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BlackBerry Curve 9310 (Boost Mobile) review: BlackBerry Curve 9310 (Boost Mobile)

Sporting the familiar portrait keyboard and touch-pad key, the BlackBerry Curve 9310 offers the same old design, with a reliable calling experience.

Lynn_La2.jpg
Lynn La
Lynn_La2.jpg

Lynn La

Senior Editor / Reviews - Phones

Lynn La covers mobile reviews and news. She previously wrote for The Sacramento Bee, Macworld and The Global Post.

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6 min read

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Despite its tenuous future, Research In Motion is sticking to its guns and pumping out handsets.

BlackBerry Curve 9310 (Boost Mobile)
6.7

BlackBerry Curve 9310 (Boost Mobile)

The Good

The <b>BlackBerry Curve 9310</b> is contract-free, and has an excellent keyboard and great audio quality.

The Bad

The Curve 9310 sports the same aged look as previous Curve devices, its camera quality is mediocre, and it's missing a lot of key features of BlackBerry 7.1 OS.

The Bottom Line

The BlackBerry Curve 9310 is still the same ho-hum handset you can expect from RIM, but for a no-contract BlackBerry, it's reliable and makes texting a breeze.

This includes models from RIM's lower-end series, the BlackBerry Curve. Designed for users with smaller hands and fewer demands, the Curve 9310 sports the familiar portrait QWERTY keyboard, a 3.2-megapixel camera, and BlackBerry 7.1 OS.

The device is available on two carriers, Boost Mobile and Verizon. At just $50, the latter's model is cheaper off the shelf. Boost Mobile's costs $100, but for $45 a month, you can get unlimited texting, calling, and BlackBerry Messenger. And if you pay your phone bill on time, your plan will shrink down to $30 a month. Verizon's unlimited plan, on the other hand, costs a steady $80 a month.

Compact and straightforward, the 9310 doesn't stray too far from the canon. Because of that, you can expect a solid BlackBerry handset -- despite its manufacturer being anything but.

Design
The BlackBerry Curve 9310 doesn't have any design surprises hidden anywhere. It still sports the same black, plastic, and professional aesthetic as most RIM devices. It stands 4.29 inches tall, 2.36 inches wide, and half an inch thick. Weighing 3.67 ounces, it's a featherweight compared with other modern smartphones.

It's a cinch to maneuver with just one hand and I had no problem reaching across the keyboard with my thumb to press buttons. The handset fit easily into the front or back pockets of my jeans and walking around with it was comfortable. It wasn't bulky when carried on my person, and I could easily toss it in a small bag or clutch.

On the left is a subtle bump that is tucked underneath the rubber accent that runs along the Curve 9310's edges. This bump is a BBM shortcut key for instant messaging. Above that is a Micro-USB port. Up top are a 3.5mm headphone jack and the lock/unlock button for the keyboard. To the right are a volume rocker and a convenience key, meant to quickly open whatever application you choose (though the camera is set as the default). Both the volume and convenience buttons also look like bumps underneath the phone's surface.

The Curve 9310's subtle BBM shortcut key. Josh Miller/CNET

The back hosts the 3.2-megapixel camera lens, which is on the left side. Way on the right side resides the LED flash. Unlike many phones, which have a small indentation on the black plate for removing the backing, you need to push the plate downward to detach it from the rest of the 9310. When you get it off, you can see the 1,450mAh lithium ion battery and microSD card slot.

The device has a 2.44-inch LCD screen with a resolution of 320x240 pixels. The display shows 164ppi and is impressively bright. Colors came off vivid and rich, even though the images themselves didn't look so crisp. Default wallpaper and photos looked grainy and color gradients showed noticeable streaking. Text and menu icons also had aliasing along the edges.

Above the display are a speakerphone and LED flash indicator. Directly below are a send key for making and answering calls, a menu key, the signature touch-pad key, a back/escape key, and an end/power key. The touch-pad key was responsive and worked well. It sensitively picked up the slightest of my finger strokes and registered quickly with the screen.

Underneath these sets of buttons is the four-row portrait keyboard. Though the handset itself is small, the keyboard didn't feel cramped. True, the keys aren't as graciously sized as I've seen in other QWERTY phones, but they were all effortless to press with little to no resistance. Their protruding bubble shape made each key easy to locate, and I had enough space that I could press just one button at a time. The curve layout is as attractive as it is standard, and typing out messages was a breeze.

