-- Blackberry devices have earned a devoted following. Workaholics are known to seal deals and issue commands to subordinates from virtually anywhere, including the dinner table and the bathroom.
The new Blackberry Curve (starting at $150), however, offers enough new features to move the device out of the hands of working stiffs and into the pockets of many of today's mobile consumers. It's more than just an e-mail machine.
The Curve fits comfortably in the palm of one's hand and is equally easy to use when typing or talking. Despite its small size, it has a nice-sized keyboard, on which each letter has its own designated key laid out in QWERTY format.
The central miniature track ball, now standard on new Blackberrys, is surprisingly agile and allows for multidirectional movement across its screen. Users upgrading from the old-school click-and-scroll wheel should be able to master the glowing orb in just a few days.
Shockingly, the Curve is the first Blackberry to offer spell check -- business users have been excusing their mistakes as typos for years -- and introduces a decent camera that rivals other camera phones.
One of the most overlooked features of the Curve may be its multimedia capabilities. There is a slot to add storage in the form of a mini-sd card (a 2GB card runs about $25) and the device can play unprotected music and video. There is a jack to plug in headphones, and speakers let you play music out loud.
Before you trade in your iPod you should know the bundled software is very cumbersome and you will not be able to play any media purchased from an online store like Urge or iTunes.
The Curve offers everything to everyone. The fabulous automatic "push" e-mail technology that made the Blackberry popular is still part of the package, but demanding users who want it all now get push-to-talk, text messaging, multimedia, organization tools, and style too.
There are now three versions of the Curve: