The BlackBerry Curve 9360 is a smart phone with a full Qwerty keyboard, 5-megapixel camera and the latest iteration of RIM's BlackBerry operating system.
Should I buy the BlackBerry Curve 9360?
BlackBerry's Curve range has always been about providing the full Qwerty experience on a modest budget, and that hasn't changed with the Curve 9360.
What is different is the fact that unlike its 8520 sibling -- which was hamstrung by a lack of 3G connectivity -- the Curve 9360 manages to pack in a surprising amount of RIM's best gear.
BlackBerry OS 7 is on board, as is near field communication (NFC) technology, which allows you to make contactless payments using your phone; for example, you will be able to pay for a coffee and a sandwich in one of the growing number of outlets where NFC terminals are being installed. You'll also find a nippy processor (by BlackBerry standards, at least), and a 5-megapixel camera. Also included are 3G, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
Less positive is the lack of a touchscreen or HD video recording. A merely average battery life and slow web performance are further drawbacks. It's also impossible to ignore the fact that the number of apps and games available on the BlackBerry App World is pathetically small compared to rival app stores.
Although it has had itslately, RIM still manages to attract thousands of customers each year, thanks to its Qwerty keyboards and robust messaging service. If you're a lover of physical buttons but can't afford the pricier BlackBerry handsets, then the Curve is a solid choice.
BlackBerry OS 7
The Curve 9360 features the latest and greatest edition of RIM's BlackBerry OS. Already seen on the likes of the Torch 9810 and , OS 7 is one of the most visually appealing iterations of the software yet.
Gone are the stark icons seen in OS 5, replaced as they have been by colourful images that call to mind the menu design of Apple's.
Navigating around the phone is pretty easy, but there are times when you really wish you had a touchscreen. It feels odd not to be able to use OS 7 to its full potential on the Curve 9360 because it was engineered with a dual-interface that supports touchscreens in mind.
(BBM) comes as part of OS 7. It's sure to make the Curve 9360 incredibly popular with teenage mobile users. Each instant message you send to your friends incurs no additional charge to your BlackBerry monthly subscription cost. No wonder Apple has decided to pay homage with its own functionality.
The most exciting thing about this particular version of BBM is that it now allows you to send messages from within apps and games.
Let's get one thing absolutely clear here -- the BlackBerry Curve 9360 is one seriously good-looking handset.
While the Curve line may be aimed at the cheaper end of the market, the Curve 9360 feels surprisingly luxurious. It's still fashioned from plastic, but the build quality is impressive. There's no creaking parts or unsightly joins. This is even more striking when you consider that the device weighs less than 100g.
The Curve 9360 is also quite a svelte customer, with a thickness of 11mm. While that's not quite as thin as the hardly-there Motorola Razr, it's a massive improvement over previous Curve designs, which tended to be somewhat chunky.
Although the casing of the Curve 9360 is a surprise, there's still plenty here that will be instantly familiar to BlackBerry boffins. The traditional row of action buttons -- including the twin call commands, Menu and the all-important Back button -- remain largely unchanged. They surround the optical track-pad, which is another RIM hallmark.
The top of the device features the 3.5mm headphone socket and lock button. The latter is the same as the one seen on the . While it initially appears to be touch-sensitive, it's actually a physical button residing under a plastic cover that flexes slightly when pressed.
The right-hand side of the Curve 9360 has the volume controls and the handy Convenience Key, the latter of which can be customised as a shortcut to various apps or functions. Due to the thinness of the phone, these buttons have been squashed down to the extent that they're little more than small ridges. Pressing them in a hurry is often a hit-and-miss affair.
The left-hand side of the phone is bare apart from the micro-USB port, which handles charging and data transfer.
Flipping the phone over reveals a glossy plastic back panel and that instantly-recognisable BlackBerry logo. There's a small, almost invisible groove on the side of the phone that allows you to slide your nail in and prise off the battery cover; it took us a few minutes of confused fiddling to even realise it was there.
When you've got a whacking great Qwerty keyboard on the front of a phone, it stands to reason that the screen size is going to suffer -- there's just no way you can have a massive display and all those lovely buttons. Unless, that is, you want a phone that's so long you'll never be able to fit it in your pocket.
Naturally, this rule applies to the Curve 9360, which has a rather small 2.44-inch screen. Some Android devices in the same price bracket sport spacious 4.3-inch screens. That makes the Curve 9360's display credentials seem dismal.
On the plus side, with a resolution of 480x360 pixels, the Curve 9360 boasts a pixel density of 246ppi, which ensures a pin-sharp image quality. The TFT LCD panel also provides a bold and colourful image. It makes viewing photos and browsing the web much more pleasing.
Unlike its sibling, the, the Curve 9360 doesn't feature a touchscreen. This is very much in keeping with the low-cost ethics of the Curve range. But when you consider that BlackBerry OS 7 has been built to accommodate both physical and touchscreen inputs, it's a let-down.
Touchscreens are appearing even on the cheapest of Android devices, so it wouldn't have broken the bank for RIM to factor one into the Curve 9360's design.
The keyboard is arguably the star of any BlackBerry device (apart from the Torch 9860, for obvious reasons), and that certainly applies here. Text input on the Curve 9360 is blissfully intuitive. The keys themselves have a decent amount of space between them, which avoids accidental multi-button presses.
RIM has gone to great lengths to keep the thickness of the Curve 9360 down and that goes for the keyboard too. The buttons sit lower in the casing than on previous BlackBerry devices. Thankfully this doesn't result in a drop in responsiveness or overall comfort.
If you've gotten caught up in the mobile CPU race of late, you may be disappointed to learn that the Curve 9360 isn't sporting a flashy dual-core processor.
Instead, there's an 800MHz single-core chip beating at the heart of the phone. This puts it on an equal footing with theand -- two Android devices that aren't exactly on the cutting edge.
The humble nature of the CPU doesn't matter. The Curve 9360 positively purrs along, with smooth scrolling, fast loading and generally pleasing performance. That's something that many dual-core Android devices can't muster, despite their raw power.
Of course, it could be argued that BlackBerry OS 7 is taxing the hardware much less than the incredibly versatile, but that's beside the point. RIM has selected what appears to be the ideal processor for the task at hand. We couldn't fault the phone's performance during our review period other than when it came to website rendering (see below).
Internal storage and expandability
There's 512MB of storage on the Curve 9360, which will hold a few photos and apps, but means the phone can't be relied upon as a music player or digital camera replacement.
Thankfully you can be a little more adventurous by making use of the Curve 9360's microSD card slot, which is located under the battery cover. The unit we reviewed didn't come with a microSD card, but you may find that some networks will supply one for free. The phone accepts media up to 32GB in capacity.