Verizon Wireless’ BlackBerry 8330 isn’t just a hand-me-down version of the AT&T and T-Mobile Curves. Sure, it sports the same small and lightweight design, spacious QWERTY keyboard, and a 2-megapixel camera, but Verizon throws in its own tailored interface and the fastest data speeds around for $169 (with a two-year contract and a $50 mail-in rebate). The Curve 8330 for Verizon Wireless also offers GPS and video recording. We wish this device supported V CAST video and music, but otherwise, the Curve 8330 is our top recommended smart phone for Verizon Wireless customers.
BlackBerry 8330 Design and Interface
The 4.2 x 2.4 x 0.6-inch, 4-ounce Curve 8330 is the same size and weight as Sprint’s model. Sporting a liquid-silver color, Verizon’s 8330 features a bright and crisp 2.4-inch screen that’s complemented by a clickable trackball and four navigation buttons. The microSD Card slot is buried beneath the battery in the back, which is annoying and will keep you wanting to store the card in there for good.
As with other Curves, you get a 3.5mm headphone jack, a dedicated shortcut button (defaulted to voice dialing) on the left side, and a Mute button along the top. This button also puts the phone into Standby mode when held down. On the right side are the volume controls and a button to launch the phone’s 2-megapixel camera. The QWERTY-keypad is well spaced, and the raised keys are extremely comfortable for typing; it took us no time to get accustomed to the layout.
Verizon Wireless preloads the unit with its own customized user interface, which has a striking silver backdrop and cartoonish-looking application icons. You can easily change the theme of the device to one of the standard BlackBerry offerings by going into the Options menu and changing the theme.
E-mail and Messaging
Like with all BlackBerrys, push e-mail worked efficiently on the Curve 8330. You can easily configure real-time access to up to ten e-mail accounts. Setting up a personal Gmail account and our Google Apps–based work mail was a cinch. Though the BlackBerry comes preloaded with BlackBerry Messenger and supports real-time chat to other BlackBerry users, Verizon does not prepackage the phone with instant messaging applications. AIM, Google Talk, and Yahoo Messenger are quick installs, however, and we had no problem keeping up with messaging our friends on their PCs. Sending text messages was a breeze, and we were happy to see that Verizon includes MMS capability right off the bat, unlike Sprint’s 8330.
The Fastest Curve of Them All
Load times for full HTML Web pages were faster using Verizon’s Curve 8330 than on the AT&T and Sprint Curves. Both CNN.com and ESPN.com loaded in 6 seconds on Verizon’s model. By comparison, AT&T’s Curve 8310 loaded CNN.com and ESPN.com in a slower 10 seconds over its EDGE network, and Sprint’s Curve 8330 loaded the pages in 6 seconds and 8 seconds, respectively. The Verizon Curve 8330 may be faster than the Sprint version by only a hair, but that still earns it the title of fastest Curve around. We wish Verizon included a Wi-Fi connection for even faster surfing, but that’s not a deal breaker.
Camera and Video Performance
Outdoor shots taken with the Verizon Curve 8330 came out clear; it was perfect for snapping a picture of flowers in a New York City park. The camera took decent pictures indoors, and even shots taken in a dimly lit bar were easy to make out. We were excited to try out the Curve’s camcorder function, which both the AT&T and T-Mobile version lack. Recorded videos played back smoothly but looked a bit fuzzy, and since Verizon’s Curve 8330 lacks a zoom option, we had trouble making out objects we shot from afar.
You can also easily transfer videos to the Curve for watching on the go. You’ll need to convert AVI, H.263, and WMV files to MPEG-4 format to view them, however. We had no problem converting an AVI clip filmed with our Flip Video camcorder to MPEG-4 with BlackBerry Desktop Manager.
Those that prefer viral videos will love the 8330’s support of streaming video from m.youtube.com. It took the phone a short three seconds to bring us to the YouTube main page. Searching for our favorite video “Chocolate Rain” by Tay Zonday was easy, and we were watching it in full screen mode in less than 4 seconds. The clip’s video and audio came through fine without any stops or pauses, though the picture was a bit fuzzy. Unfortunately, the 8330 does not support Verizon Wireless’ multimedia services, such as V CAST TV. (If you want mobile TV and EV-DO data, take a look at the Sprint’s version.)
8330 Music Features
Verizon doesn’t offer access to its V CAST music store either, so over-the-air music downloads are out of the question. However, we had no problem porting Eddie Veder’s Into The Wild soundtrack to the 8330. Sound sound quality was impressive; “No Ceiling” sounded clear on both a stereo Bluetooth headset and the included wired headset. With both headsets, when we had an incoming call, the music paused, and when we ended the call, the music picked up right where we left off. As with other Curves, we appreciated the ability to check e-mail and browse the Web while listening to our music.
VZ Navigator on the Curve 8330
With the built-in GPS functionality, the 8330 is optimized to work with Verizon’s VZ Navigator service ($9.99 per month). Off the bat, we were disappointed that the carrier’s newest version of the software, which supports real-time traffic, isn’t yet compatible with the device; Verizon has restricted GPS functionality within other applications such as BlackBerry Maps.
Nevertheless, Version 2.2 of VZ Navigator is a solid navigation companion, albeit a little older. On our tests, the service worked well outdoors, even in Manhattan. In Pedestrian mode, voice directions from our office to a home apartment (just a few blocks away) worked very well. The software followed us accurately on the map and pronounced the next step well in advance. However, when we took a wrong turn, the software took about 2 minutes to reroute us.
When we fired up the GPS on the device in a New York City cab, the 8330 supplied accurate directions to our destination and closely followed our route. The 8330 didn’t skip a beat when our cab driver missed a turn onto 42nd Street: It provided rerouted directions instantly. We were disappointed, however, that it said our estimated arrival time was 4 minutes; the lack of real-time traffic on the device didn’t take into account the bumper-to-bumper traffic heading down Fifth Avenue.
Compared with the Verizon BlackBerry 8830’s fuzzy sound quality and tendency to pick up background noise, calls made from the 8330 sounded much better. Calls made from the street didn’t pick up an overabundance of street noise, and our callers didn’t struggle to hear our words. Conversations via both the Plantronics Voyager 855 Bluetooth headset and the included wired headset were also clear. Speakerphone calls sounded a bit muffled, but our callers didn’t complain, and the loudspeaker let us roam around the room while talking.
According to RIM, the Curve 8330 has up to 4.5 hours of talk time and 11 days of standby time. Our phone survived about 2 days of frequent talking (about 2 hours), Web surfing, and music playing on one charge. We wouldn’t recommend leaving the charger at home for that weekend trip, but the Curve 8330 does provide solid endurance compared with other EV-DO smart phones.
Verizon Wireless BlackBerry Curve 8330 Verdict
The Verizon Wireless BlackBerry Curve 8330 is an excellent device for those who are looking for a messaging device that knows how to have some fun. Though Verizon Wireless also offers the BlackBerry 8830 World Edition that connects to both CDMA and GSM networks, that model lacks a camera and GPS functionality. And in general we prefer the Curve 8330’s full keyboard to the slimmer but harder to use Pearl 8130, which sports a SureType layout. We wish the Curve 8330 worked with the carrier’s multimedia services, but it’s still a fast, easy-to-use smart phone that will keep you informed and entertained on the go.