Reviewed September 23, 2010 by Lisa Gade, Editor
It was the best of times and the worst of times for the BlackBerry Curve line. With the Curve 3G RIM has made a solid, attractive and keenly affordable entry tier BlackBerry smartphone that's OS 6-ready, but alas it doesn't yet ship with OS 6. So you open the box, and if you're a BlackBerry veteran, you see that same old OS that's tried and true but dull as used steel wool. We really wonder why RIM and the carriers didn't hold off until they were ready to ship the Curve 3G with OS 6.0, which would have generated a lot more excitement about this otherwise very decent base model BlackBerry. We can only assume that they wanted a new product on the shelves for the September back to work and back to school season, regardless of OS version. Fortunately, we got our hands on OS 6 for the Verizon version of the Curve 3G, so we can give you a taste of what's to come when RIM releases the official upgrade (we assume this fall).
The Curve 3G is a traditional non-touchscreen BlackBerry smartphone that's packed with the usual push email goodness and social networking aplenty. It has an excellent hardware QWERTY keyboard that's a joy to type on, a compact design that fits easily in the pocket, a QVGA display, 2 megapixel camera, WiFi, Bluetooth and a GPS. To our tastes it looks less budget and plasticky than the outgoing Curve; in fact it looks like a quality 'Berry that matches the build quality and visual appeal of the higher end Curve 8900.
The 9330 has the usual BlackBerry Curve style 35 key QWERTY keyboard. Some folks prefer the Curve keyboard while others fancy the Bold keyboard, but either way, these are some of the best compact QWERTY keyboards on the market. The now standard optical d-pad is just slightly raised and is easy to access. As always, you can set the trackpad speed to suit your style. The calling, menu and back buttons are mechanical rather than touch sensitive and they live under the gloss panel above the keyboard. Their feel is identical to the Torch buttons, and the only thing we wish RIM had added were separator lines to make it easier to sense button location via tactile feedback (we suppose that would have broken the fluid lines-- even a BlackBerry can be vain).
Wirefly price (no rebate required):
The sides and back are rubbery and rugged, and the modern Curve multimedia playback controls dominate the top edge. The battery cover is likewise rubbery and patterned, making it easier to grip the phone. That panel is easy to remove but stays firmly in place with no wiggles or creaks. The microSD card slot is located under the battery door, but you need not remove the battery to insert a card. The phone supports SDHC high capacity cards, but no card is included. There are convenience keys on the right side and left side. These are assigned to voice command and the camera (you can change these to any application you wish).
Reception and Calling
The BlackBerry Curve 3G on Verizon has middle of the road reception in terms of signal. It holds calls reliably and we had no problems with drops. Call quality is very good, with clear voice and reasonable noise reduction. The phone works with Bluetooth headsets, car kits and stereo headsets. There's a 3.5mm stereo jack for wired headsets and the usual rubber-covered volume buttons on the right side. The Curve 3G 9330 ships with Nuance Voice Command, an excellent voice command package. Verizon includes Visual Voicemail and as always, the BlackBerry supports speed dial via the QWERTY keyboard.
Other Goodies: Multimedia, Camera and GPS
The Curve 3G has both music and video players that are decent (and will be improved in OS 6). We're particularly fond of the hardware multimedia playback controls on top of the phone. With a large microSD card, the Curve can keep you entertained for hours. What we don't like is the small QVGA display. That resolution is so old school, and icons and text don't look great. Granted, text is larger and thus more readable than the Curve 8900 with its tiny display and higher resolution, but it's time to put QVGA and tiny LCDs to bed. The display is bright and reasonably colorful, and the ambient light sensor works well to match brightness to the environment.
The camera utilizes a fixed focus lens and there's no flash-- this is no shutterbug's camera phone. But it does take fairly sharp, well exposed shots outdoors and in brightly lit indoor settings. The video camera can shoot up to QVGA resolution and there's a standard MMS resolution option. Remember, this is a budget BlackBerry, so you won't get high specs and features; but that said, the camera isn't too bad.
VZ Navigator is on board for maps and spoken directions. The service costs $10/month (there are shorter use plans available), and it worked reliably in our tests. Other location-based applications can use the GPS too.
Here's our video review of the BlackBerry Curve 3G 9330 on Verizon:
BlackBerry OS 6 on the Curve 3G 9330 Video Review
The Curve 9300 family is upgradable to OS 6.0, and that new OS should be available by the end of 2010. It's one of the Curve 3G's strongest selling points for BlackBerry owners looking to upgrade their phone. The new OS brings a more modern and simple user interface to BlackBerry smartphones and it has a capable Webkit-based web browser that puts it on par with other smartphone platforms. RIM has also improved the music and video players and greatly simplified phone settings. As of this writing, the BlackBerry Torch is the only phone shipping with OS 6, and we compare the Torch with the Curve 3G running OS 6. The new OS is easy to navigate even without a touch screen, though we do find the home screen easier to use with touch. Once you've used OS 6, it's hard to go back, and we think you'll like it just as much as we do.
The BlackBerry Curve 3G 9330 on Verizon is a solid entry level BlackBerry with better than average looks for a Curve and a wonderfully low price. While the specs won't send you to the upgrade hotline if you're a current Curve user, the phone is better looking and faster than the last gen Curve on Verizon. More importantly, it's upgradable to BlackBerry OS 6, and for you 'Berry addicts, that is worth the price of the upgrade.
Price: $29.99 with a 2 year contract after rebates