BlackBerry: Which handset to go for?

You've decided that you aren't really into all this touchscreen nonsense, you want a QWERTY keyboard and that BlackBerry is the handset for you. No problem, but which BlackBerry phone is the best for your situation?

The BlackBerry has made a great shift from a boring business device, to the handset of choice for many teenagers. Each device from RIM offers BlackBerry's excellent push email service, as well as customisation options and a host of applications through the BlackBerry App World.

There are four main handsets to consider, and a further one or two that are still floating around - so worth checking out just to make sure you are opting for the best solution to fit your needs.

After all, what's the point of getting a phone that is either going to be too powerful, not suited to what you want, or basically just leave you frustrated?

BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105 - The connected caller

The Pearl is the handset that you'll want if you do some messaging, but aren't overly crazy for it. It's basically the first step in your move away from a standard mobile phone keyboard  to something smarter.

Here you'll get HSPDA and Wi-Fi connectivity to collect all those new emails you've received, however rather than a QWERTY keyboard normally found on the BlackBerry models, you'll get a keypad instead for predictive or multi-press text entry.

Elsewhere you get a 3.2-megapixel camera, an optical trackpad, GPS, a microSD memory card slot and Bluetooth so you can connect a headset to use in the car and so on. The "pearl" that gave this family of devices its name is now an optical trackpad.

The Pearl will give you the benefits of BlackBerry's connectivity, the great email service and mainstream applications to give you a social mobile with communication at its core.

This is packaged into a slim and elegant device that will be just at home in the hands of a texting teenager, as it will in the pocket of your finest business suit. As a fully-fledged smartphone there are obvious shortcomings - a smaller screen and keypad - so to a certain extent you'll be choosing size over the complete experience. 

Read our BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105 review.

BlackBerry Curve 8520 - The enthusiast

If you are looking for a QWERTY keyboard to reply to those emails and you're done with the "l8r" or "AYTMTB", then the 8520 might be for you.

There are currently two Curve handsets available in the UK at the moment: the BlackBerry Curve 8520 and the BlackBerry Curve 8900. Both are affordable and the current entry point to the BlackBerry world.

There's a gaggle of multimedia buttons on the top of the device, for controlling music playback and the tech specs are a little restrained by current standards. The screen resolution is on the low side and there is no HSDPA, so you'll be relying on GPRS.

With a microSD card slot for storage and a 2-megapixel camera, it also has Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and a 3.5mm headphone jack; there is no GPS however.

The Curve 8520 will appeal to those who want access to push email through BlackBerry's excellent service and should appeal to those who want to improve the accessibility of email on their phone, be it for personal emails, work emails, or both.

There are shortcomings with the Curve 8520, like a relatively low resolution screen, but it undoubtedly offers a BlackBerry experience to a wide audience, at an affordable price.

Read our BlackBerry Curve 8520 review.

BlackBerry Bold 9700 - The big daddy

This is the big daddy of the BlackBerry world giving you everything BlackBerry has to offer in a single phone (albeit not touchscreen).

The successor to the last Bold (9000) the handset closely resembles its predecessor, complete with fake leather battery cover and full QWERTY keyboard, but it is slimmer and more powerful.

There's a 480 x 360 display, BlackBerry OS 5.0, GPS, Wi-Fi, HSDPA, and a 3.2-megapixel camera. It also has a 3.5mm headphone jack, of course. You get the connected experience without the compromises made on other models.

RIM will certainly evolve its BlackBerry offering and as it stands the BlackBerry Bold 9700 is the best BlackBerry yet: a very comfortable device to use, delivering its core functions with aplomb.

Read our BlackBerry Bold 9700 review.

BlackBerry Storm 2 9550 - Touchy feely

What was that about wanting a QWERTY keyboard? The Storm 2 is RIM's attempt to create a touchscreen device to access all that BlackBerry goodness underneath.

The trouble is that the user experience is lacking when compared to modern Android handsets like the HTC Desire, Samsung Galaxy S and Apple's iPhone, so much so that we wouldn't really recommend it if you are going to get a BlackBerry.

While the BlackBerry Storm 2 is a vast improvement on the Storm, giving you a hardware redesign and better software build for a better experience all round, it's just not good enough when you compare it to the competition that is now available.

Seriously, this isn't going to be the BlackBerry experience you wanted to sign up for.

Read our BlackBerry Storm 2 9550 review

Also consider - BlackBerry Curve 8900

We've put this as an "also consider" because it is still available and a hugely popular handset. It's rumoured to be replaced shortly with the BlackBerry Curve 9300 and it is possibly a more business-focused handset.

Even though the 8900 sports the older trackball design it's still an appealing phone. You can pick one up for the same price as the Curve 8520, but it offers a higher resolution display and GPS, but you don't get the media shortcut keys.

The Curve 8900 is a comfortable and faithful companion whether for work or play, in calls or emails. It’s just a shame that with a focus so firmly on data, it doesn’t come with HSDPA, which may push some towards the Bold or the Pearl 3G above.

Read our BlackBerry Curve 8900 review.

Which BlackBerry do you use? Tell us your tales in the comments below.



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