BlackBerry Curve (9360) Review| By Cam Lincoln
The BlackBerry Curve 9360 takes baby steps in the right direction, but it's severely outdated compared to the iPhone and Android, with a noticeable deficiency of apps.
I can't tell the Curve apart from its predecessors, especially the 9300 and 8520. They look the same, which isn't a bad thing -- it's compact. But the plastic material looks cheap. It looks like a toy compared to the glass iPhone, but I guess it's good that it's light. The glossy back is slippery and prone to smudges, though, so carry a handkerchief and prepare to wipe a lot. The 9360 is a hair slimmer than the older Curve at just 0.4-inches, and that also means the keyboard is equally petite -- and harder to type on. I found the buttons well-spaced, but they're just small and not particularly responsive. It's not the best BlackBerry QWERTY out there, but it's still better than most.
Meanwhile, the 2.5-inch display is impressive for BlackBerry -- especially the 480-by-360 resolution -- but awful by iPhone and Android standards. That pretty much says it all. The 246-ppi pixel density is a big improvement over the Curve 3G -- it's detailed and colors pop, even in direct sunlight -- but frankly, the screen is much too small to enjoy multimedia. If you try to watch a movie or browse the Web, you'll get crow's feet from all the squinting you'll do.
The size is a drawback, but not the biggest one -- the main problem I had was the lack of touch. The iPhone revolutionized the smartphone with touch, but nobody bothered to tell RIM. I kept poking at the display expecting something to move, but no, the trackpad is what you'll have to use. Tablets are surging in popularity, and you'd think RIM would know people expect touch screens -- but no, it doesn't have it and RIM is still stuck in the past. That's why the stock is in the gutter. No matter how vivid the display is, it still looks like it came from 2001. If I can't make things move with my finger, I'm not interested.
The 5-megapixel camera is flawed, but at least it's not woefully out of date. The lens comes with an extended depth of field, so you won't have to worry about focus, RIM claims -- and it does, from 20 feet or so. But at longer ranges, I found it just doesn't focus that well, and often at the wrong distance -- so photos come out blurry. You'll have to fiddle around with it, but it takes some time and attention to make sure your subjects are sharp. It's also a bit annoying. Still, you can choose from a few theme modes like portrait and sports, among others. But really, they're not too helpful. The manual settings are more useful. But the settings are few and far between. The software will automatically try to adjust the colors and boost saturation, which often times improves the photos, but sometimes they can give them an unnatural hue. You can't turn off the function.
Like the throwback body, the Curve runs on stale BlackBerry 7 software. The biggest problem is the lack of multitasking, so if you want to send a message while listening to music -- too bad. The browser loves to freeze, too. And to make matters worse, Adobe's Flash is missing so you can only read -- sorry I mean squint at -- text-based pages. The platform isn't completely a waste: BlackBerry still excels at messaging. I had an easy time navigating e-mail and BBM. Social Feed pulls in updates from Facebook, Twitter and other networks too, so you can get a quick glance at what's going on.
But despite the perks of the social hub, it's time to face the truth: never buy a BlackBerry if you love apps. The truth is, if you buy an iPhone or Android device, you'll have a ton of choices -- Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Need for Speed, you get all of them. The Curve comes with Bejewled, Pac-Man, Sims 3, BrickBreaker and World Series of Poker, as well as Word Mole -- the comparison isn't even close. Okay, maybe you're thinking, "I don't play games, I need it for work." But the number of productivity apps is just embarrassing. And to make matters worse, RIM clogged up the homescreen by adding a bunch of links to its own apps, like BlackBerry Maps. You'll need a BlackBerry Internet service account to gain access those. Don't want BIS? You can't use them then.
The Curve comes with NFC, so you can make mobile payments and exchange data with other devices. RIM is trying to keep up with innovation, but frankly, it put its resources in the wrong place. NFC won't catch on -- at least not in the next few years -- but touch screens are already here. Go figure. Just like the rest, the 800-megahertz chip doesn't scream "cutting-edge," but it is fast enough. That doesn't mean you won't see some lag, but the hiccups are due to the software and not the processor. Meanwhile, the 1,000mAh battery is the lone highlight, giving you around five hours of talk time and a day's worth of standby. BlackBerry gives you a 1-gigabyte microSD card, but if it's not enough, you can swap it for a more generous 32-gigabytes. If you plan to listen to music or store movies -- Why? I don't know -- buy a bigger card. To transfer files, BlackBerry Media Sync works easily with iTunes and Windows Media Player -- I didn't have any problems connecting to my computer.
Overall, the Curve is a little better than earlier models, but it's much worse than the iPhone and Android devices. If you don't plan on browsing the Web or using apps, I guess it's not a bad choice -- especially if you plan to just e-mail and text, but frankly, you'd be better to pick a better platform or higher-end models like the Torch and Bold, which have touch screens. Until RIM gets its act together, I'd avoid them completely. It's not going to get better before it gets worse. ♦
Categories: Business | Messaging
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