The RIM BlackBerry 8830 World Edition is available only in the US and Canada, but can be used for international roaming.

So much about the RIM BlackBerry 8830 World Edition is familiar. But one aspect is very foreign - and therein lies this Sprint phone's appeal.

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The RIM BlackBerry 8830 ($300 after a two-year activation with Sprint and an ongoing instant rebate) is the first PDA phone that's compatible both with Sprint's CDMA network and with GSM networks for international use. The inclusion of GSM - even if it's only for overseas - is a huge bonus for mobile workers who need a phone that can work wherever they are. The 8830 comes close to fitting that bill - it will work on 900MHz and 1800MHz GSM networks outside of the United States (and that covers Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and most of Asia).

The SIM card slot for GSM use is located in the battery compartment, next to the mini-SD Card slot. Sprint says the SIM card is unlocked for both voice and data use, which means that you can either use the Sprint-supplied SIM card that ships with the phone, or buy a local SIM card while traveling abroad.

The Sprint SIM card is not unlocked for use on a domestic GSM network. The company makes a point of noting that the BlackBerry 8830 will operate only on the Sprint network in the United States, not over a GSM network.

In addition to the GSM card for international use, Sprint supplies an international charger. This nice touch means that, if you don't already have one, you won't have to go hunting around at your local electronics store for a power plug adaptor.

When overseas, should you stick with Sprint or spring for a SIM card from a local carrier? That depends at least partly on how heavily you plan to use your phone. A quick spot check of Sprint's international roaming voice and data rates indicates that those rates can run about 30 percent higher than AT&T and T-Mobile. For example, placing a call from Berlin, Germany, would cost you $1.29 a minute on Sprint and $0.99 on T-Mobile.

Beyond the international appeal of this PDA phone, the phone itself is what you'd expect from a BlackBerry 8800. The industrial design and software are the same as the BlackBerry 8800 we've already reviewed: It has a full qwerty keyboard that's easy to type on, a Pearl-like trackball for scroll navigation, and the same slim, contoured profile.

I found two big differences in our tests, though, between our original AT&T Wireless BlackBerry 8800's performance and that of this Sprint 8830. One was in call quality: I thought voice calls sounded great on Sprint's network; we described the AT&T iteration as "occasionally staticky," with an echo. Another difference was in battery life. The BlackBerry 8830's talk time lasted only 5 hours, 42 minutes in our tests; the GSM-only AT&T Wireless 8800 lasted to the 10-hour mark, our battery test ceiling.

Though the BlackBerry 8830 is an excellent phone and a great email device, it does lack both a camera and a consumer instant messaging client.

OUR VERDICT

The flexibility of GSM international roaming, paired with BlackBerry's easy-to-use messaging capabilities, gives the BlackBerry 8830 World Phone an unbeatable one-two punch for business users and frequent international travelers.

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