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Review: RIM's Curve 8320 with T-Mobile @Home Support

Review by Michael Oryl on Monday October 22, 2007.

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The original RIM BlackBerry Curve 8300 for AT&T that we reviewed earlier this year is quite possibly my favorite phone of 2007. The Curve has a great physical design, and RIM has added enough to the BlackBerry user interface to get it mostly on par with other messaging phones that are on the market, while still maintaining that ultimate BlackBerry email experience. So, as a T-Mobile subscriber with poor coverage at his new home, you can imagine how pleased I was to hear that T-Mobile was offering the BlackBerry Curve 8320 with UMA support for T-Mobile's WiFi based @Home system. It sounds like a perfect recipe: a Curve with WiFi that will be able to make calls and get email even when there is no usable GSM signal to be had.

[For those interested in reading all about the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8320, we suggest that you also read the complete Curve 8300 review. The 8320 is nothing more than an 8300 with WiFi and UMA service. -editor]

What's New?

T-Mobile's @Home service, which currently is offered for US$19.99 per month, lets users make and receive unlimited calls whenever their UMA compatible phone is connected to T-Mobile's network over a WiFi access point internet connection - be it at their home or office, a friend's house, or any of the thousands of T-Mobile HotSpots at locations such as Starbucks. Calls made when the phone is not attached to T-Mobile's UMA servers over a WiFi connection still count against the user's normal bucket of included monthly minutes. Even without T-Mobile's @Home service, the BlackBerry Curve 8320 can still use WiFi access points for data and can still make UMA calls like with @Home, except that the call minutes won't be free. My only complaint with the Curve 8320's WiFi is that the phone's CPU or OS seems to be the limiting factor when it comes to speed, since web pages on the Curve loaded only minimally faster when connected to WiFi versus when connected to T-Mobile's regular EDGE network.

We tested out one gold and one titanium colored Curve 8320 with the @Home service in my 3 story home. While we have 802.11g WiFi access points on both the 1st and 3rd floors of the house, neither access point has a particularly strong signal when accessed from the floor where the other one is located. That's why we have two access points, each with a different SSID. For this test we initially installed the (optional) T-Mobile supplied D-Link WiFi access point on the 1st floor and configured the Curve 8320 to use each of the now three available access points, with the T-Mobile router being the preferred device. Our home internet service is Verizon's FiOS fiber system, and as a result of that, our 3rd floor WiFi access point is also the modem for the network. This means that the other two WiFi access points, including the T-Mobile D-Link unit, are connected to the internet through the FiOS router. This is, admittedly, not T-Mobile's preferred configuration.

Enough about the house, let's get to the 8320 and the @Home service. When the Curve 8320 was used on one of the first two floors and was attached to the T-Mobile router on the 1st floor, the phone dealt with calls quite well. Sound quality was very good, and the connections for both voice and data were reliable. When we tried to venture up to the third floor, however, we ran into problems. Calls would get dropped, the audio quality degraded sharply, and often there wasn't enough of a GSM signal for the phone to switch over. The result? Eventually we'd lose the UMA connection and the phone would report that only SOS calls were available (presumably over AT&T's GSM network, which is stronger in our particular area).

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rainbow @ 9:40:12PM EDT on Tuesday June 2, 2009

could u buy phones here

About the author

Michael Oryl
Michael is the Philadelphia based owner and former editor-in-chief of MobileBurn.com. You can follow him on Twitter as @MichaelOryl

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