The big draw of the RIM BlackBerry 8830 is its dual-mode functionality. With this capability, the phone switches automatically between CDMA and GSM networks to offer seamless international roaming. (Note that the phone does not support domestic GSM bands.) In all, you get voice coverage in 170 countries and e-mail and Web browsing coverage in more than 75 countries--a slightly larger coverage area than Verizon Wireless. Just be aware that you'll still incur roaming rates, which range from 59 cents to $4.99 a minute. Sprint includes a SIM card in the box that you can use during your travels, but unlike Verizon's version, the Sprint BlackBerry 8830 is also unlocked so you can plug in an international carrier's SIM card to use their voice and data services.
Other phone features include a speakerphone, voice-activated dialing, smart dialing, conference calling, speed dial, and world roaming. The phone book is only limited by the available memory with room in each entry for eight phone numbers, e-mail addresses, work and home address, job title, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a photo to a contact as well as a group category--business or personal.
Wireless options on the 8830 definitely trump those on the BlackBerry 8800. First, there's integrated Bluetooth 2.0 for use with wireless headsets and hands-free kits. Unfortunately, there is no A2DP support for Bluetooth stereo headphones, but you can use the BlackBerry 8830 as a wireless modem for your laptop--particularly handy since the 8830 supports Sprint's EV-DO network. This means you can enjoy data speeds of up to 2.4Mbps in bursts, but in reality they'll average more around 300Kbps to 600Kbps. The device is also equipped with a GPS radio that you can use in conjunction with a location-based service, such as the Sprint Navigation, to get real-time location tracking, turn-by-turn directions, and local search. Note that Sprint Navigation is an add-on service that costs $2.99 per day or $9.99 per month for unlimited access. Alternatively, if you simply need a map application, BlackBerry Maps comes preloaded on the device as well.
The RIM BlackBerry 8830 continues to offer the tried-and-true push technology and can sync with your company's BlackBerry Enterprise server with support for Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, or Novell GroupWise to deliver corporate e-mail in real time. All in all, the device can support up to 10 accounts, including POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail accounts, and there is an e-mail wizard on the device to guide you through the setup process. An attachment viewer is also onboard to open popular file formats, such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Corel WordPerfect, PDFs, JPEG, GIF, and more. Other messaging options include text, multimedia, and instant messaging. Now while we've knocked past BlackBerrys for only offering the proprietary BlackBerry Messenger IM utility, Sprint will be the first carrier to offer an AOL Instant Messenger client. Available as a free download (you will need a BlackBerry e-mail/Web data plan, however) from the Sprint Software Store, the AIM client supports emoticons, automatic sign in, and you can keep the application running in the background as you use your BlackBerry for other things.
The 8830 also is Sprint's first multimedia BlackBerry. You can use the built-in media player to listen to music (MP3, WMA, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR-NB, and MIDI formats) and watch video (MPEG4, WMV, and H.263 files). We should note that there's about 64MB of flash memory available, but we suggest using a microSD card to store such larger media files.
The music player is pretty basic. Aside from standard stop and play functions, you can create playlists as "folders" and shuffle and repeat songs within a certain folder. It also displays some track information, such as title, artist, and album art if available. There's also an option to set a song as your ringtone. What's more, you can continue to play music as you use the device's other applications, and if you happen to get an incoming call, the BlackBerry 8830 will pause the music and pick up where you left off after you hang up. At this time, the device does not support the Sprint Music Store or Sprint TV.
For videos, the player has play and stop buttons, and you can fast-forward and rewind clips by clicking the trackball and scrolling right or left. There is also a full-screen mode. In addition to moving pictures, the BlackBerry 8830 has an image viewer that lets you peruse your favorite photos. However, as a business-centric device, there is no camera on the 8830, so you'll have to get your images onto your device another way, whether it be via USB, multimedia message, or such.
Finally, the RIM BlackBerry 8830 World Edition includes a number of PIM tools for the business users, including a calendar, a tasks list, a memo pad, an alarm, and a calculator. Of course, you can always download more applications; check out Download.com for some ideas.
We tested the dual-mode (CDMA 850/1900; GSM 900/1800) RIM BlackBerry 8830 in San Francisco on Sprint's CDMA network, and call quality was good. There was a slight background hiss, but in general, we enjoyed rich and clear sound as we talked to friends, and they reported similar results. We also called our bank's automated voice response system, and it had no problems understanding our voice commands. However, the phone did drop one of our calls out of the blue. Speakerphone quality was a bit mixed. On our end, we continued to experience crisp audio, but our friends said there was a bit of distortion on their end, and at times, we sounded robotic. Still, it wasn't anything that prevented us from having a conversation. We were able to pair the 8830 with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset with no problems. Unfortunately, we were not able to test the world-roaming capabilities of this phone.
General performance on the BlackBerry 8830 was snappy. We didn't experience any noticeable delays when opening or working in various applications. We were also impressed with the multimedia performance. Music playback sounded decent over the phone's speakers, producing a richer sound than other smart phones we've tested. We do wish, however, that the 8830 was equipped with a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack like the BlackBerry Curve. Watching video clips in short, few-minute spurts is fine.
The RIM BlackBerry 8830's battery is rated for 3.6 hours of talk time and up to 9 days of standby time. In our battery tests, we were able to get 4.5 hours of talk time on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the BlackBerry 8830 has a digital SAR rating of 1.46 watts per kilogram.