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 BlackBerry OS and media playback
Long-time BlackBerry owners who are expecting a significant revision to the software feature set are bound to be disappointed. The 8330 still runs BlackBerry OS 4.3, and so very little changes with the Curve's switch to CDMA. iPhone users will find the OS slightly arcane. It's not difficult, but making the most of the phone often requires knowledge of shortcuts. Those hoping for 'real' browsing will have to wait for the BlackBerry Bold or later -- full HTML is still missing in both the web browser and e-mail, leaving the web experience far short of Safari or Opera.
All the same, that still results in a strong messaging phone. RIM's interface is at times barebones in many areas -- the options area in particular could stand an update for this decade -- but that spareness makes it possible to check mail or switch apps with a minimum of fuss. Those front-facing elements of the interface that users are most likely to care about, like the home screen, do also have more polish than on many phones and are often customizable; the home screen has four different views, each of which can significantly change your approach to the phone. The "Today" view, for instance, gives you a quick scan of the latest messages; that can be crucial for owners who would rather not dig into the e-mail app to learn whether new mail is spam or an urgent message.
Instant messaging is also fairly strong on the phone, with RIM's usual BlackBerry Messenger as well as GTalk and Yahoo Messenger preloaded. There's no AIM or Windows Live services by default, though a future update will take care of the Microsoft-run service in the future.
And thankfully, the 3G access inherent to most CDMA phone networks in North America leads to many of these Internet-based features being fast -- it's a treat to download web pages (albeit basic ones) at reasonably quick speeds and never have to dread receiving an attachment in your mailbox. Until the Bold arrives, the 8330 is the least expensive full-keyboard phone to offer 3G, which by itself may sway those who have their choice of carrier.
Much of that aforementioned polish translates to media playback; anyone familiar with the updated Curve or Pearl will be at home here. Where Windows Mobile's media player is ancient, the 8330's software is at least pleasant to look at and quickly gets you to a particular album or video. There aren't many frills, with playlists and top-level shuffle support as the most luxurious features. However, it's enough that the phone can be taken seriously as a media device, even if the shortcuts aren't there.
Again, though, actually using the phone for full-time media duty shows mixed blessings. While the hardware advantages and disadvantages are already clear, the current software options for loading the Curve are fairly limited. The Roxio Media Manager software that ships with the phone is relatively clumsy beyond basic transfers. It's perhaps telling that RIM is prepping a Media Sync tool that will simply grab unprotected music and videos from iTunes and automatically load a given BlackBerry's storage, essentially bypassing Roxio's interface altogether. For now, those iTunes users will at least have access to all their unlocked content when they do use Roxio's tools.
Mac users are likewise stuck using either PocketMac for BlackBerry or else its corresponding equivalent in Mark/Space's Missing Sync; these will work well, but still aren't quite full-fledged substitutes for a direct Mac OS X plug-in.