A deeper look at the BlackBerry Curve 9310 (pictures)

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Features
BlackBerry 7.1 OS comes with a few new features and updates. These include an FM radio, Wi-Fi calling, mobile hot-spot capabilities, autosuggest in the universal search function, and BlackBerry Tag for NFC-enabled devices. Unfortunately, I was only able to access the FM radio on the Curve 9310. Though it worked reliably and was simple and easy to use -- the only downside is that it only plays if you have a headset plugged in -- some features of the new operating system weren't available on the Curve 9310, either because the phone doesn't have the capability (mobile hot spot) or Boost Mobile doesn't support it (Wi-Fi calling).

You'll still get plenty of applications, like a Web browser, Slacker Radio, BBM 6.1, BlackBerry Maps, YouTube, BlackBerry Conference Calls, a data protection and backup assistant, the BlackBerry App World store, and a handful of social networking apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Social Feeds, which consolidates all your feeds into one location.

Other basic apps include a calendar, e-mail, an alarm clock, two games (BrickBreaker and World Mole), a memo pad, a task list, a calculator, Documents To Go, a voice dialer and note recorder, and a password keeper.

Camera and video
Photo options for the 3.2-megapixel camera include flash, a 4x digital zoom, geotagging, 11 scene modes (auto, face detection, portrait, sports, landscape, party, close-up, snow, beach, night, and even text for taking pictures of, well, text). It also has image stabilization, and you can save photos in three picture sizes. Video recording options include 1.8x digital zoom, continuous flash, five scene modes, and two video formats (normal and MMS mode).

The BlackBerry Curve 9310's rear-facing camera. Josh Miller/CNET

Photo quality was mediocre. Colors were overly saturated and objects were blurred. Edges were not well-defined, and dark hues were hard to distinguish from each other. Pictures taken against a white background showed a lot of digital noise and graininess.

In this cloudy outdoor shot, edges were ill-defined. Lynn La/CNET

In this well-lit indoor shot, dark hues are difficult to distinguish. Lynn La/CNET

In our standard studio shot, heavy digital noise appears in the white background. Josh Miller/CNET

Video fared a little better. There was a bit of a lag time between my moving of the camera and the recorded feedback, but objects for the most part were in focus and crisp (though there was slight aliasing on the edges). However, because there's no autofocus, lighting was all over the place. White light coming from windows would be washed out, and dark objects weren't well-defined.

Performance
I tested the dual-band (CDMA 800, 1900) BlackBerry Curve 9310 in San Francisco using Boost Mobile's network. Call quality was solid. There was no extraneous buzzing or noise, none of my calls were dropped, and audio didn't clip in and out. Voices were audible, but a bit muffled. Turning up the volume helped a lot, and on its maximum level, my friends' voices came in loud and clear. I was told that I too sounded a bit muted. Speakerphone was impressive, however. In addition to calls with my friends, I was surprised that audio from music and YouTube videos packed a big punch from such a small device.

BlackBerry Curve 9310 call quality sample Listen now:

Though the 9310 is able to connect to Boost's 3G network, it's heavily promoted under the carrier's shrinking $45-a-month BBM plan, which gives users access to the Web only through a Wi-Fi connection. An unlimited plan that includes data starts out at $60 a month. Boost's network isn't the fastest, but it does the job. The device took an average of 9 and 14 seconds to load CNET and ESPN's mobile sites, respectively. (Desktop versions of both sites weren't available.) It took 56 seconds to load The New York Times' desktop site, and 14 seconds for its mobile site, on average.

During our battery drain test, the phone lasted 9.48 hours. Anecdotally, it has a great battery life. Only about 30 percent of the battery's charge was drained after I spent the day browsing the Internet, talking on the phone, and watching videos. I didn't even have to charge it after that and there was plenty of life in it for the next day. According to FCC radiation tests, the phone has a digital SAR rating of 1.58W/kg.

Conclusion
Though it's certainly no game changer, the Curve 9310 is a reliable device that sticks to what BlackBerry devotees (however few and far between) have come to love. Its familiar portrait keyboard, complete with touch-pad navigation, is still easy to use and makes texting a walk in the park. Call quality was perfectly satisfactory and audio from the speaker was impressive. And if you're not too keen on high specs, the phone's 3.2-megapixel camera is enough to get by with.

BlackBerry Curve 9310 (Boost Mobile)
6.7

BlackBerry Curve 9310 (Boost Mobile)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 7