Test Center: BlackBerry Curve 8900 hits the hotspot with VoIP
RIM's pocket-sized, dual-mode QWERTY handset taps Wi-Fi and IP telephony for clear, unlimited T-Mobile HotSpot calling
VoIP over Wi-Fi
I already had a T-Mobile HotSpot@Home wireless router and rate plan set up when I received the BlackBerry Curve 8900 for review. The new BlackBerry GUI features locally executing configuration wizards, one of which sets up Wi-Fi. Like any Wi-Fi handset, the Curve 8900 will associate with any 802.11b/g network for surfing and such, but when the conditions are right, hooking up with Wi-Fi causes the EDGE indicator to be replaced by one that reads UMA. "Unlicensed Mobile Access" isn't very descriptive. What it means, very simply, is that when you're within reach of an appropriate private (mine is protected by WPA2 security) or public T-Mobile HotSpot Wi-Fi network, your data and voice traffic can be streamed over 802.11g rather than GSM/EDGE. The Curve 8900 switches networks seamlessly and automatically, even while a call is in progress.
UMA is not VoIP as you know it; there's no special telephone number, there is no additional service provider, no need for special equipment on your end. You use your regular T-Mobile cellular number and Curve 8900 phone, oblivious to the fact that you're making Wi-Fi calls (unless you notice the UMA indicator on the display, the instantaneous call connections, or the landline sound quality). Toward the end of each month, you might also notice that your bill is a lot smaller. With an appropriate unlimited HotSpot plan, there are no per-minute charges for local or long distance calls that are handled via Wi-Fi. You don't have to overbuy daytime minutes to use T-Mobile cellular as a landline replacement, nor do you need to hassle with signing up a VoIP provider and configuring equipment. I've been using UMA as a primary line for a little more than a week, so I can't say I'd yank the copper out of the wall. I can say that so far, I've found the quality to be excellent and the switching completely seamless. The only drawback I see to UMA is that Wi-Fi drains the battery more rapidly on standby than cellular, but RIM still has the market's best story where power management is concerned.
The BlackBerry Curve 8900 is a winner. It's a next-gen BlackBerry through and through, with a fast CPU, a high-res screen, and a slick, high-function GUI, fully equal to professional and enterprise messaging duty despite cutting a smaller and less formal profile. Its media features fit the lifestyle bill nicely. Even without UMA Wi-Fi calling, the Curve 8900 is a worthy and competitively priced smartphone, but UMA support and T-Mobile HotSpot flat-rate plans give the Curve 8900 the edge when it comes to keeping a lid on monthly telecommunications bills.