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Today we have Paul Johnson, aka pmjohnson99, with his in-depth impressions of Sprint's new BlackBerry Curve 8330. This is Paul's first BlackBerry, but I wouldn't consider him a Newbie. He became a member of CrackBerry.com months ago and like so many other CDMA subscribers out there waited eagerly for the 8330's release. When he finally got his hands on his new Curve, he was already educated and hit the ground running.
While Paul may be new to BlackBerry, he's not new to technology. He's a Print Production Artist / Graphic Designer in LA, has worked as an IT admin, computer tech and audio/visual specialist and reads sites like CrackBerry, BGR and Engadget constantly throughout the day. I think you'll enjoy his straight up review - I know I did. Read Paul's Review After the Jump.
Sprint BlackBerry 8300 Curve Review: The Perspective From a New to BlackBerry User
by Paul Johnson
My background with BlackBerry is short compared to some. I have researched the subject for almost a year now so I am not a “Newbie” but a “Newbie With Knowledge”. When my local Sprint Rep, Belinda, wrestled a newly released 8330 away from the teaming masses for me to call my own I was ready to dive in headfirst. Coming from a Motorola E815 (don’t laugh, that phone was a work-horse) I was just happy to be able to finally do the things the cool kids were doing in the CrackBerry world. I was going to email, brick break and laugh in the face of Wi-Fi fees as I tethered with reckless abandon. I was going to rule with a cellular fist!
The CDMA Curve, or 8330*, or sCurve, as some have called it, has the basic shape and size of older BlackBerry Curves. I didn’t want to do an “unboxing” for this review as we all know what comes in that cardboard “Ark of the Covenant”.
Some notable updates to this device are the included 1GB micro SD card and 96MB of internal memory, an increase over the normal 64MB. I believe the memory increase is due to CDMA technology uses different software protocols than GSM, which may require more space. There is an internal GPS, but no Wi-Fi built into the device.
[ Note - for the sake of this article I will refer to the Sprint Curve as the 8330, I am fully aware that Verizon’s curve is the same model, but this article is only about the Sprint Curve and it gets redundant to keep writing “Sprint Curve” ]
The 8330 is colored in RIM’s “Titanium” color scheme that has been modified with some new sophistication. I went to a local T-Mobile store to compare Curves and was pleasantly surprised that 8330 owners didn’t just get a hand-me-down, they got an update to the Curve family.
The Sprint Curve has the standard QWERTY backlit keyboard colored like AT&T’s red Curve. The number keys are lighter and the rest of the letter keys are dark. I like this layout because the numerical keys are easier to see when dialing at arms length. RIM is known for making great keyboards and they continue this tradition with the 8330. I do wish, however, the keyboard would seat into the device more solidly. The keyboard wiggles a bit with a slight “clicky” sound when keys are pressed. I feel the four function keys above are constructed better and maybe RIM could take cues from how these are put together.
Having large fingers made typing with the tiny keys a challenge initially. To overcome the challenge of typing I became Zen-like. I typed without actually thinking about hitting the keys. Once I began to realize how much easier typing is in a Zen state of mind I began to speed up and develop my BlackBerry Prayer Position: hands clinched, lips slightly moving almost mouthing a mantra, looking down in deep mediation…etc.
The T-Mobile 8320 on the right, you notice the pure black screen and
taller screen bezel on the 8330
Surrounding the screen of the 8330 is a beautiful rich-black plastic bezel. It gives a glass-like appearance and reminds me a lot of the T-Mobile Shadow or even the AT&T Shine. The bezel is also extended an extra ¼ of an inch higher completely engulfing the earpiece opening. The taller bezel gives you the illusion of a taller screen and a more stylish device. There was also the removal of two slightly raised plastic rails flanking the screen making the screen area appear smooth and sleek. All these changes give a more unified look to the device. When placed next to the 8320 you really appreciate the sophistication these changes have added to the phone.
Curve looking dark and mysterious
The 8330 is a solid 114 grams, a full 3 grams heavier than older Curves. I know it might not seem much but this device does feel slightly heavier. I imagine this difference in weight is due to the difference in radios used (GSM vs. CDMA). The phone has a solid feel and is well balanced, especially when typing. This added weight is nice, but I still think you can add some more weight. Maybe through the addition of metal side rails and battery cover. A little bling can go a long way.
