RIM BlackBerry Curve 9380 with BBM music
Going for a song?
Review Perhaps sensing that it’s on the verge of losing the smartphone battle, BlackBerry manufacturer RIM has all but swamped the market recently with a rash of handsets, each offering something a little bit different. The Curve 9380 is the midrange full-screen model, smaller and cheaper than the Torch 9860, and with no hard Qwerty keyboard.
Musical box: RIM's BlackBerry Curve 9380
It’s very compact and sleek, its aluminium and glossy black plastic casing measuring 11mm deep with gently curving sides and weighing just 98g. The 3.2in touch screen is big enough to view movies on, just about, but it’s let down by its unexceptional resolution of 480 x 360 pixels. By contrast, the 9860’s 3.7in screen is a good deal sharper, packing in 800 x 480 of the little devils.
Beneath the screen are the standard four BlackBerry hard buttons surrounding an optical trackpad but they feel a bit odd after encountering the sensitivity of the screen – which is excellent, actually – and it’s easy to forget that you need to press quite hard to activate them. The BlackBerry hard Qwerty keyboards are very hard to beat, but the same can’t necessarily be said for the on-screen touch versions, especially on smaller screens like this one.
Moving between touch to button controls can feel a bit odd
The keys are small and difficult to distinguish beneath the thumbs, and when holding the phone in portrait mode, it presents the numbers in numeric keypad format – handy if you’re trying to dial a number with one hand, but a bit confusing otherwise. And it retains this layout in the landscape version, which you’d expect to use with two thumbs anyway, in which case a line of numbers across the keyboard works better.
NFC on-board so you can add to your phone bill when this payment method takes off
The latest BlackBerry 7 OS now has NFC (Near Field Communication) which should future proof it for mobile-based payments when they become available, and there’s also the latest version of BlackBerry Messenger, which allows you to chat with your mates from within some apps and games. BlackBerry Protect is also on board and allows you to back up your data and to locate your phone if you’ve lost it, in the manner of HTC’s Sense.com.
It’s running a decidedly so-so 806MHz processor backed by 512MB of RAM and is noticeably slower than its larger cousin – not disastrously slow, but speed bunnies may find themselves getting a bit frustrated by the extra second or so it takes to open an app. RIM has now put a song in the heart of its popular BlackBerry Messenger Service with BBM Music, a free app which allows you to create and share playlists with your mates, Spotify-style.
5Mp stills but no HD video, just VGA
There are limits though. From the millions of tunes available, you get to choose just 50 tracks of your own to carry around on your phone, but you can then add 50 more from each of your friends to build up a sizeable library. The more friends you have, the more tunes you can carry, and you can swap 25 tracks from your own playlist each month.
After a 60-day free trial it costs £4.99 a month but while it’s an interesting idea to boost usage, it’s frustrating in practise, simply because you can’t choose exactly which tunes you want.
The browser performance is acceptable, if a little slower than you’ll find on more expensive handsets, and the screen’s pinch-to-zoom was generally smooth. Text flows well on most pages but there’s no support for Flash video.
The fairly low-res 3.2in screen is adequate for occasional video viewing
The 5Mp camera features include an LED flash, face detection, geotagging and macro mode. As is the norm on BlackBerry handsets these days, picture quality is pretty good even on the automatic settings, delivering clear, sharp images with a decent level of detail. Quality drops to 640 x 480 pixels for video but it’s good enough to get away with for YouTube clips.
Call quality is fine, though the speaker is perhaps just a wee bit on the tinny side – it is a lower end phone after all – but not bad enough to be a deal breaker. There’s only 512MB of RAM on board and you have up to 32GB of storage with a microSD card. Battery life held up reasonably well but not spectacularly so, delivering a comfortable day’s worth of fairly heavy use.
The BlackBerry Curve 9380 betrays its lower end leanings with a fairly low resolution screen and underpowered processor, but it’s got a decent camera and messaging capabilities. The lack of content on BlackBerry App World will be a frustration for some however. While it will make a welcome upgrade for existing BB fans, the Curve 9380 hasn't really enough on offer to distinguish it from similarly priced Androids. ®
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