Another big improvement on this handset compared to previous budget BlackBerrys is the processor. Clocking in at 802MHz, it’s more than 200MHz faster than the 9300, and it’s backed up by double the RAM (512MB). The result is a phone that feels reasonably nippy. You’re very seldom kept waiting while moving round the interface and opening basics apps like Facebook and Email. It’s only more demanding apps, graphically rich websites and games that’ll regularly leave you having to wait for things to load.
All this said, this device can’t work miracles and comparing to faster BlackBerrys such as those from the Bold series does expose a shortfall in speed, even if you may not notice an issue using the phone in isolation.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of this phone is that it’s the first to ship with the company’s latest BlackBerry OS7.1. This brings a new hotspot feature for sharing your phone’s 3G connection over WiFi along with battery life and performance improvements over OS7.0, which itself had already introduced a host of extra features and tweaks over the OS6.0 and OS5.0 of previous budget Curves.
It’s all familiar and easy to get your head around, though there’s still an over reliance on menus – it can sometimes feel like you’ll never get back out from the depths of some multilayer menus. Compared to the likes of Android and iOS this feels positively archaic, though somehow it still feels natural on a BlackBerry.
Of course the biggest overarching interface issue is the lack of a touchscreen. The optical trackpoint in the centre of the row of navigation buttons works very well but there’s no denying that a touch interface is more intuitive and often quicker. But that’s the price you pay for having a good quality keyboard – you don’t get both at this price.
As ever with BlackBerrys, the key to this phone’s appeal is its messaging abilities. The integrated inbox pulls in messages and alerts from the likes of your email, Facebook and Twitter, so you only need visit one place to catchup on everything. There’s also the classic flashing red led that lets you know when a message has arrived, and of course the instant messaging service, BBM is on hand. Indeed, for many this will likely be the main appeal of this handset, especially given it now integrates nicely with Facebook and Twitter.
When it comes to other core phone tasks such as contacts management, calendars and such like, the low resolution screen, lack of touchscreen and general interface design means it doesn’t exactly excel at these things but you get by.
When it comes to those smartphone extras, BlackBerry has made a good attempt to make this phone capable straight out the box with a host of preinstalled apps including Facebook, twitter, London Underground map, eBay, Natwest banking and Foursquare, but there are a few holes. For instance, you don’t get GoogleMaps, with BlackBerry Maps instead on offer. It’s okay but simply not as good.
Dive into the app store and there’s a growing but still small selection of apps. At least given the screen’s dimensions and resolution the lack of games feels less of an issue.
One surprise on the multimedia front is the camera. Despite being only 3.15MP and having fixed focus, it actually produces some quite nice snaps. Its low light performance in particular is excellent compared to most budget models.
The final little flourish from the handset is that it sports a larger battery than its predecessors – some 1450mAh compared to 1150mAh. The result is a phone that lasts and lasts. At least two days solid use should easily be obtainable.
There’s no two ways about it, the BlackBerry Curve 9320 isn’t a phone that will excite many of you. Its screen is small and low resolution and the selection of apps on offer is fairly poor. But, if you’re in the market for an upgrade to your old budget BlackBerry or you just want a capable messaging-oriented smartphone with a great keyboard then this phone is well worth a look.
Score in detail
Screen Quality 5