Setup out of the Box…
Like most people I ignored all warnings about how to setup a new BlackBerry device, set fire to the manuals and just turned the thing on. Unfortunately on the way home from the store I got a call from Sprint CS phone saying they were having trouble porting my number to my new phone and it may take a few days. If I waited this long what’s a few more days? No big deal.
The porting issue didn’t affect the setup of email and other functions of the phone thankfully. I had a temporary number assigned so Sprint could sell me my Curve. My old phone was still working at the time so I was covered for communication. Porting ended up taking 5 days.
A side note about Sprint’s CS: I know that many of you have your qualms about Sprint’s CS, and I’ll admit I was a bit cavalier with my ideas that CS isn’t really important if things work. And even if they don’t work how complicated can an issue get?
The most I will say about Sprint’s CS is this: there is a vast difference between a helpful CS agent and a useful CS agent. It’s one thing to have a CS agent telling you how they want to help you and another thing for that person to actually help you. An agent’s heart may be in the right place, but that doesn’t mean they are ever going to actually help you without a little help for themselves.
It seemed like with each phone call I would have to re-explain my issue and with each call I got a new reason as to why the port didn’t go through. It resulted in me calling my previous carrier and telling them to get ready to receive a port request the port and then calling Sprint and telling them to send the request. After my own coordination of the process within minutes my normal phone number and my new Curve became one. I imagine I would have had a smoother port if I didn’t use a third party carrier with a leased number on Verizon’s network. Because of my situation I don’t put all the blame on Sprint for my troubles.
Setup was easy through the setup wizard. I signed up my Yahoo! and work e mail accounts and provisioned the phone. Later I went to Sprint’s BIS site changed my signature on outgoing messages and was set. I organized programs into folders and created my first self-imposed BB rule: I must be able to fit everything onto one home screen. If I cannot I either have to put the icon in a folder or get rid of it. The navigation of my home screen is all on one screen and if something is really important then I can program a convenience key to get to it (currently I have these two buttons programmed to open the application switcher and activate my key lock).
My home screen setup for easy nagivation
and a bPhone theme
I installed Desktop Manager on my PC and PocketMac on my Powerbook which is where my contacts were stored. It took a little coxing, but I got PocketMac to work seamlessly with the device. I have no idea when RIM plans to give a Mac version of DM but I have heard rumors that it would be sometime this summer. Rumors being what they are…I’m not holding my breath.
Sprint really took the bull by the horns by allowing the user to have full functionality (with the exception of MMS). The GPS worked freely and Sprint installed, Google Talk, Yahoo! Messenger and BlackBerry Messenger. Sprint also installs Sprint TV, Sprint Music Store, Software Store.
Choices, choices... most of the bigger chat applications come
on the phone. And others can be had for nothing or you can
pay for a 3rd party app.
Pocket Express is also preinstalled which is more of a store front posing as a software suite. It offers news, weather, travel info and many other tools, but this is all on top of the huge catalog of purchasable extras for your phone.
Pocket Express offers you a "taste" before pulling
you into the world of (gulp) purchased software.
Since I am on the SEP plan I get free Sprint Navigation which is, of course, powered by Telenav. You are also allowed to keep BB Maps and can easily download Google Maps. I find having all three apps is not redundant as they each work a bit differently. Google maps can access information quicker, but does not work with the internal GPS. BlackBerry maps will work with the internal GPS, but doesn’t offer voice instructions or turn by turn navigation. You only receive a route summary and a path drawn on the map. You can see how lost you are, but aren’t given instructions that will get you back on track.
Sprint Navigation powered by Telenav is a really great navigation program that will actually guide you to your destination with turn by turn voice instructions. You have full search capabilities like Google and BB Maps, but you also have real time updating of your progress and both 2D, 3D and Turn Icon “follow me” functionality. With Turn Icon you are given icons along with voice direction and no map. I like this option the most since the big icons are easier to follow on the Curves small screen. Also safer than watching a hypnotizing red arrow move on screen.
