The BlackBerry Curve 8530 is the latest update to the Curve series. It’s just like the BlackBerry Curve 8520, only with WiFi and GPS, plus a few other minor improvements.
First off, lets talk about the major improvements: 3G and WiFi. While the 8520, the GSM version of the 8530, also has WiFi, this is new for Verizon customers. We have the Storm2 with WiFi but that’s about it when it comes to BlackBerry devices on Verizon with WiFi. We’ve heard rumors that all future BlackBerrys going to Verizon will ship with WiFi, so we’re hoping the 8530 is proof that this is true.
One of the major downsides to the 8520 was that it did not have 3G and instead ran on EDGE. As we have all seen from the countless AT&T ads attacking Verizon, the network isn’t known for having voice and data at the same time, but this isn’t the case with the 8530. Personally, I don’t use this feature often, as my calls don’t last long and most of my business is done over email. It’s also not obvious to me why you would keep your friend on the phone while you navigate the web in search for whatever information you need. In any case, when you connect your device to WiFi, it establishes a new connection to RIM’s NOC, allowing you to make calls and browse the web.
The 8530 is virtually completely identical to the 8520 in form factor and feel. The only difference between the two devices is that the battery cover on the 8530 has a soft, almost furry feel to it. There is a slightly raised checkered pattern on the cover that gives it this feeling. Compared to the 8520, which has a hard plastic cover, it feels softer in your hands.
Around the time of the BlackBerry Developer Conference, we were told that the 8530 will support OpenGL. After using this device for a while and checking out some apps on App World, this feature isn’t of any real benefit just yet. Being a Qualcomm CDMA BlackBerry, the 8530 falls under the devices that will support OpenGL. This brings me to a more general point about OpenGL support. With only 2 devices in RIM’s product line that support OpenGL, there really isn’t any incentive for developers to create apps that use it. While it may be possible to write an app that has rich 3D graphics, if you can only sell it to Storm2 and 8530 users, there isn’t any point. It seems as though this feature might take at least until 2011, when more devices have launched supporting OpenGL, to be of any consequence to the platform.
The BlackBerry Curve 8530 is running OS 126.96.36.1997, which I believe is the build that it ships with when you buy it. It’s strange that RIM isn’t shipping devices with the latest BlackBerry Messenger, and instead relying on users downloading it from App World. It could be that RIM is waiting for BBM to reach a higher version before preloading it, but it’s still frustrating to see BBM version 4.7.0 on an OS 5 device.
While I didn’t expect to see a flash on the 8530, it was still a bit of a let down. The camera takes really decent pictures in the right lighting conditions, but especially with winter around the corner, the hours in which the camera can take a quality picture outside are far fewer. The 5x digital zoom is helpful, but the picture quality degrades fairly rapidly. Overall, the camera is the same as the 8520: decent but still not totally useful. This seems to be the price you pay for not paying a high price.
The web browser on the 8530 is exactly what you would expect from a BlackBerry these days. The marketing material says the 8530 “features an enhanced web browser able to download and display web pages quickly, plus support for streaming audio and video.” Personally, I find the browser to be a little slow and slightly under par when it comes to other smartphones on the market. We’re expecting a huge web browser update from RIM in Q3/Q4 of 2010, so hopefully this will really change the way we browse the net on a BlackBerry.
Overall, I think the 8530 is a great device option for Verizon customers, who are looking to upgrade from their 8330. The device feels smooth in your hands, and it has all the features you need in a solid BlackBerry. Relative to the other devices in RIM’s product line, the 8530 is geared towards the entry-level user. We’re expecting Verizon to come out with the Tour2 fairly soon (Q1/Q2 2010), and this device would appeal more to the power user.