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We imagine Sprint customers have been waiting a long time for this, but the time has finally come. Yes, the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330 is now available, and it brings the same great design of its GSM counterparts and even adds 3G to boot. Like the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8310 for AT&T, the Curve 8330 has integrated GPS so you can use it with Sprint Navigation or some other mobile mapping application to get driving directions and local search right on your smartphone. It also offers Bluetooth, a 2-megapixel camera with video recording, and BlackBerry's tried-and-true messaging capabilities. The only downsides were the lack of Wi-Fi and the less-than-pristine call quality. That said, the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330 is still worth it. Plus, Sprint's version of the Curve offers support for the carrier's multimedia services and more instant-messaging clients, making it a better value than the Verizon Wireless BlackBerry Curve. The RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330 for Sprint is available now for $179.99 with a two-year contract and after rebates and discounts.
Given the inclusion of a 3G chip, the Sprint RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330 is slightly thicker and heavier than its GSM variant, measuring 4.2 inches high by 2.4 inches wide by 0.6 inch deep and weighing 4.2 ounces. The smartphone comes in a titanium color, though unlike the AT&T BlackBerry Curve 8310, the QWERTY keyboard features black keys and a black trim around the display instead of silver.
Speaking of the display, the Curve 8330 features a 2.5-inch nontouch screen with a 65,536 color output and a 320x240 pixel resolution. As with the latest BlackBerry models, the Curve also has a light-sensing technology that automatically adjusts the backlight depending on whether you're in a dark room, outdoors, and so forth. This function worked well, and we found the display to be sharp and readable in most situations--colors do tend to wash out in bright sunlight. Though the BlackBerry Curve 8330 comes with Sprint's home screen set as the default, you can change the background display and theme, as well as the font size and font type.
The rest of the Sprint Curve's design is pretty much in line with the other models. Below the display, you'll find the standard Talk and End keys, trackball navigator, and a Main Menu and back button. The last two controls have more of a concave shape than the bubbly ones found on the AT&T and T-Mobile versions. We didn't have a preference to either style as both are easy to press. The full QWERTY keyboard has smallish buttons, but the spacing between the keys allow for easier typing.
On the left side, you get a 3.5mm headphone jack, a mini USB port, and a customizable convenience key, while there's a volume rocker and another user-programmable shortcut key (set to activate the camera by default) on the right spine. The camera lens, flash, and self-portrait mirror are located on the back. Finally, there is a microSD expansion slot, but it's located behind the battery, so it's a bit of pain to access.
Sprint packages its RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330 with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired headset, a 1GB microSD card, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phones accessories, ringtones, and help page.
The RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330 for Sprint comes loaded with features, some that make it a better value than the competition. To start, there's integrated GPS with support for Sprint Navigation. The carrier's location-based service offers turn-by-turn text- and voice-guided directions complete with text-to-speech functionality, local search, traffic updates, and other navigation tools. Sprint Navigation is an add-on service ($2.99 per day or $9.99 per month/unlimited use), so if you don't want to spend the extra money can get similar features from Google Maps for Mobile or the preloaded BlackBerry Maps app.
Now, while you get GPS, the trade-off is there's no integrated Wi-Fi (it seems we can't have it all). However, the omission is not so bad considering that the Curve 8330 is EV-DO capable. With it, you'll get data speeds of around 300Kbps to 600Kbps, with the potential to hit up to 2.4Mbps. This should make surfing the Net on your mobile much faster, and it'll also be smoother since the Curve 8330 includes an improved Web browser with a mouse-like onscreen cursor.
