1.1GB internal storage
up to 32GB on microSD
HSDPA 7.2 Mbps, HSUPA 2 Mbps
Bluetooth 2.1 w/ A2DP
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
5MP autofocus camera w/ LED flash
720p video recording
Front-facing VGA camera
Stereo FM Radio w/ RDS
GPS with aGPS support
1450 Li-Ion battery
Android OS 2.3 Gingerbread

The improved GPU and the upgrade to Gingerbread makes the Desire S more fluid and snappier. The inclusion of a front-facing camera now allows the handset to make 3G video calls.

The S-LCD screen on the Desire S holds its ground pretty well and is comparable to AMOLED. In fact, unless you scrutinize it very thoroughly against an AMOLED screen, you’d hardly notice the difference. But remember, the later versions of the original Desire also swicthed to S-LCD due to the low supply of AMOLED displays.

The Desire S feels more solid due to its unibody design and materials used. The protrusion at the bottom is less prominent and the tapered edges give it a thinner look and lighter handling.

This should make the phone much more durable than previous designs so you may be able to save yourself some money and use your old cell phone accessories while skipping out on buying a new case.

Battery life is just the same as the other previous HTC handsets. Can do close to two days on normal use and around a day when considerably hooked up to 3G or WiFi (but that’s expected of any Android smarpthone).

Like most other HTC handsets, the built-in camera is decent — not very impressive — but usable, especially on well-lit conditions. It’s a department that HTC has not really mastered thru the years. HD video recording at 720p is actually good and follows the same quality with the old Desire.

The biggest problem the HTC Desire S is facing right now is timing and price-point, with much more weight on the latter. With a suggested retail price of Php25,990, its closest competitors are the Sony-Ericsson Xperia Arc and the LG Optimus Black. The Optimus Black offers similar specs at much lower price while the Xperia Arc is a couple thousand bucks more expensive but offers a bigger screen. sleeker design and impressive camera (I did a round up of the three units here earlier).

With some price adjustments, the Desire S will still hold its ground considering HTC’s reputation on making solidly-built Android handsets.

Samsung Galaxy S2 i9100 Review

 Having owned over half a dozen Android smartphones in the past year, I thought I’ve seem them all. The Samsung Galaxy S II (S2 i9100) brings it up a notch — a powerful and sexy Android superphone that comes with all the bells and whistles.

The very thin frame of the Galaxy S II gives it that sexy appeal. Just like its predecessor, its mostly made out of polymer making it very light and almost unnoticeable in the pocket.
Yes, it sometimes looks like an iPhone, both in design and UI (though I’d wish the iPhone 5 would very much have an exact form factor) prompting Apple to file a lawsuit against Samsung. Still, it’s admirable that Samsung is able to pull it off and somehow retain a little bit of design signature.

The large 4.3-inch display is surrounded by a thin, dark bezel with a front-facing camera on top, a couple of sensors and earpiece beside it. At the bottom end, the usual physical home button is sandwiched by a touch panel button for Menu and Back.

On the left side is the volume rocker while the power/sleep button is on the right side. On the top end is the 3.5″ audio jack while the micro-USB port for data and power is situated at the bottom. The absence of a dedicated camera button is a little disappointing.

The bright and crisp display of the Galaxy S II is one of its best feature. Just like the first-gen Galaxy S, the AMOLED Plus display is among the best screens we’ve seen on a phone — deep contrast, vivid colors and smooth display quality. I’m not able to discern the difference between AMOLED and AMOLED Plus but I guess the benefits are all behind the scenes (like low-power consumption).

At the back panel is the huge 8MP camera and there’s a little protrusion at the bottom end (perhaps to give it a good grip) is where the audio speakers are placed. The entire back cover (for the battery compartment) has a rough mesh-type finish.

Contrary to what we’ve posted before here and the specs that we’ve gotten earlier, the Galaxy S II unit that we’re using has a slightly lower specifications. It still even has the dual-core 1.0GHz processor instead of the recent announcement that it’s going to be 1.2GHz. That’s probably due to the fact that it’s just an engineering unit and not the final release.

The battery is also rated at 6.11Wh (and a voltage rating of 3.7V), which translates to roughly 1651mAh. That gives us about a full 2 days with mostly calls and SMS with light WiFi browsing. We’re not able to test out 3G usage since I could not figure out the settings (copied the one from the old Galaxy S but that didn’t work either).

Based on the System Info App, here’s the partial internal specs of the unit we got:
CPU Frequency Range: 200MHz – 1,000MHz
SD Card Storage: 11.5 GB
Internal Storage: 1.97 GB
System Storage: 504 MB
Memory: 833 MB
System Cache: 92 MB
Sensors: 9
OS Release: 2.3.3
Resolution: 480×800 pixels
Density: 240 dpi
Refresh Rate: 60Hz
That does not include the external SD card (A2SD) slot found at the back, behind the battery, which can accommodate an additional 32GB of storage.

The Galaxy S2′s camera is among the best ones we’ve used and is at par with the likes of Nokia N8 and the iPhone 4. The camera takes great photos — images are crisp and well saturated. There’s far less blurry images since the shutter speed is quite fast. Oh, and it’s got an LED flash now, too! Would have been nice if they added a dedicated camera button.

 What makes it better than all the other cameraphones out there is that the Galaxy S II can record up to 1080p videos (full HD!) without even breaking a sweat. It can also play the 1080p videos effortlessly, something my 11″ Macbook Air is having a hard time to do.

The handset performs really well, thanks to the improved CPU, more generous RAM and graphics chip. Apps load faster, games run more smoothly and even web browsing is much more efficient and pleasant.
The Galaxy S II uses Samsung’s TouchWiz UI on top of Android Gingerbread. It comes with 7 panels or home screens and navigates just like the old Galaxy S.

Samsung i9100 Galaxy S II specs:
4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus @ 480×800 pixels
Gorilla Glass display
Dual-core 1.0GHz ARM Cortex-A9 proccessor
Mali-400MP GPU, Orion chipset
2GB + 12GB internal storage
up to 32GB via microSD
HSDPA 21 Mbps, HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, DLNA, WiFi Direct, WiFi hotspot
8MP autofocus camera w/ LED Flash
Stereo FM radio with RDS
GPS with aGPS support
Bluetooth 3.0 + HS
1080p video recording
2MP front-facing camera for video calls
Li-Ion 1650mAh battery
Android 2.3 Gingerbread
I was not able to test out other integrated features such as 3G/HSDPA and WiFi-Direct due to compatibility in the settings. Samsung PR stressed that this is not the final unit which is the reason why we’ve encountered numerous system and app errors.

The Samsung Galaxy S II definitely brings new excitement to the Android smartphone line-up. The souped-up specs, dual-core processor, sexy form factor and large AMOLED screen certainly elevated the Galaxy S2 i9100 to the top of the heap.

It’s probably going to be the first dual-core Android smartphone to hit the Philippines this May (unless of course LG will beat it to the punch). Samsung is yet to release this handset in the Philippines (although I hear it’s definitely going to be this May) and we’re still guessing what the suggested price will be.
If it’s going to be anywhere near the price of the first Galaxy S (~Php32k), then it’s going to be another hot item once again. See our closer comparison between the SGS2 and the SGS here.