The BlackBerry Curve 8520 runs on the proprietary BlackBerry OS v4.6 just like its elder brother - the Curve 8900 that was released a year ago. We are fine with the idea of a manufacturer offering similar user experience over different devices but that doesn't necessarily mean we don't welcome updates to functionality.
Even the Bold 9700, which runs BlackBerry OS v5, didn't introduce any serious changes. In the same time, there are quite some aspects of the user interface that need updates. But as we already said, RIM seem somewhat hesitant to make them.
The first issue that needs urgent attention is the text-only sub-menus, which are a real eye-sore. Do they really expect teenagers to be happy scrolling through microscopic text lists? Or maybe that whole music keys thingy is a con. Just give the people something that doesn't look like Windows 3.11, okay?
The fact that it performs well doesn't excuse it. Corporate folk might be less worried about the aesthetics of the UI (especially when they're getting the device assigned by their company), but why treat them like they are blind?
Also the BlackBerry UI organization needs some things fixed. Who in the world would think that the best place to put the file manager is in the media options menu? Perhaps someone was trying to hide it there instead? You may get familiar with that in a few days of use (and probably a few nights of reading through some forums), but why the lack of logic in the first place? It's not rocket science really!
But we digress. The homescreen of the Curve 8520 holds 6 (by default) shortcut buttons placed at the bottom and all status icons at the top. You can also access the ringing profiles straight from there by clicking the icon in the top right corner, right below the battery indicator.
The menu navigation of the BlackBerry handsets is different than the soft-key based approach of most competitors. Instead of having the available options for every menu item assigned to the context keys, the Curve 8520 has the menu key in charge of all that. That is pretty strange experience if you're used to the soft key labels keeping all options in sight. And you may have to spend a bit longer studying the available features if you are a first time user.
The performance offered by the BlackBerry Curve 8520 is decent and the zippy response of the trackpad is impressive. There's nothing you can do about the deeper text-only menu levels at this point. Experienced BlackBerry users may even have a special insider-kind of fondness for that stuff, but switching from a different platform involves a bit of a learning curve.
The phonebook is best described by the punch line in one of those Schweppes commercials with the cheetah and the alligator. It goes "Pretty ugly fella but has its uses" (it might not be a correct quote but you get the idea) and we cannot think of a more accurate description.
Looks are very basic reminding us of good old Windows 3.11 that we enjoyed 15 years ago. Granted, it's got virtually unlimited capacity and good organization and that makes it a decent performer. Still a new paintjob would have been welcome and some extra functionality quite appropriate.
The contacts get listed alphabetically in one of those black and white lists that we warned you about. You can search a contact by gradually typing the desired name like on almost any other phone.
Editing a contact gives you a vast number of fields which are organized in several sub-groups. You can also replicate some of the fields as many times as you like.