Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
12/12/2011 4:02:23 PM
BlackBerry favourite updated with HVGA touch-screen, excellent colour saturation of the 188 ppi display, familiar navigation, BlackBerry 7 OS
Limited processing power at 806MHz, lack of interesting apps in the BlackBerry App World store, occasionally over-sensitive touch-screen, lack of social networking integration with contacts
As BlackBerry maker RIM inches away from its reputation as one for the suits to one for the social networking youth, it's experimenting more with touch-screen tech - and finally nailing it too. The Curve 9380 is the first all-touch phone in RIM's lower cost range and it runs on its powerful BlackBerry 7 OS, making this the affordable alternative to the flagship Torch 9860. But do the features on this new(ish) operating system transfer effectively to a lower spec model?
Since the new touch-screen update of the Curve 9380 operates on the BlackBerry 7 OS, in terms of layout and navigation it presents nothing new to BlackBerry users. There's a nice drop-down notifications menu reminiscent of the Android HTC Sense overlay and soft key-wise the trackpad is still there, it's simply less necessary than usual. Additionally, there are four other traditional BlackBerry keys that have been shunted to the bottom of the frame: two dial keys, plus the menu and return buttons.
The main difference for lovers of the Curve 9360 will be the docking of the staple QWERTY keyboard in favour of the HGVA capacitive 3.2-inch touch-screen. The touch-screen keyboard is responsive though, with good spacing between keys ensuring that it's easy to get up to speed with typing, even one-handed. Thankfully, the keyboard is a full QWERTY rather than the alphanumerical kind. Time will tell, however, whether BlackBerry lovers will take to the physical keyboard-less phones or not. At a featherweight 98g, the Curve 9380 feels somewhat cheap and breakable with its shiny plastic chassis, but at least it won't weigh you down. It does sit nicely in the palm with its familiar curved back, meaning no loss of comfort during those long bouts of messaging.
Inside the exterior cover does the Curve 9380 hold any hardware surprises? Well there's a fairly decent five-megapixel camera, which is easy to use and effortlessly reached via the physical shortcut key sitting underneath the volume rocker on the side of the phone. Power-wise, the Curve 9380 is only endowed with an 806MHz processor, which, while incapable of powering intense gaming sessions, is enough to ensure internet browsing is relatively quick and there's little jarring while navigating the phone. For a mid-range BlackBerry it would make a good introduction to touch-screen phones for people who want a familiar interface and basic networking, media players and gaming capability.
Even with a Wi-Fi connection, browsing the web was not speedy by any means. The Curve 9380 was occasionally slow to catch up when pinching to zoom and scrolling via the touch-screen rather than using the trackpad is unbearable due to the over-sensitive touch-screen. However, the browser supports text reflow and the 3.2-inch display is bright and nicely saturated, which in turn makes watching video on the Curve 9380 a surprisingly pleasant experience. This is tempered slightly by the 60mm width of the screen squashing the playback somewhat, but with such a light, small handset you can't have everything. The Curve 9380 also carries a good media player with iFlow-esque detailing when running through your playlists, and while the internal memory is a pitiful 512MB, with a microSD card you're good to go for up to 32GB of data. What is a disappointment in the entertainment category is the lack of decent apps, which certainly docks the Curve 9380 some desirability points in this smartphone age.
From the familiar BlackBerry 7 OS to the curved chassis and the impressively slick navigation, the BlackBerry Curve 9380 is a sure bet upgrade for Curve 3G lovers who want a little touch-screen action in their lives. It's fairly slim and light, and while that loses the Curve 9380 points in the ‘durable' column, it also means carrying it around won't be a chore. That said, there's little to test the Curve 9380 in the way of games or entertainment apps, meaning the focus continues to be on the connectivity of business people, or indeed those who prize staying in contact rather than having a media powerhouse at their fingertips. It's a bright, mid-range touch-screen phone with respectable specs that may put regular Blackberry users off with its lack of a physical QWERTY keyboard.