The RIM BlackBerry Curve series has proven to be a popular line for Research in Motion, making its way to every major U.S. carrier and even regional service providers like U.S. Cellular. Like its larger CDMA brothers, Sprint and Verizon Wireless, U.S. Cellular landed itself the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330 and in general, it offers many of the same great features and performance of the others. However, you do lose a bit in functionality since U.S. Cellular doesn't currently offer location-based services or phone-as-a-modem capabilities. That said, we found the BlackBerry Curve 8330 to be a solid communication device with strong messaging capabilities and good call quality that will meet the needs of U.S. Cellular's business customers. The RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330 for U.S. Cellular is available now for $99.95 with a two-year contract and after rebates and discounts.
The design of the U.S. Cellular RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330 is similar to the other BlackBerry Curve 8330 models. For more information, please read our review of the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330 for Sprint.
U.S. Cellular offers the BlackBerry Curve in two colors--red or titanium--and packages the smatphone with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired stereo headset, a belt holster, a desktop software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check out our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
The RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330 for U.S. Cellular comes with the same core applications and features of the other Curve 8330 models. Messaging, of course, remains at the top of the list. The smartphone offers support for the BlackBerry Enterprise server as well as Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, or Novell GroupWise to deliver corporate e-mail in real time. You can also use the BlackBerry Internet Service to access as many as 10 personal/business POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail accounts. There is an attachment viewer that opens popular file formats, such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Corel WordPerfect, PDF, JPEG, GIF, and more. U.S. Cellular also includes downloads for several popular instant messaging clients, including Yahoo, Google Talk, and Windows Live Messenger.
Voice features include a speakerphone, voice dialing and commands, conference calling, text and multimedia messaging, and call audio enhancement, which lets you boost the bass or treble of sound. The address book is limited only by the available memory, and each entry can hold up to eight numbers, work and home addresses, e-mail and Web addresses, company information, and notes. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a photo to a contact as well as a group category--business or personal--or a custom ringtone.
The Curve also has Bluetooth 2.0 and works with the hands-free, A2DP, and dial-up networking profiles. Unlike Sprint and Verizon Wireless, however, U.S. Cellular doesn't currently offer a phone-as-a-modem plan, though it could be added in the future. Another area where the U.S. Cellular version slightly falls behind the others is GPS. While the device comes preloaded with satellite-based GPS on the BlackBerry Maps application and supports third-party applications such as Google Maps, there's no support for location-based services so you miss out on the turn-by-turn navigation capabilities. Again, it's something the carrier is considering for future. The device is EV-DO capable, and comes with the improved Web browser, which features a mouse-like cursor for easier page navigation.
For the off hours, you can relax to some of your favorite tunes and video clips with the built-in media player. Though the player is pretty basic, it does support MP3, WMA, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR-NB, and MIDI music files, and MPEG4, WMV, and H.263 video clips. There's a search function, playlist creation, shuffle and repeat, and you get a full-screen mode for video playback. The included software CD also contains a copy of Roxio Easy Media Creator, so you can create MP3s from CDs and add audio tags. There's 96MB of flash memory onboard, and the microSD expansion slot accepts, up to 8GB cards.
The BlackBerry Curve 8330 is also equipped with a 2-megapixel lens with video-recording capabilities. For still images, there's a 5x zoom and flash, as well as three picture sizes and three quality options. You also get white-balance settings and several color effects you can add to the photo. Video options are limited with just two video formats (normal or multimedia message), three color effects, and a video light. Also, be aware that in order to record video, you must use a microSD card.
Picture quality was decent. Images were clearly defined and colors, for the most part, were pretty accurate. However, there was a slight grayish tone to the photo. Video quality was pretty abysmal. Clips looked very grainy, and colors looked dull.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) RIM BlackBerry Curve in San Francisco using U.S.Cellular roaming services. On our end, we enjoyed clear audio with plenty of volume. There was little to no distortion or background noise, and we didn't have any problems using an airline's voice-automated response system. Friends also reported similar results. The speakerphone was decent. Again, volume was loud, but there were a few instances of spotty call quality. We were able to pair the BlackBerry Curve with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
General performance was good. Overall, the device was responsive, and we didn't experience any system crashes during our review period. Web browsing was fairly swift as we checked a number of sites, including CNET, SFGate.com, and ESPN, though speeds could vary. Multimedia performance was also decent. Music playback through the phone's speakers could sound a bit blown out at the highest volume. However, we suspect many of you won't actually be listening songs on the speaker, and with a 3.5mm jack, you should enjoy good sound with a nice pair of headphones. Videos looked a bit blurry, but sound audio and picture were synchronized.
The RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330's 1,150mAh lithium ion battery has a rated talk time of 4.3 hours and up to 11 days of standby time. In our battery drain tests, we were able to get 5.25 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge.