At its recent BlackBerry World conference RIM indicated that it was moving away from the traditional BlackBerry form factor and looking to build handsets featuring large touchscreens. CEO Thorsten Heins did say that the Canadian manufacturer was not going to abandon the physical keypad entirely but that the initial slew of BB10 Os devices will be full-touchscreen handsets.
Many BlackBerry fans may have been dismayed to hear that the company is pulling away from their much loved QWERTY keypads but RIM still has something to offer them in the shape of the Curve 9320.
- BlackBerry OS 7.1
- 512 MB ROM, 512 MB RAM
- microSD, up to 32 GB
- 320 x 240 pixels, 2.44 inches display, 164 ppi
- Touch-sensitive optical trackpad
- Physical QWERTY keypad
- 3.2 megapixel camera with LED flash, geo-tagging and image stabilization
- Stereo FM radio
- Li-Ion 1450 mAh battery
Design and Build
With a small screen and physical keypad the Curve 9320 looks every inch a typical BlackBerry, and it’s certainly a design which is well suited to the user. Typing on the keypad is easy thanks to an excellent bit of design which sees the curved buttons slightly flattened on top, something that ensures that your fingers don’t slide off them when using the keypad. BlackBerry has always been know for its focus on emailing prowess and the Curve 9320’s keypad shows that RIM has years of expertise in creating tactile user experience.
In the absence of a touchscreen, navigating the phone’s functions is achieved by means of an optical trackpad. The touch sensitive control has featured on several recent BlackBerry handsets such as the Bold 9790 and 9900 and has become a welcome addition to the typical BlackBerry form, one which has often been much more practical than using a touchscreen on a small display. A dedicated BlackBerry Messenger button has been added to the side of the device which makes the most of a feature very popular amongst BlackBerry customers.
Completing the design of the handset is a smooth backplate surrounded by a rubber edging which makes the otherwise slippery device a little easier to grip. At 12.7mm this is no super-slim handset but the chunky build gives it a sturdy feel.
The traditional BlackBerry form factor is not built around a large, dazzling display, instead focussing on the practical elements such as typing. In keeping with this the Curve 9320 has a 2.44-inch, 320×240 pixel display which is less than half the size of those featured on the bigger smartphones on the market such as the HTC One X. With a pixel density of 164 the screen is never going to be anything amazing and some of the icons do look a little blocky, but overall the display is bright and clear even if browsing webpages can be uncomfortable on such a small screen. Also worth noting is the onscreen cursor which is controlled by the optical trackpad – dragging a tiny arrow across a screen may seem very old fashioned but we found it to be a surprisingly refreshing change from prodding at a large touchscreen.
Under the Hood
800MHz certainly isn’t high-spec when it comes to processor speeds but the BB7 operating system on Curve 9320 isn’t all that demanding and allows the device to run smoothly. Performance is actually better than other phones featuring 800MHz CPUs such as the Samsung Galaxy Ace, and the BlackBerry Curve 9320 could even be said to outpace the 1GHz HTC One V in the way it handles its operating system. RIM can’t be faulted for getting a decent performance out of the Curve 9320 and the fact that a slower processor is included no doubt keeps the device’s price down. Along with the aforementioned handling of the software platform, you also get a microSD card slot that can support up to 32GB, which is useful since the device only has 512MB of internal memory.
Operating System and User Interface
When RIM showed off its brand new operating system at BlackBerry World it also announced that it would not be compatible with older devices, including the Curve 9320. The new OS is built from the ground up and existing BlackBerry devices won’t be getting an upgrade since they don’t have the hardware that the new software requires to run. Nevertheless, BB7 is a good operating system and doesn’t warrant any disappointment in terms of functionality offered, even though there won’t be any of the flashy new features demonstrated at BlackBerry World.
At the time BB7 was introduced it was a good upgrade to the BlackBerry operating system and it continues to offer a decent set of features to the user. Additions to previous BlackBerry OS iterations included an FM Radio and an auto suggest feature which brought up search results from Bing as you enter queries, similar to the way Google’s ‘Instant Search’ function works.
As well as BB7 this device has several features that suggest it is aimed at the youth market. RIM has certainly managed to shift focus away from the business users it traditionally courted, largely due to the adoption of the devices by teenagers who loved the free BlackBerry Messenger service. That service has been highlighted here with the aforementioned dedicated button on the side of the handset and the Curve 9320 comes with Facebook and Twitter apps pre-installed. Additionally, BlackBerry’s Social feed app features, proving an effective way to monitor social networking updates by collating them together in one place.
Camera and Video
Younger users hoping to employ the Curve 9320 primarily as a social networking tool will be more than happy with the 3.2 megapixel camera included as it’s more than capable for taking quick snaps of your friends. High quality images may prove difficult given its limited spec, but the camera does have several presets (such as ‘Party’, ‘Snow’ and ‘Beach’) which will alter settings to produce the best images for the conditions.
However, the camera does have some downsides. With the amount of internal storage being so meagre, only around fifty pictures can be stored before having to transfer them off the phone. Also, the video camera (which is included as an entirely separate feature to the photo camera) needs a microSD card to be installed before footage can be captured.
Performance and Verdict
To the most ardent tech lover, buying a BlackBerry at the moment may seem unwise since RIM have made it known that it is building a whole new OS which won’t be available for older devices. However, there are many who have always loved the BlackBerry for what it is – an excellent platform for emailing, texting and composing social network messages.
To this end, the Curve 9320 does the job very, very well. RIM has years of experience creating devices of this kind, gradually evolving the design in small ways, such as adding the optical trackpad. The expertise that has gone into the physical keypad on this device is second to none and shows that, despite its new approach to handset design, RIM still knows how to make a functional and ergonomic phone.