Sprint Navigation was an inviting program that really shaped
itself for my needs.
Sprint Navigation also works on my Bluetooth headset. Simply press the speaker button on your keyboard and you are given instructions through your headset. This is a lot better since the Berry’s tiny speaker doesn’t compete well with road noice. Pressing the space bar will repeat any missed instruction. Overall I really do like this service and at $0 a month the price is right.
I downloaded the bPhone Today, Icon and Zen themes and changed the background. The clown fish of bPhone were too distracting. I, of course, went to the CrackBerry WAP site and downloaded the CrackBerry desktop shortcut as well as Viigo. Viigo is great for managing your RSS feeds in one place.
bPhone themes with my homemade background
TV Guide Mobile's very useful interface
I tried Opera Mini but immediately realized the built in Berry browser is more than adequate for reading news articles, forum posts, and WAP enabled sites. With the BlackBerry Browser you have the option of Column View and Page View. The ladder shows the entire page on your device and gives you a tiny box to scroll to an area you want to blow up. From there you can switch back to Column View, which allows your device to wrap the text in a more useful layout for reading.
Sprint’s EVDO network is speedy and I never found myself waiting longer than I thought I should to have a page load. When compared next to an EDGE enabled Curve you do notice a speed difference. I was disappointed, however, when I realized I could not take phone calls and receive email at the same time as EVDO does not support simultaneous voice and data.
The speed obtained from EVDO does come at a price. I think the EVDO technology utilized is constantly pulling info over the network so you do experience a quicker battery drain. From a full charge I can get a 8-12 hour day of normal call and browsing use. When my browsing was increased I did noticed a sharp decline in battery life. I would have liked for RIM to include increased battery capacity over the normal 1500 mAh.
Sound and call quality are very good. I received coverage in places where other phones had issues even with the same carrier. Calls came in loud and clear and I could use the speakerphone pretty comfortably without having to shout into it. Switching from a flip phone to the Curve was not at all uncomfortable. A flip phone gave me the reassurance I was speaking “into” the phone due to its slightly angled shape. Moving to a candy bar shape was a big transition as you are talking into air but a few phone calls relieved me of any apprehension.
I tethered both my PC and Mac to the data network with my 8330 via Bluetooth. The setup was easy and I was able to surf the web at limited speeds. But I see tethering coming in handy when I can’t get to free Wi-Fi or some sort of connection. I don’t know if Sprint charges or will charge for this. I know for normal accounts there is a $15 charge for tethering, but with SEP I am assuming that this is “unlimited” as well. We shall see on my first bill.
My posted speeds while tethered. This was good enough to browse.
I purchased an ARKON car mount with suction cup and vent mounting options. I opted for the vent since we have a law here in California preventing you from affixing anything to the middle of your windshield.
I have also installed my 8330 into a silicone skin and ordered a car charger. The silicone skin is made for older Curves and it does not accommodate the newly relocated LED of the 8330. I would like to see the new LED considered, but it isn’t a deal breaker since the skin fits fine. The 8330 comes with the standard Berry sleeve holster with sleep magnet. It performs well and I would keep using it if it had a belt clip.
The new Curve has the newest Berry media player, but I really don’t see making this my main audio device. The iPod is still the best at organizing and playing music. I was annoyed at the fact that you can’t scan an mp3 at shorter intervals than 10 seconds and there is no podcasting iTunes support. I was impressed, however, that the Curve displayed the album art of my music.
The anticipation of a new device in your hands is always something that makes you a little crazy. The act of opening boxes, peeling off cling plastic covers and tossing aside instruction manuals gets my blood pumping. Ever since I took this device out of its box I have been discovering new things about it everyday. I have really come to appreciate the little things like pressing the first letter of a menu item highlights it and a space key that will enter a “.” or “@” depending on what you are inputting, and the almost psychic adjustment of screen brightness depending on ambient light.
This device approaches perfection. And with new devices like the Bold, Niagara, Javelin, Thunder and KickStart looming I see nothing but a bright future of newly opened boxes and ignored instruction manuals. Besides. That’s why we have CrackBerry.com and CrackBerry.com’s Forums.