Jet-setters in search of a phone that they can use both at home and abroad will find a compelling option in the BlackBerry 8830 World Edition. Featuring unique dual-network capability, this smart phone will automatically switch between CDMA and GSM signals when roaming globally. Toss in RIM's airtight push e-mail, a QWERTY keyboard, and a media player, and you have a fully loaded smart phone that will keep globe-trotters connected, productive, and entertained.
The 8830 World Edition should look familiar to BlackBerry aficionados, with its 8800-styled trackball and QWERTY keyboard, but its executive-chic metallic-silver body more closely resembles the Curve. At just 4.6 ounces and 4.4 x 2.6 x 0.6 inches, it easily slips into a shirt or jacket pocket. Navigating menus was a cinch, thanks to the silky-smooth glide of the trackball.
Although it lacks the 8800's GPS functionality, the 4.6-ounce handheld does what all BlackBerry models do best: handle e-mail. The 8830 World Edition's built-in wizard made setting up our Gmail account a snap (users can create a maximum of ten accounts), and within a few minutes we were receiving messages. The keys a bit small for lion-pawed users, but they're nicely spaced, which makes for a comfortable typing experience.
The 8830 World Edition also lets you view (but not edit) Word, Excel, and PDF files. BlackBerry Messenger is included, but we preferred to use the free Google Talk for BlackBerry Devices download, as it's a more universal communication tool. You can also try IM+ ($49.95; shapeservices.com), which works with Google Talk as well as AOL, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo.
At the heart of the BlackBerry 8830 World Edition is its unique dual-network compatibility. Verizon Wireless' new Global BlackBerry service, which includes a SIM card-a rarity for a Verizon phone-allows customers to place and receive calls from more than 150 countries and send and receive e-mail in the United States, Canada, and more than 60 other nations. When in the United States, chatters are given voice time via Verizon's CDMA network, but when venturing overseas, the phone automatically connects to local GSM/GPRS networks. Unfortunately, this device doesn't support faster EDGE data networks overseas.
When in GSM mode, the 8830 World Edition runs on only the 900-MHz and 1800-MHz international frequencies. While this is a bit disappointing to those who may want to pop their AT&T or T-Mobile SIM cards into the phone here in the States, it's the closest thing to having an unlocked phone while traveling abroad, without having to fork over extra cash for another handset.
Not only does the BlackBerry 8830 World Edition offer unprecedented voice freedom for business travelers, it also offers a wealth of e-mail options. Those who sign up for the Global BlackBerry service ($69.99 or $64.99 with a qualifying voice plan) will receive unlimited e-mail in the United States, Canada, and more than 60 countries worldwide. Customers can also opt for a "Pay As You Go" plan with any qualifying voice plan for $20 per megabyte. Finally, e-mailers looking for a method to dive into their Inboxes only in the United States can invest in an unlimited e-mail plan beginning at $49.99 per month.
Web-surfing stateside was pretty snappy thanks to the 8830 World Edition's high-speed EV-DO connection. The photo-heavy CNN.com consistently loaded in a little less than 18 seconds. We also experienced good call quality on Verizon's network, but as with the Blackberry 8800 and the BlackBerry Curve, we would have liked more volume. The phone is rated at 220 minutes of talk time, and we saw about four days of periodic use before needing to charge the battery.
The 8830 World Edition also supports voice dialing and recognized every name we threw at it, with the exception of "Horatio," which required multiple voice commands to dial correctly. Using Bluetooth, we were able to sync to a wireless headset for hands-free calls. Like the BlackBerry 8800, this device doesn't support stereo Bluetooth headsets, so you'll have to go the wired route when listening to tunes.
The bundled copy of Roxio Media Manager 9 features a split-screen interface that makes dragging and dropping media files between your notebook and handset a breeze. Transferred photos looked crisp and colorful on the bright display, and video (H.264, WMV, MPEG-4) played smoothly. The 8830 features surprisingly loud speakers for enjoying music (AAC, MP3, WMA), but they project only average audio quality. Make sure you have a microSD Card on hand, as the paltry 64MB of onboard memory fills up quickly.
Priced at $299 (after a $100 rebate and two-year agreement), the BlackBerry 8830 World Edition is reasonably priced given its global roaming capability. The BlackBerry 8800 from AT&T can do the same thing today and offers a built-in GPS receiver for the same price, but the 8830 is a very good choice for people who want fast EV-DO data performance stateside.