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Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530 review

Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530

Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530

Last month we reviewed the Virgin Mobile LG Rumor Touch and concluded it worked well as a smartphone for newbies or light data users. We suggested at the time that Virgin Mobile’s BlackBerry 8530 might be a better bet for those looking for a more rounded smartphone experience and promised a review, so here it is.

We covered Virgin Mobile’s Beyond Talk plans in our review of the LG Rumor Touch, but the one difference with the BlackBerry 8530 is that Virgin Mobile asks for an extra $10 per month. This is presumably due to costs associated with

Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530 back

Back

BIS usage and the higher volume of data that the BlackBerry 8530 will likely consume compared to the other Virgin Mobile data phones. This extra amount brings the base Beyond Talk plan to a still very reasonable $35 with unlimited data, texts and 300 minutes, or $50 for 1,200 minutes. The unlimited minute plan becomes $70 including data and texts. At the time of writing the same situation still applies regarding taxes which is that, in New York at least, the only tax applied is sales tax.

Now back to the BlackBerry 8530. While being a new addition to Virgin Mobile, the BlackBerry 8530 has been on the wider market for a while now. At $299.99 it’s the most expensive phone in the Virgin Mobile line-up, and twice the price of the LG Rumor Touch. So is it twice as good?

First impressions of the Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530

When the 8500 series was announced I was skeptical about it during a BerryReporter podcast. My feelings at the time were that BlackBerry already had the 8900 Curve series and should have made the 8500 Curve series more teen orientated with a more obvious social networking focus and fewer traditional BlackBerry menus. RIM chose not to do that and released the 8500 series with the same OS as the rest of the range. While I remain unconvinced of this strategy on most carriers, I think it works well on Virgin Mobile since the 8530 is the only BlackBerry available on that network. More on the software later.

Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530 battery and micro sd

Battery, micro SD and camera

Looking at the hardware, the BlackBerry 8530 comes in any color on Virgin Mobile as long as it’s black. I was somehow expecting a red option since that is the color I associate with Virgin Mobile and I thought that would be a distinctive tell for the carrier but black it is. The casing is shiny black at least and does look smart. There’s a small, subtle Virgin Mobile logo beneath the keyboard.

The keyboard is a similar design to the 8900, with mildly ridged keys in the standard BlackBerry layout. The 8530 has the optical trackpad of the newer BlackBerrys, rather than the trackball which was famous for needing regular cleaning art best or occasional replacement at worst.

Above the trackpad is the screen, which is one of the newer dazzlingly vivid BlackBerry screens. Unfortunately the resolution is only 320 x 240, so it lacks the stunning pinpoint resolution of the higher end BlackBerry models. The result is that small OS text can look a little pixelated although still perfectly readable.

The left side houses a standard 3.5mm headphone socket, micro-USB charging port and assignable button. The volume controls and a second assignable button are on the right side.

On the top of the 8530 there are track skip and play/pause buttons, the latter of which also serves as a mute button.

There is a two megapixel camera on the back without a flash and a micro SD card slot hides under the battery cover. Thankfully the micro SD card is accessible without needing to remove the battery.

As with the rest of the BlackBerry range, the 8530 feels very well built. It might not ooze the enterprise class quality of the Bold 9000 or 9700, but it feels like it’s built to last.

Using the Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530

The Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530 runs version 5 of BlackBerry OS, which is pretty vast so I’ll concentrate here on some of the main features.

Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530 App World

BlackBerry App World

The Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530 is able to access BlackBerry App World, which is RIM’s equivalent of Apple’s App Store. There is a wide range of BlackBerry apps available now, and since the OS is able to multitask it’s perfectly possible to have Facebook and IM or RSS apps running in the background while you’re watching a YouTube video or writing an email.

On the subject of YouTube, the BlackBerry 8530 was easily able to stream YouTube videos over the Virgin Mobile network, which actually uses Sprint for cell service. I preferred using the Player for YouTube app which I downloaded from BlackBerry App World, to browse and stream videos rather than the YouTube website but that’s purely a matter of personal preference. The message here is that while I struggled to stream YouTube videos consistently with the LG Rumor Touch, the BlackBerry 8530 worked perfectly every time.

The BlackBerry 8530 has 256MB for app storage, which is a decent amount since BlackBerry apps are generally pretty small in size. The micro SD card can only be used for media files, so if you run out of space for apps you’ll need to clear some out before installing more.

Speaking of media files, the media player on the BlackBerry 8530 is good to use. Videos look fine using the onboard player, although I missed the crystal sharp resolution of the screens on the Bold 9000 and 9700. Pictures can be browsed using a finger swipe across the trackpad.

Music is easily searchable and searches are instant. Playlists can be created on the phone itself and skipping within tracks is simple. There are repeat 1 and All settings as well as shuffle. The speaker is decently loud, although completely

Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530 browser

Browser

lacking in bass definition; it’s better suited to spoken podcasts than music playback. For music the headphone socket delivers excellent sound quality and the top-mounted playback control buttons are a useful feature.

Something I always look for in a smartphone is whether it supports Bluetooth A2DP stereo audio streaming and AVRCP playback remote control. The BlackBerry 8530 supports both of these and happily streamed music to a Plantronics BackBeat 903 stereo headset with full remote control capabilities. Incidentally this streaming also works fine with downloaded apps that are enabled to use it, such as Pandora and Stitcher, which is handy to know.

