The BlackBerry Curve 8500 series is making the rounds to all the carriers, including Sprint, which offers the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8530. Like the others, the smartphone is a great foray into the world of smartphones for the first-time buyer. Though it doesn't have some of the high-end design elements of other devices, the Curve 8530 is easy to use and packs in good number of features. Sprint even sweetens the deal with an extra-affordable price tag of $49.99 with a two-year contract. For this review, we'll focus on the smartphone's performance and Sprint services, but for more information about the phone's design and features, please read our reviews of the T-Mobile RIM BlackBerry Curve 8520 and the Verizon Wireless RIM BlackBerry Curve 8530.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1,900MHz; EV-DO) in New York using Sprint service and its call quality was OK. Its audio quality wasn't pristine on our end; voices sounded a bit tinny and we could hear a slight background hiss during lulls in the conversation. Callers said we sounded muffled and a bit soft on their end. Though these issues didn't prevent us from having a conversation, they were definitely noticeable on both ends. Its speakerphone quality was decent. However, its audio was, again, a bit muffled, but we were still understandable and there was plenty of volume so we could hear even in louder environments.
We didn't experience any dropped calls during our testing period and we had no problems with the general performance of the smartphone. It handled most tasks with very little delay and without problem. Sprint's 3G network also provided relatively fast speeds. CNET's full Web site loaded in 54 seconds, and CNN's and ESPN's mobile Web sites loaded in 12 seconds and 19 seconds, respectively.
We paired the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones with no problem. Music playback sounded rich and balanced through our Bose On-Ear Headphones, and the external media controls on top of the smartphone made it easy to advance through tracks without having to look at the phone.
As expected, its video quality wasn't the best, given the Curve's low-resolution screen. Images looked a bit grainy, especially during action sequences. That said, media playback was smooth with synchronized audio and video, so watching clips in short spurts was fine. The BlackBerry Curve 8530 supports the Sprint Music Store and Sprint TV as well as NFL Mobile Live and NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile.
The RIM BlackBerry Curve 8530 features an 1150mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 5.4 hours. In our battery drain tests, the Curve 8530 lasted 5.3 hours on single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the Curve 8530 has a digital SAR rating of 1.31 watts per kilogram and a Hearing Aid Compatibility rating of M4, T4.
Sprint packages the BlackBerry Curve 8530 with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a 2GB microSD card, a wired stereo headset, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.