• Price: depends on contract

  • Company: RIM (BlackBerry)

  • Our Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

The BlackBerry Curve 8520 is RIM's latest consumer smartphone.

RIM (BlackBerry) is continuing its push into the consumer smartphone space with the launch of a BlackBerry Curve model that will cost markedly less on a monthly contract that previous models and that will also be available on a pay as you go basis.

The RIM BlackBerry Curve 8520 will cost from £25 a month on an Orange or T-Mobile contract or can be bought outright for £199.95. All the UK mobile phone operators are expected to offer the handset, while Carphone Warehouse will also carry it. The Curve 8520 will be available in the UK from 11 August.

BlackBerry has refined the design of its Curve consumer smartphone line, shrinking the handset's overall dimensions and replacing the famous glowing orb navigation device with a touchpad that makes it very fast to access onscreen items.

The front of the phone is dominated by a 2.5in QVGA screen which is brighter than an Apple iPhone 3GS's and that fades after a few seconds to preserve battery life. The result is a handset that looks smart and stylish and that's comfortable to hold.

The BlackBerry Curve 8520 weighs 106g and is noticeably slimmer and smaller than previous Curve models. It's shorter and lighter and about 2mm less broad than the iPhone 3G - we're pleased to see a move away from the giant smartphone trend and a focus on basic phone and text entry functions.

The 8520 is partially clad in soft rubber, though the slide-off back panel is shiny plastic and matches the shiny finish of the Curve's front. This component doesn't feel as solid as it might, but is the only quibble we have in the handset's design. A large speaker above the screen ensures the caller's voice is sufficiently loud and clear, while the rubber casing on the right of the handset conceals volume switches and a hardware button to invoke the camera. The current volume is indicated by an onscreen slider, but we didn't need to turn it up in order to hold a perfectly clear conversation over the roar of the office air-conditioning and general hubbub.

Any missed calls or emails awaiting attention are indicated onscreen. Details of a missed call can be viewed or the message dismissed, but you aren't automatically shown the name or number of the caller. A single click allows you to add a caller's details to your address book however.