Canadian manufacturer RIM has been churning out a feast of BlackBerry handsets recently, all aimed at different customer types.
This Curve 9360 is the one that fits closest to the classic BlackBerry style, with a hard QWERTY keyboard nestling beneath a standard, though non-touch screen.
Design and build
As BlackBerrys have evolved, they’ve gradually become sleeker and more fashion conscious than the business-focused workhorses of old.
The Curve 9360 is beautifully slim and lightweight at 109x60x11mm and 99g and with its glossy black plastic and chrome-look trim it’s very much a classic BlackBerry, but probably the sleekest looking version yet. Around the sides are the usual suspects of volume rocker and programmable convenience key which defaults to camera (though you can set it as a shortcut to just about anything) and a microUSB power/sync port. On top are a touch sensitive screen lock button and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The small, landscape-oriented 2.4in screen offers a so-so resolution of 480x360 pixels, though this is actually quite effective on a screen this size. It isn’t touch sensitive, but you won’t miss that too much since the optical trackpad beneath it is more than capable of zipping you around menus and web pages. And if you find it a little too fast or slow for your taste, you can adjust the sensitivity to suit.
The QWERTY keyboard is something that BlackBerry excelled in long before most of the other manufacturers caught up, and it’s still doing very nicely thank you. The 35 keys are on the small side and laid very snugly together, but BB’s trademark ridging means they’re still easy to distinguish under the thumbs.
Interface and OS
As with other recent handsets from RIM, the Curve 9360 uses the latest BlackBerry 7 operating system offering a tweaked interface which now allows you to organise your apps on different screens in sections for All, Frequent, Downloads, Media and Favourites. It also now has NFC (Near Field Communication) which prepares it for mobile-based payments if and when they become the norm in the UK.
The 800MHz processor backed by 512MB of RAM seems a little light for a midrange handset, but without Android’s heavy duty widgets and graphics, it generally kept things running fast and smooth, with signs of lag only creeping in when we had a fistful of apps running at once.
It's also worth mentioning that the newly announced BlackBerry OS 7.1, which wasn't present on our review unit, will add BlackBerry Tag NFC Sharing, mobile Wi-Fi hotspot abilities and an FM radio to the Curve 9360.
The 5 megapixel camera comes with LED flash, image stabilisation and face detection, but otherwise few frills. It takes fairly good snaps in good light with a decent level of detail and good colour balance but with no autofocus, it’s best to take your time.
There’s no HD video recording, and the best resolution it can offer is 640x480 (VGA) standard, so nothing to get too excited about.
Apps and browser
The screen’s shape lends itself quite well to web pages and the browser offers a virtual mouse you can move around via the trackpad while the text reflow worked fine when zooming in and out. There’s no Flash support though.
The latest BlackBerry Messenger 6 is also on board, and the service which allows you to send and receive free text messages to other BB users now adds the ability to trade free instant chats with your mates from within some apps and games.
BlackBerry App World, once a poor second cousin to Apple’s App Store now looks positively impoverished, as app designers put their efforts into iOS and Android, while waiting to see which way the wind blows for BB and Windows. Still, it’s got the basics covered, with some good business and productivity offerings, as well as a few decent games, but if you live for new apps, a BlackBerry won’t be the handset for you at this time.
Media and connectivity
No matter how sharp it is, a screen of this size and ratio is never going to show movies to their best advantage, though if you’re only likely to be watching the odd YouTube clip it’s perfectly fine.
The music player fares better, being easy to use and intuitive to navigate but it has none of the extra functionality of the higher quality handsets, and the cheap headphones could do with an upgrade at the first opportunity.
Performance and battery life
With only 512MB of memory on board for saving your pics, videos and tunes you’ll need to make use of the 9360’s microSD card slot and you can add up to 32GB if needs be.
The 1000mAh battery doesn’t look powerful on paper, but the efficient BB7 and the modestly bright screen meant that it held up pretty well, delivering a good day and a half of fairly heavy use.
- Good QWERTY keyboard
- 5-megapixel camera
- Slim and light
- Screen not as sharp as it could be
- Not enough apps in the BlackBerry App World
Verdict: There’s nothing too exceptional about the Curve 9360, and that’s been the problem that RIM has had for the last couple of years – despite turning out some perfectly decent handsets, they haven’t come along in the leaps and bounds that the Android fold has displayed. Still, if you’re already on the BlackBerry road, this classic look with a fine keyboard and the latest operating system won’t disappoint.
More info: BlackBerry Curve 9360 spec