Research In Motion had a clear plan in action when the BlackBerry 7 OS was announced. The company wanted to introduce a couple of budget level devices to let younger generations enjoy the taste of BlackBerry 7 OS without shelling out much. Hence, the company had introduced the BlackBerry Curve 9220 and Curve 9320.
Curve 9220 and 9320 are so similar that at times it is difficult to spot the difference, except for their model numbers. The Curve 9220 supports only 2G networks while the 9320 supports faster 3G networks as well. Second difference that can easily be spotted is that the Curve 9320 has a glossy back with a silver bezel; while the Curve 9220 has a black bezel.
RIM BlackBerry Curve 9320 packs the promise of performance and faster mobile web connectivity. We luckily got to enjoy the Curve 9320, and here is our account.
RIM had introduced the Curve series for working professionals and also the youth to enjoy the latest from the company in terms of software and services. The Curve series devices are designed to appear slightly less premium, but a bit more rugged than high-end smartphones.
The BlackBerry Curve has a glossy back panel with a large metallic BlackBerry logo. The back panel cover is made of plastic and can easily be removed by simply pressing and sliding downwards. The front of the Curve 9320 is a mix of design influences taken from Curve 8520 and Bold 9790. Styling as well as the keyboard layout have been taken from the Curve 8520. The call, end and back buttons have been taken from the BlackBerry Bold 9790.
The display has a big glass panel that covers the earpiece and stretches till the keyboard – one single slab of glass and it looks brilliant. Along with the brushed silver bezel, RIM has added another rubberized strip that basically rests between the metallic silver bezel and back cover. The rubberized bezel at the back has Curve embossed and on the either side of that text is an LED flash and camera. The speaker mesh is located at the bottom of the phone on the rubber bezel and next to it is the microphone.
RIM has offered a dedicated BlackBerry Messenger button on the left side of the phone, which launches the BBM app when pressed. The key is concealed by the rubber bezel and above it is the micro USB slot. On the right side are the volume setting keys and the Shortcut key. All keys on the phone are concealed by the rubber bezel, and hence are not easily visible in low light. The only odd thing we found was the sleep/wake up/lock key on the top. Now many would mistake it for a power key-actually the power key and the hang up key are the same.
BlackBerry Curve 9320 has the same dimensions as the Curve 9220. However, the Curve 9320 weighs 103 grams and the Curve 9220 weighs 102 grams. Over all, the BlackBerry Curve 9320 has the best build quality with a mix of plastic, rubber rim and metallic bezel. It may not look premium but appears rugged enough to bear regular wear-tear. The only worrisome aspect is the full gloss battery cover, which makes the phone a bit difficult to hold.
Display and hardware
RIM has used the same 2.44 inch touchscreen display with low 240 x 320 pixel resolution. This display offers 164 pixel per inch density. The display LCD is decent enough to produce the colours in the user interface and just bright enough to be used in daylight. There is an optical trackpad in the center just below the display.
The keyboard has plastic keys and the layout is similar to that of BlackBerry Curve 8520. The keyboard has a great tactile feel, but when the keyboard is being used, it makes a clickety click sound after each key press. That means the phone cannot be used in a quiet place or in a classroom where smartphones are not allowed. The optical trackpad is sensitive and has been upgraded enough to be adjusted for sensitivity from inside the device. The layout is comfortable to support speed typing using the keyboard.
Inside the chassis rests a single core 806 MHz mobile processor along with 512 MB RAM that powers the BlackBerry 7.1 OS natively. RIM has also released the new BlackBerry 7.1 OS update for Curve 9320, adding a couple of new features and several under the hood tweaks as well as bug fixes. The phone offers 512 MB ROM and comes with a memory card slot that can hold up to 32 GB micro SD memory. The company packs a 2 GB micro SD card with the phone.
At the back lies a 3.15 megapixel camera with LED flash placed about inch away to the left of the camera. The micro SD card slot is hot-swappable, which means you don’t have to switch off the device to remove or change the memory card. Basically, the phone is equipped enough for a mid-range device, and a little extra RAM and on-board storage with a better camera would have been great.
Multimedia and connectivity
RIM’s devices have always earned accolades when it comes to supporting a variety of multimedia files. BlackBerry Curve plays many types of audio files, including lossless formats such as ogg, wav and flac. So audio playback is a pleasure for those who aim for higher quality feedback, but you will have to use significantly higher quality earphones to get the best out of the phone. The music playback and sound feedback were pleasantly enjoyable. Even the wide variety of video format support made the device instantly likable, but with that small a screen one simply doesn’t watch HD movies. While music and video apps are separate, the BlackBerry 7.1 OS also offers an independent podcasts app for you to add your subscriptions and download your favourite episodes. One of the most requested and keenly expected functions is the FM radio – yes, Curve 9320 offers you that. You can enjoy your favourite radio stations on the go with the bundled headset. Curve 9320 has a GPS module with A-GPS support for better location locking and aiding to post location on supporting applications. DocumentstoGo make it really easy to open and read the usual Microsoft Office suite documents.
BlackBerry Curve 9320 offers 3G network support that enables faster mobile web browsing and social networking. While connectivity is seldom an issue, using the 3G network mode on the phone consumes battery faster than anything else. The only pitfall of using this device is that you need to have BlackBerry Internet Services to use several built-in as well as third party apps. Audio quality during a typical voice call is fine and clear.
The new BlackBerry 7.1 OS update brings the mobile hotspot option and thus data connection can be shared with other devices. In terms of connectivity, RIM has packed WiFi (802.11 a/b/g/n) for faster mobile web browsing, but only if the native web browser is fast enough. At times rich media websites take a while to load entirely. The age-old complaint still remains – painfully slow reboot time and low resolution make the app icons appear a bit distorted at the edges.
While the camera offers several scene modes, the most basic function – auto focus, is missing. However, RIM has added Image Stabilization so you can get non-blurry images. Subjects need to have really bright and natural lighting to get fairly decent images. In low light or greyer environments, the captured images appear dull and slightly washed. Ideally, the camera is meant to quickly click and share functionality only. The email experience is absolutely lag free, as long as the network is supported.
With BlackBerry devices, the battery has always been a pain. Thankfully, RIM deserves a pat for adding a 1450 mAh power battery to the Curve 9320. During our regular use, we managed to run the phone over a day, of course without much BBM pings, texts and phone calls. However, on heavy usage involving a couple of calls, listening to music and using the mobile data for about an hour (in total), the phone battery lasts just about a day.
That is really nice compared to Google Android based devices touting faster HSDPA speeds and hardware, but barely managing to get through one day. Packing several connectivity options, the BlackBerry Curve 9320 just manages to last till the end of the day. Thanks to RIM’s fast charging technology, it gets charged relatively fast compared to other devices.
Hardcore BlackBerry fans on a strict budget and several contacts on the BlackBerry Messenger should totally choose the Curve 9320. The smartphone not only rewards with a decent Qwerty keyboard, but also offers 3G connectivity. Ideal for youngsters looking to stay connected with friends. However, it is slightly slow compared to other devices, and because it freezes when themes are applied, or too many apps are loaded, and it lacks a decent camera, anyone would think twice. It is not powerful enough to support leisure entirely, but if you are dying for a physical Qwerty keyboard smartphone, Curve 9320 is the ideal choice.
The BlackBerry Curve 9320 can be purchased in India for about Rs 14,590 and it may be cheaper at online retail portals. The sad part is that at the same price point, Android devices have much fancier and more flamboyant hardware. But if you are waiting for budget friendly BlackBerry 10 devices, then BlackBerry Curve 9320 would be an ideal stop-gap investment.