While you don't often see smartphones offered by smaller carriers, BlackBerrys tend to be the exception to the norm. The BlackBerry Curve 8530, for example, is now available for MetroPCS, after making the rounds with Verizon and Sprint. The Curve 8530 is decidedly an entry-level smartphone, but it's a pretty good one at that. It's not flashy by any means, but we like its features, and MetroPCS is throwing in a sweet $60 unlimited BlackBerry plan with it. Do note that the Curve 8530 is $230 with MetroPCS, but that's because you don't have to get it with a contract. For this review, we'll focus on the smartphone's performance and MetroPCS services, but for more information about the phone's design and features, please read our reviews of the Verizon Wireless RIM BlackBerry Curve 8530.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900 Mhz; EV-DO) in San Francisco using the MetroPCS service. The call quality was fantastic. Neither side detected much background noise--we experienced great call clarity for the most part. We heard our callers clearly and thought their voices sounded quite natural, though a bit tinnier when heard via speakerphone.
On their end, callers said we sounded great. Volume was loud enough, and our voice came through with almost landline quality. On speakerphone, they said we sounded much the same, except louder. We paired the Curve 8530 with the BlueAnt Q2 and it worked well, with great audio. We also used the phone with a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7 QuietPoint headphones, and music quality was really rich and full.
We experienced no dropped calls during our test period and had decent signal strength for the most part. However, we didn't get a very strong EV-DO signal, and it would often slip back into 1xRTT speeds. Still, we managed to load pages fairly quickly. The CNET mobile page loaded in just 15 seconds, whereas the full front page loaded in around a minute. As for video quality, it was the same with the other Curve 8530s--images looked grainy for the most part due to the relatively low-resolution screen.
Some features that are unique to the MetroPCS version of the Curve 8530 are MetroPCS's backup service, Metro Banking, the MetroWEB browser (though we personally prefer the stock BlackBerry browser), the Metro411 directory service, GPS with MetroNavigator, and the @Metro App Store.
The RIM BlackBerry Curve 8530 has an 1150mAH lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 5.4 hours. Our tests revealed a similar talk time of 5 hours and 30 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Curve 8530 has a digital SAR of 1.31 watts per kilogram and a Hearing Aid compatibility rating of M4, T4. MetroPCS packages the BlackBerry Curve 8530 with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a companion CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.