BlackBerry Curve 9320
The BlackBerry Curve 9320 is the latest addition to RIM's budget smartphone range. Offering a significant upgrade to the likes of the Curve 8520 and Curve 9300, the new phone has a 3.15MP camera with LED flash, large capacity battery, front facing camera for video calling, 3G connectivity and crucially runs the latest BlackBerry OS 7.1. Set to cost well under £150 on PAYG, there's sure to be enough here to tempt current budget BlackBerry users to upgrade, but is there enough here to convert anyone to the BlackBerry way? We've had a brief hands on with the phone and these are our thoughts so far.
Design and Hardware
It will probably come as no surprise that this new budget BlackBerry doesn't reset the design rule book. It's a large black plastic device with a matt-silver trim round the bezel, and a front split evenly between screen and keyboard. Despite a lack of flare, though, this is still a nice enough looking handset that almost belies its budget price. The glossy plastic back and screen will pick up scratches fairly easily, though, so a case will be a good bet.
Slenderness isn't one of this phone's traits. With dimensions of 109 x 60 x 12.7 mm, it's a surprisingly chunky phone considering its relatively lowly specs. However this is actually slightly slimmer than the likes of the 9300, which stands at 109 x 60 x 13.9 mm, and at only 103g the 9320 is pretty light too.
There have been some other key hardware improvements as well. Perhaps most important for lovers of listening (to their tunes) is the repositioning of the headphone jack. Finally RIM has seen sense and put it on the top edge, rather than the side, making it much easier to pocket the phone with headphones attached.
You also get a new extra button on the left edge dedicated to opening the BBM app. This joins the user-assignable 'convenience' button on the right edge (which defaults to activating the camera) alongside the volume controls. Also improved are the navigation buttons under the screen, which are now proper individual units rather than ones formed out of a single piece of plastic, making them much easier to feel you way around without having to look.
One of the reasons this phone is a little chunky is that it sports a fairly hefty 1450mAh battery – as big as many large-screened high-end smartphones from last year, and much bigger than the 1150mAh unit on the 9300/8520. Alongside this you'll find a microSD slot that can take up to 32GB cards, which is plenty enough storage for all your apps, music and videos.
Perhaps the most obvious area where this phone both feels budget and like a very typical BlackBerry is the screen which is not touch-sensitive and only 2.44in across (0.02in smaller than the 8520 in fact), and with a resolution of just 320 x 240 pixels (QVGA). The overall effect is that while BlackBerry OS 7.1 does pack in a comprehensive set of smartphone tools like a web browser, this phone feels much more at home with basic phone tasks such as messaging and calling than it does at video, gaming or web browsing.
The quality of the screen is decent though, with nice punchy colours and adequate viewing angles – it's just not very detailed
Much more than decent is the keyboard. There's nothing fancy here but the key size, spacing and layout makes for speedy typing. It's a bit more cramped than the likes of the 9900, which is a much wider handset, but you certainly get by.
The BlackBerry 9320 is actually the company's first handset to ship with BlackBerry OS 7.1 but given the modest screen, processor and lack of touchscreen, it doesn't feel all that groundbreaking. Nonetheless, it's a major upgrade over older BlackBerrys, with much better web browsing, good social network integration and generally quick and easy access to all the key features, including that all important iPhone beating feature – an FM radio!
The BlackBerry Curve 9320 certainly isn't going to convert an iPhone or Android users to switch, with its small non touch-sensitive screen. But if you're a budget BlackBerry user looking for a modest upgrade there's enough here to make it worthwhile. You've a better rear camera than on the 9300 or 8520, a front facing camera, better positioned headphone jack, an FM radio, more RAM, a BBM button and what should prove to be great battery life. We'll be back soon with a full verdict but for now we think that for £130 PAYG or as little as £15pm on contract, this could make a good buy.
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