The Curve 3G 9300 is basically an updated version of the Curve 8520 - RIM’s previous entry-level model. But rather than merely rehashing that phone, RIM has added in some tempting extras, not least of which is support for 3G, something that the 8520 was sorely missing. Nevertheless, the phone is primarily aimed at first time BlackBerry users, or at least those who don’t want to be overwhelmed with features, so it lacks many of the bells and whistles found on the company’s higher end models. The questions is, then, does the Curve 3G still have enough thrills to tempt those buyers?
As you would perhaps expect, the phone sticks closely to the BlackBerry design blueprint. It has the standard layout with a landscape screen at the top and a full QWERTY keyboard nestled below. The Curve 3G is quite small measuring 109 x 60 x 14mm so it fits comfortably in your hand and the rubberised coating used on the side-mounted buttons and battery cover help with gripping the phone.
As with most of the latest BlackBerry models this one sports a line of three media playback buttons across the top. These are used to skip forwards or backwards through your tunes and to play and pause music. They’re quite a handy addition to have, but their presence on the top of the phone does mean that RIM has had to shift the standard 3.5mm headphone jack to the left-hand edge of the handset, which isn’t ideal as with headphones inserted it tends to snag as you take it in and out of your pocket.
Beneath this jack, you’ll find the micro-USB port which is used both for synching the phone with a PC or laptop and charging it. Other controls include a voice-dialling button on the left-hand side as well as volume controls and a dedicated camera button on the right.
The phone’s 2-megapixel camera is very basic, however. Unlike the snapper found on the higher end Bold 9700, this one doesn’t have a flash and also lacks autofocus. Outdoor shots don’t look too bad, although they lack a bit of sharpness and detail, but snaps taken indoors look very dark and noisy.
In common with most of BlackBerry’s range, the Curve 3G doesn’t have a touchscreen. Instead, you navigate around its menus using the optical joystick that sits in the centre of the phone between the display and keyboard. The joystick tracks movements of your finger pretty well, but it’s still much slower and less intuitive to use than a touchscreen.