Another area where you can take advantage of the 3G speeds is multimedia. Unlike the Verizon BlackBerry Curve 8330, the Sprint model offers support for the carrier's various multimedia services, including Sprint TV and the Sprint Music Store. Sprint offers these services as part of the Sprint Power Vision pack, which ranges in price from $15 to $25 per month. Sprint TV gives you access to programming from a variety of channels, including CNN, Comedy Central, and Sprint Exclusive Entertainment. In addition, you can listen to live streaming music and talk radio from Sirius, VH1 Mobile, and MTV Mobile. Meanwhile, the Sprint Music Store offers simultaneous track downloads both to your PC and wirelessly to your phone. Songs cost $0.99, or you can get a six-pack for $5.94. Also, be aware that you'll need to store them to a microSD card; otherwise you won't be able to download the tracks.
Of course, you can import your own music and video library. The built-in media player allows you to enjoy your favorite 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 64MB of flash memory onboard, but as always, we recommend loading multimedia files via a microSD card. The Curve's expansion slot can accept up to 8GB cards.
The BlackBerry Curve 8330 comes 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.
Picture quality was less than stellar. Though images had good definition and we could make out each object in the picture, there was a grayish overtone that kind of ruined it for us.
On top of all of this, we can't forget the Curve 8330's core functions: voice and messaging. Phone 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 Curve also has Bluetooth 2.0 with full A2DP support. You can also use Bluetooth for hands-free kits and as a wireless modem, though the latter will require a Sprint Power Vision Modem Plan.
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 one of 45 polyphonic ringtones. Like the RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8120, the Curve 8330 has a slightly revamped Address Book with separate panels for information that makes it easier to read.
For e-mail, the Curve 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. You can also use the BlackBerry Internet Service to access as many as 10 personal/business POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail accounts. We configured our review unit with our Yahoo account, and after entering our log-in and password, we started receiving messages within minutes. Finally, another differentiating factor between the Sprint Curve and the Verizon Curve is that this model offers AIM, Yahoo, and Google Talk instant-messaging clients in addition to BlackBerry Messenger.
For mobile professionals, an attachment viewer opens popular file formats, such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Corel WordPerfect, PDF, JPEG, GIF, and more. You can also view tracked changes and embedded images and zoom and rotate documents, but you can't edit documents out of the box (something you can look forward to with the new RIM BlackBerry Bold), though third-party software is available that allows this functionality. Sprint includes a link to its software store so you can download more programs for your device; you can also check CNET Download.com for more titles. Other applications on the Curve include a calendar, a tasks list, a memo pad, an alarm clock, a password keeper, a calculator, a Brickbreaker game, and a voice recorder.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 850/1900; EV-DO) RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330 in San Francisco using Sprint service, and call quality wasn't all that great. On our end, friends sounded mostly clear, though voices could be garbled at times. We were still able to able to carry on conversations and use an airline's voice automated system. However, the experience wasn't so good on the other side, as our callers said they could hear an echo. The echoing problem only got worse for our friends when we activated the speakerphone. On the bright side, we were able to pair the Curve with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
General performance on the Curve 8330 was good. There were a few instances where we watched the hourglass do a few rotations (mostly when trying to use the multimedia functions), but other than that, the Curve was quite responsive. Web browsing was pleasant thanks to EV-DO; however, accessing some of the Sprint TV and Sprint Music Store content took a bit of time. As for multimedia performance, it was a bit mixed. Music playback through the phone's speakers sounded a bit hollow, and the sound tends to get blown out when you have the volume set at high. However, we don't suspect a lot of people listen to their music through the speakers, and, fortunately, the Curve is equipped with a 3.5mm jack so you can plug in a nice pair of headphones.
We also tested the Curve 8330's GPS capabilities with Sprint Navigation. We were impressed at how fast the device was able to get a fix on our location (about 2 minutes), and the receiver did a steadfast job of keeping its lock on our position. Sprint Navigation provided accurate directions, complete with traffic optimized routes.
The RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330's 1,150mAh lithium-ion battery has a rated talk time of 5.9 hours and up to 11 days of standby time. On a single charge, the Sprint BlackBerry Curve was able to get 5 hours of continuous talk time in our battery drain tests. We are also currently confirming the digital SAR rating of device.