The Curve 8330 is the best of current BlackBerries rolled into one. (May 19th, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: Research in Motion
Price: $150 (Verizon), $180 (Sprint), $250 (Telus)
- Good keyboard and messaging interface.
- 3G speed helps in many cases..
- Priced below much of its similar competition.
- Good on-phone media playback; full headphone port.
- GPS is useful in most cases.
- Excellent battery life and reception with data.
- No externally reachable microSD slot.
- GPS has same flaws as most units; built-in app lacks extras.
- Same BlackBerry interface as before, for better or worse.
- Call quality and battery life still not much better than for other CDMA phones.
The 8330 essentially paints the complete picture for the BlackBerry -- it's the last of RIM's current lineup to cross over to CDMA networks. It's also the first Curve to offer 3G networking and so promises to make a big splash among users wanting "real" Internet access and messaging in a small and relatively inexpensive smartphone. That it fills an important gap is undoubtable; the real question is whether it can appeal to more than its usual crowd and compete against both other messaging phones and a new wave of high-end feature phones.
design, controls, and expansion
Anyone familiar with the second-generation Curve on GSM networks will be familiar with the 8330; this isn't necessarily a problem, however. Unlike the Moto Q 9c, the Curve is much narrower and easier to hold in the hand. The grip is solid and the phone's namesake curve eliminates the hard-edged feel that some block-like phones often have.
Build quality on these newer Curves has stepped up a level from earlier phones. Early-run phones in RIM's newer style had solid bodies, but loose-fitting buttons that knocked down the perceived quality of what's supposed to be a premium device. On the 8330, those same buttons are very firmly attached and have just enough give to provide proper response without threatening to fall apart towards the end of its lifetime.
That extends to the keyboard, which remains RIM's best to date: it's well put-together, but is less prone to accidental key hits than the 8800 series and gives a more distinct layout than the seemingly one-piece design of its professional sibling. The feat is all the more impressive given the smaller size of the Curve. Nonetheless, typing on the Curve suffers compared to the Q 9c; the extra girth of Motorola's phone is more comfortable for long stretches, and the lack of dedicated keys for some characters (such as periods) slows down writing extended messages.
The signature trackball is also slightly fragile-feeling. It's fast, responsive, and offers much more control over the interface than the directional pad on most smartphones, but has a somewhat hollow and loose feel compared to the rest of the phone. Having seen some demonstration units with a gaping hole where the trackball once was, it's evident that RIM still needs to improve its pointing device if it expects the Curve, the Pearl, and other phones to be as reliable as the company's reputation suggests.
The company continues to make most of the right choices when it comes to ports and connections. The 3.5mm headphone jack makes the Curve one of the precious few messaging smartphones that doesn't force sub-par earphones on those who also want to listen to music. A pair of pack-in earbuds provide decent sound out of the box, though they're no substitutes for audiophile equipment. RIM also uses a very standard mini-USB connection; there's no need to buy a proprietary sync cable if the pack-in model is lost.
However, unlike the current-generation Pearls, RIM continues to insist on hiding the microSD slot inside the phone rather than building a slot outside. This isn't fatal to the phone's appeal, but certainly limits the viability of the phone for heavy-duty media enthusiasts; those who regularly swap out cards to rotate in new music or offload photos will want to opt for the new Pearl or else a phone with a large amount of built-in storage, such as the iPhone or the N95 8GB. As is, the built-in 96MB of memory and (in our case) the lack of a bundled microSD card make it hard to enjoy the Curve as a music phone out of the box.