Up until now, globe-trotting Verizon Wireless customers may have felt a bit stymied by the limited world-roaming capabilities of the CDMA network. Sure, you can use CDMA in other countries but if your itinerary includes Europe, you're out of luck. But with the new RIM BlackBerry 8830 all of that changes as the dual-mode CDMA/GSM smart phone gives you freedom to make calls and receive e-mail around of the world. In addition, it offers EV-DO support, multimedia capabilities, and solid performance. The BlackBerry 8830 is available now through direct sales channels and will be widely available in retail stores starting May 28. Pricing starts at $299.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate, and data plans start at $64.99 for unlimited global e-mail with a U.S. voice plan (beginning at $39.99) and $69.99 for unlimited global e-mail without a voice plan.
The RIM BlackBerry 8830 shares the same body style as its GSM-only cousin, the BlackBerry 8800, but trades in the all-black casing for an equally sleek silver. At 4.4 inches high by 2.6 inches wide by 0.5 inches deep and 4.7 ounces, the 8830 is certainly slim but it's also one of the larger BlackBerrys we've seen of late. The wider and taller body makes it a tad awkward to use the 8830 as a phone, but as we noted in our BlackBerry 8800 review, this is typical of full-QWERTY BlackBerrys as well as Pocket PC phones and Treos.
The BlackBerry 8830 features a 2.5-inch (diagonal), 65,000-color display with a 320x240 pixel resolution. Below the display you'll find the trackball navigator, the Talk and End keys, and the Menu and Escape buttons. The 8830 also includes a light-sensing technology that automatically adjusts the backlighting of the screen, the keyboard, and the trackball, depending on whether you're indoors or outdoors.
Unfortunately, the BlackBerry 8830 is hobbled by the same full-QWERTY keyboard that bothered us on the BlackBerry 8800. The buttons are on the slippery side, and there's no spacing in between the keys, which we missed. It's not so bad we couldn't use the keyboard; we just much prefer the ones found the BlackBerry Curve and BlackBerry 8703e.
There are volume keys on the right spine, while the left spine has a 2.5mm headset jack, a mini USB port, and a user-programmable convenience key (assigned to launch voice dialing by default). There is a microSD expansion slot behind the battery cover, as well as the SIM card slot. Finally, the power on/off and mute buttons are on the top of the unit.
Verizon packages the RIM BlackBerry 8830 with a travel charger, a USB cable, a SIM card, desktop software, and reference material. For additional add-ons and help, please check out our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
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--all while keeping the same phone number. (Note that the phone does not support domestic GSM bands.) In all, you get voice coverage in 157 countries (22 of those on CDMA) and e-mail coverage in 62 countries. Just be aware that you'll still incur roaming rates, which range from 69 cents to $2.49 a minute. Verizon also offers technical support if you need help while overseas. First, there's a 24-hour Global Help Desk that's open seven days a week. In addition, you get a calling card for free support calls while traveling outside of the United States from any landline phone to technical support if the BlackBerry 8830 is lost, broken, or stolen.
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 Verizon'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. Currently, the BlackBerry 8830 does not support Verizon's V Cast services or VZ Navigator, but the carrier said it is planning to add this functionality in the future.
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, although the latter is once again limited to the proprietary BlackBerry Messenger client.
The 8830 also is Verizon'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 apps, 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.
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 CNET Download.com for some ideas.
We tested the dual-mode (CDMA 850/1900; GSM 900/1800) RIM BlackBerry 8830 in San Francisco on Verizon Wireless CDMA network, and call quality was excellent. Voices sounded rich and we enjoyed clear sound with very little background hiss or noise as we talked to friends, and they reported similar results. We also called a bank's automated voice response system, and it had no problems understanding our voice commands. Speakerphone quality was also good, although the audio wasn't quite as crisp. 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 apps. With the boost of EV-DO speeds, browsing the Web on the 8830 was a much more pleasurable experience than on the EDGE-only BlackBerry 8800. Even graphics-intensive pages like CNET.com and CNN.com loaded quickly. 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, the 8830 was equipped with a 3.5mm 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 4.3 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.