The web browser on the BlackBerry 8530 is okay, although nothing special.  It is able to render pages fairly well but lacks Flash and any sense of speed.  It is usable however for basic web surfing and the trackpad serves adequately as a mouse.  Serious surfers may want to look at a downloadable browser such as Bolt.

If you’re considering the Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530 over the LG Rumor Touch it may well be to take advantage of the renowned BlackBerry messaging capabilities. The 8530 does not disappoint in this regard offering an excellent keyboard, BlackBerry Messenger and downloadable clients for the major IM platforms. Virgin Mobile includes a Twitter app straight out of the box. The BlackBerry 8530 also supports multiple email inboxes and handles email far better than the LG Rumor Touch.

Photo taken on BlackBerry 8530

Photos taken on the BlackBerry 8530 are passable for occasional use, although Halo looks unimpressed

The two megapixel camera of the BlackBerry 8530 is passable but a weak point of the device. By modern standards the resolution is too low, with five or at least three megapixels now being the minimal standard. The camera does take decent shots though and is good enough for occasional use, but with its lack of flash don’t count on using it in low light environments.  There’s a second photo below taken at close range which reveals issues for macro shooting.

Many of the other drawbacks of the Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530 are common to the whole BlackBerry range. The 8530 takes a long time to boot up if it crashes, so we’re thankful that the platform is relatively stable. You will probably need to reboot once every couple of weeks though to give the 8530 a fresh start if you typically have a lot of apps open simultaneously.

The screen of the BlackBerry 8530, like most other BlackBerrys, is not touch enabled. However the BlackBerry 8530 is very quick to navigate using the optical trackpad. If you’re dying to get a touchscreen phone though, look elsewhere.

Call quality of the BlackBerry 8530 was good with no significant issues. It was able to pair with Bluetooth headsets if you prefer to talk hands-free. Battery life was fine, with two days being achievable with light voice and data use. Heavy users will probably want to juice up the BlackBerry 8530 every night.

Summing up the Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530

Overall the Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530 is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a proper smartphone for a low monthly cost. It’s definitely worth the extra over the LG Rumor Touch if you’re planning to be a heavy data or want a more robust messaging experience. There is the extra $10 monthly to consider above the normal Virgin Mobile Beyond Talk plans plus the initial outlay for the phone is high, but it works out favorably over two years when compared to buying the same phone on a contract with some other carriers. However the market is no longer standing still and MetroPCS has also recently launched the BlackBerry 8530 at a lower device price point but a higher minimum monthly cost. As ever, check out all the deals in your area before you jump in!

Neil Berman

theonbutton.com

facebook.com/theonbutton

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Aug 15, 2010 - Posted by | Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , , , , , ,

9 Comments »

  1. […] For a smartphone newbie or light data user, the LG Rumor Touch is a good choice at an excellent price point. It provides enough functionality to enjoy social networking, email and basic web browsing on the move in a compact user-friendly package. While it trails the better featured smartphone market leaders by some margin in many areas, its price point is also stratospherically lower than most competitors over a two year period.  If you’re considering buying the LG Rumor Touch as a genuine iPhone contender though, you will be disappointed.  More demanding users who want better smartphone functionality on a budget might prefer to consider Virgin Mobile’s BlackBerry Curve 8530 which sits at a slightly higher price point.  Stay tuned, our review of the 8530 is coming soon…and as promised here is our Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530 review. […]

    Pingback by Virgin Mobile LG Rumor Touch review « theONbutton | Aug 15, 2010 | Reply

  2. Since I bought the 8530 there has been one problem or the other. My first virgin mobile BB freeze everytimeN went back to radio shack and exchange it. The 2nd now have ” error playing media” everytime Iam on youtube. Virgin mobile is not claiming reponsiblities, neither is youtube.
    Please you have a solution please share it with me on my email.
    Thanks

    Comment by Ebenezer Sopade | Sep 2, 2010 | Reply

    • The Youtube streaming issue with Virgin Mobile is well documented. Just keep trying to play the video. It usually plays before the 25th attempt on my Rumor Touch.

      Comment by Anonymous | Sep 7, 2010 | Reply

      • that is true. all though with the 8530 you can use wifi when available and it works just fine.

        Comment by William | Sep 28, 2010

  3. Hi does this have a lanyard loop thing on the side? I need a phone I can attach to my belt?

    Thanks for your time.

    Comment by Yusuke | Sep 24, 2010 | Reply

  4. Current issue going on for a month. can not receive AT&T text. Can not get picture messaging from lg rumor touch (BB put it into sms folder can’t view). Virgin mobile says it is an issue with all their VM BB’s. And can not say when it will be fixed. Does any body else have this issue or had the issue resolved?

    Comment by William | Sep 28, 2010 | Reply

    • problem resolved for att text issue after a month. I switched to another 8530 blackberry and everything started working. Virgin mobile has a system glitch on their new phones LG rumor touch and Black berry. LG rumor touch department figured out that if they make a ghost account to set you up in system and port your number in then change device from ghost phone to actual phone. Same concept of switching back and forth between 2 blackberry’s. Hope this helps anybody….
      now I hope they get MMS issue between LG rumor touch and blackberry. but that minor I LOVE MY PHONE NOW. but blackberry tech support sucks still.

      Comment by William | Sep 29, 2010 | Reply

  5. hey i have been doing research on the blackberry but i have a concern about cant send pics or recive and also not being able to recive text from At&t

    Comment by slick nick | Dec 29, 2010 | Reply

  6. Has that got fixed yet?

    Comment by slick nick | Dec 29, 2010 | Reply


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