One day before its retail launch, UPS delivered Verizon Wireless' BlackBerry Curve 8530 to my doorstep. I've been working with it all morning, and as the replacement to the Curve 8330, I'm very pleased with it. It's a needed stepping stone in the BlackBerry line, and I'm excited that it's joining the ranks at Verizon (with Sprint getting it soon).
Admittedly, I was a bit upset that I didn't get the "smoky violet" color. Just kidding.
It's the third retail unit to ship with an OS 5.0 build (after the Storm2 and Bold 9700), and the third to feature a trackpad (after Curve 8520 and Bold 9700), both of which symbolize RIM's new design direction. Like the other two, threaded text messaging is now a regular feature, along with small changes (revamped icons, a refreshed "home" screen, and more). Aside from threaded text messaging, the improved boot time should please most users (especially BlackBerry users that are familiar with the 4-5 minute boot times of the past).
My favorite improvement comes in the form of a small optical square. I can't say enough positive words about the implementation of the trackpad. For those that don't know, I've spent years in the wireless industry, working for various companies in various capacities (vague, I know). The trackball was a bit of a dirt magnet over the years thanks to constant finger contact, and as such, it would often require cleaning or replacement (I've replaced many in my days in the field). The trackpad eliminates all of that in one swoop. There's a learning curve (we're talking an hour or so), but once you've used it, I doubt you'll want to go back.
As a testament to the price point of the phone ($99.99), packaging was sparse - besides the device and battery, a microUSB cable and AC adapter are the only two accessories that come in the box. Just like its GSM counterpart, the 8530 comes in at 4.29-inches tall x 2.36-inches wide x 0.54-inch thick. It weighs 3.73 ounces, making it light enough to carry in a small pocket or purse.
I'll argue the same thing with the 8530 that I did with the 8520 when it launched: whether it's deliberately marketed as such or not, the device is an entry-level BlackBerry. There's no flash on the camera, the screen resolution is lower, and there's a tremendous difference in overall build quality when holding the Curve 8520/8530 and high-end BlackBerry devices such as the Tour and Bold 9700. Not to say that it's a bad thing, but my impression is this: while it's great for first-time smartphone buyers, first-time BlackBerry owners, and those migrating from a BlackBerry Pearl, it's not the optimal choice for the die-hard smartphone user. That being said, I do like the fact that the CDMA version (8530) offers 3G connectivity, making it far better in the data department. What remains to be seen, however, is the toll that EVDO will take on the battery life. I'm still testing it, and will report back with my findings.
As with all of my demo units, I've been testing the Curve 8530 in the Charlotte area, and call quality is very good. When visiting a Verizon fringe area this morning, I was able to get one bar of service, and calls retained their clarity. In typical BlackBerry fashion, the speakerphone was very loud. Despite the Curve 8530 being an EVDO Rev. 0 device, data speeds were very good. The PhoneDog page loaded in about 47 seconds, and other data-intensive tasks like VZ Navigator and BlackBerry App World loaded quickly.
The BlackBerry Curve 8530 will be available at Verizon Wireless on November 20th (tomorrow) for $99.99 after a $100 mail-in rebate debit card and new two-year customer agreement. Enjoy the pictures below, and be sure to stay tuned for an unboxing, video review, and written review here and at BBerryDog!