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7/3/2008
11:38 AM
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Blackberry Curve Quibbles And One Big Gripe

It's been a month since I ditched by Moto dumbphone for a BlackBerry Curve 8330. Overall, I'm delighted with my decision, despite having uncovered a couple of minor annoyances and one serious flaw, which caused me to call the cops.

It's been a month since I ditched by Moto dumbphone for a BlackBerry Curve 8330. Overall, I'm delighted with my decision, despite having uncovered a couple of minor annoyances and one serious flaw, which caused me to call the cops.It took me awhile to decide between the Curve and the iPhone, but the many blog comments I received helped me sort things out. So did the research I did on the forums pages of CrackBerry.com and PinStack.com, two sites loaded with BlackBerry tips for fat-thumbed novices and nimble-fingered power users alike.

The advantages of upgrading from a cell phone to a smartphone are pretty obvious, but I found one unexpected benefit. It's greener. I now often shut down my computer earlier in the evening. For checking e-mail or very light Web browsing, I'll use the Curve instead of my laptop. The energy savings are small, but over time they'll add up. The bigger benefit may be that I am more mobile now. Fewer hours spent parked in my chair in front of the computer definitely feels healthier.

On to the quibbles:
The BlackBerry Curve's installed browser is LAME. But getting a better one was as simple as downloading the Opera Mini browser for free. It renders Web pages almost as well as the iPhone and has a zoom feature that makes reading Web pages a snap. Problem solved.

E-mail formatted as HTML is ugly and hard to read. It renders on the Curve as streams of raw HTML with chunks of legible text tossed in. The solution is to buy an e-mail viewer like BBSmart for $29.95, or Empower HTML Mail Viewer ($9.99; Pro version, $29.99). But since most of my HTML e-mail is commercial rather than personal, I have a better and cheaper solution. I simply wait to read those HTML e-mails when I'm back at my desk.

And now the serious flaw: My BlackBerry Curve 8330 from Verizon is a snitch. It has a security "feature" that calls the police when a certain keypad sequence is inadvertently triggered.

I like to toss my BlackBerry into my bag when I go out. Because I'm not so gentle with it, I put it in a protective case from OtterBox, the BlackBerry Curve Defender, which protects it from getting knocked around by my wallet and jabbed by my keys.

The last protective step is to lock the keypad so that no inadvertent calls are made from jostling, leaning, or accidentally pressing on it.

The Curve has a keyboard lock feature that's over the top. It puts the device in what I call panic mode. If the trackwheel is activated while in lock mode, one of two windows appears. Pressing the back key displays a message that tells how to unlock the keypad. Moving the trackball brings up a window that says, "Handheld is locked." Below that, it gives three options: Unlock, Emergency Call, Cancel.

Swerve, hit a bump, or make a wrong move, and you'll unintentionally unlock the device, or worse, place a call to the police, as I did.

In my first week with the Curve I got call from the Massachusetts State Police asking, "Is everything all right? We got an emergency call from this number."

I called Verizon and a rep told me this feature cannot be disabled either by the user or by Verizon. He unhelpfully referred me to RIM, where you need to fork over a credit card number to speak to customer service. So I looked elsewhere for help.

A check of the crackberry forums revealed that an alternative way to block the keypad is to enter "standby mode" by using the mute button. But exiting standby mode is buggy. Half the time I found myself still on mute and unable to get out of it. Comments in the forums advised removing the battery and then putting it back, which worked.

For now, I'm staying away from standby mode and I'm keeping the keypad unlocked. If you know how to successfully lock (and unlock) the keypad, let me know, please.

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