updated 02:30 pm EDT, Wed May 7, 2008
BBerry Curve 8330 Hands-on
Although it won't be available until Friday on Verizon and is still absent from Sprint's shipping roster, the BlackBerry Curve 8330 has landed at Electronista in a near-identical Telus form and is being put through its paces. Much of the design will seem familiar to those already aware of the Curve, but there are important additions to this first CDMA version of RIM's QWERTY smartphone that are likely to factor heavily into our full review.
The most evident of these is 3G Internet access over EVDO. Even in early testing, the extra speed is immediately apparent and definitely useful for a mainstream smartphone with a QWERTY keyboard: downloading messages and browsing the web are much quicker over the cell network than on current BlackBerries on GSM networks, although BlackBerries with Wi-Fi (such as the Pearl 8120 and Curve 8320) will be faster at shorter distances.
Using the phone itself is also tangibly faster than on the last smartphone we tested, the Moto Q 9c; the screen redraws and loading times are, as a rule, shorter than on the Windows Mobile-powered device. It's not a significant change from earlier BlackBerries, but is certainly noteworthy for anyone debating a choice between the two devices.
BlackBerry Maps -- the signature app of any GPS-equipped BlackBerry -- is there and will likely be the phone's selling point regardless of the carrier, though some of this isn't entirely deserved from early impressions. The software has a large enough feature set for finding locations with or without GPS, but it also lacks the elegance of Google Maps on the iPhone or iPod touch. The typical pitfalls of GPS also persist: if you're indoors, the receiver is unlikely to get a position lock, and there's no data-based triangulation to fill in the gap.
RIM's current keyboard design isn't as high-quality as on the Q 9c, so those hoping for a redesign with the Curve 8330 may be disappointed. It's still easily used and prevents typos, but the feel is cheaper and requires more conscious effort for a relative newcomer than on the Motorola device.
Expect the full review, including a look into the Curve's reportedly improved media playback features, in the near future.