BlackBerry update: battery died, google maps update and google calendar sync

* I was in DC wrapping up a trip last week when I couldn’t get my blackberry curve 8300 to boot-up. I figured the battery just drained to zero, but after plugging it in I quickly realized the battery was dead. Luckily I had access to another blackberry curve and was able to borrow that battery for a day. I called around to a few at&t stores in DC, and to my surprise they did not sell batteries. Anyway, long story short, after calling at&t customer care, they fedexed me a new battery and I’m back in action !

* The new google maps update came out a week or so ago ( from your mobile browser: ) and it now has “My Location” which is pretty sweet. If you don’t have GPS, it can now use cell tower triangulation to approximate your location. When I was in NYC, it was accurate within a block. In DC it was within 500 meters or so, and in SF it seems to be within 1000 meters on average. So it’s by no means a replacement for GPS, but when doing a search for a cafe for example, it’s great that you can search within your area without putting in the street or zip code.

* Google Calendar Sync was just released. It syncs your google calendar to your blackberry’s native calendar – which for me has been a wish-list item for a long time. After running the initial sync, you may want to hop into the the options menu on the mobile app and make sure it’s grabbing all the calendars you wish to have. In my setup I have a few different calendars being imported into gCal, and the mobile app appears to default to only one calendar. So far it seems to work really well.

My AT&T Blackberry Curve 8300 Review

8300 CurveI have one of the very first Blackberry 8700C models, and I’ve been itching to upgrade for a while. At first I was convinced I’d pickup an iPhone, but managed to hold out. Next I was going to wait for a Blackberry with 3G, WiFi, GPS, and a camera. Once it became clear that this combo was still a couple of revisions away from launching, I settled in on looking for a good deal on the Curve. I called AT&T and got a really good deal, ordered it, and then saw that the new Curve was just announced in Europe with GPS 🙂

Unphased I eagerly unpacked my new phone a couple days later, and have been happily using it for the past couple of weeks. Here is my take on it, with a very strong emphasis on how it compares to the 8700.

The good:
– Form factor is much better ! The slightly smaller keyboard really makes a difference — the phone is also much slimmer and not as bulky. It actually feels like you are carrying a phone again.

– Keyboard is actually better too. The feedback/response from the keys is stronger, and within a day I was used to the somewhat more narrow, but still full QWERTY, keyboard.

– The scroll wheel replacement with the joystick is a good thing. I thought I’d miss the scroll wheel, but the way the joystick is implemented actually opens up many new uses, and makes navigating much easier.

– Having a camera again is great. I missed having a camera ever since I switched from Nokia phones to the Blackberry. The 2 megapixel camera on the Curve takes surprisingly good photos, and combine it with email->Flickr and it’s really useful.

The not so good:

– AT&T loads up the phone with all kinds of extra icons for the “ATT Mall” to shop for themes, ringtones, etc. Not a big deal to hide them, but depending on which theme you run, it can add all kinds of extra icons that simply get in the way. Not quite as bad as PC “craplets“, but for a high end phone, I would have much preferred some kind of gift certificate in the box that would let me try out some premium “shopping” items — not a bunch of icons that really shouldn’t be there.

– Battery life. Definitely not as good as the 8700. I somewhat expected it with the camera usage, and I do use lots of data applications (see “going 100% mobile” post) — but I find that by the end of the day I can be down to just 1 bar. My solution – I carry the charger with me in my bag, and charge up at various times during the day.

– OS stability. I probably had my 8700 freeze-up maybe 4 or 5 times over the course of a year with heavy usage. So far, the Curve has frozen up on me twice in 2 weeks. Both times it happened while using the camera application — so I need to see if it’s a storage issue perhaps.

– Lack of bundled apps. Would have been nice to see a solid IM app like JiveTalk bundled in. I am now running the google mobile pack — Google Maps, gmail, Google News, Google Search, and mobile gTalk. I then added in Yahoo!Go, and also an RSS reader Viigo (my Viigo review here)

The bad:

– Really nothing to complain about. I wish it was 3G, Wifi, and had GPS support 🙂 But otherwise this is a great upgrade to the 8700, and should hold me over for a few more months.