RIM has seen numerous front page headlines on tech sites the world over in recent weeks. Most of the publicity, however, has not been flattering in the least, with group CEO, Thorsten Heins, continuously defending his company’s brand and future plans. I, for one, am looking forward to the release of BlackBerry 10 OS along with the newly designed smartphones that will accompany it in Q1 of 2013. That been said, there are still a number of BlackBerry smartphones that have been released within the last 6 months.
With almost a full year having passed since the start of Fortress of Solitude, we’ve never had the opportunity to review any BlackBerry devices, which could have been seen as a biased alliance to Android and iPhone smartphones. From my end, I’d like to apologise to the BlackBerry fans and users for not having done so sooner, and, as a peace offering, bring you the review of the BlackBerry Curve 9380.
Technically speaking, RIM has quite a collection of touchscreen smartphones; 19 to be exact. The BlackBerry Curve 9380 is, however, the latest of these 19 touchscreen devices, and has more to offer than most people expect from a BlackBerry device. We start off with all the positives.
At first unboxing, you will find this device incredibly light; definitely one of the lightest of the recognised smartphones available. With most smartphones weighing around the 130g mark, you’ll be forgiving for thinking you’ve misplaced this device and later finding it in your pocket, as it weighs in at 98g. The Curve 9380 also has dimensions measuring 109x60x11.2mm, which is reasonable in today’s market.
RIM has included a 5MP, 2592х1944px rear-facing camera with LED flash. The camera also includes digital zoom, image stabilisation, geo-tagging and a number of scene modes to choose from. Although snapping up photos isn’t as snappy as I would have hoped, and the dedicated camera button doesn’t unlock and capture for easy access, the quality of the images during the day are of decent enough quality.
In terms of its connectivity, the 9380 includes a number of standard features, one of which is NFC. With most phones adopting this functionality to trade images between devices, it’s good to know the BlackBerry are not dragging their feet on this one, as with a number of other big name OEMs.
I mentioned how lightweight the 9380 is. One of the main contributing factors to this is the noticeably missing QWERTY keyboard. Most die-hard fans would see this as a negative, but the addition of an onscreen keyboard, which also includes swipe texting is a huge plus point in my books. For those who don’t like this idea, and have the opinion that this is what makes BlackBerry devices stand out from the touchscreen crowd, you might want to get used to the idea, as their flagship of 2013 will also be without the on-board keyboard.
The 9380 also includes an advertised 1GHz CPU (with most online researches suggesting a 900MHz maximum), 512MB RAM and BlackBerry OS 7.0, not forgetting all the included BlackBerry services.
As with all devices, there has to be a few negative points; some more than others. The BlackBerry Curve 9380 is no exception to this general rule.
With a screen of 3.2”, there’s not a lot to expect in that regard. Although the size isn’t bad at all, the resolution of 360x480px isn’t flattering. This means that image quality isn’t the greatest.
Since this is a smartphone, you’d expect to see a little more than the 512MB internal storage on offer. Despite having an SD card slot capable of up to 32GB, the lack of internal memory is quite a big concern for me. Even though you can set captured photos to be stored on the SD card, the limited space for downloading and installing apps is my biggest concern here.
BlackBerry devices are known for being business-friendly. This is evident in the lack of dedicated GPU, which means that not much thought has been given to gaming and graphic capabilities, something that could add another dimension to all BlackBerry smartphones. This is not the only missing feature we take for granted on other devices, with no desktop widgets, smart unlock, default maps and navigation, and a few others.
There’s an old notion to the success of a business: be first, be the best or steal. RIM, by no means, were the first to introduce a touchscreen smartphone, and neither does it claim this to be the best offering available, with not nearly as many apps available compared to the likes of Android and iOS. That being said, we cannot consider the technologies and services offered with the Curve 9380 stolen. BlackBerry is still the number one selling smartphone in 3rd world markets, including South Africa, with affordable data packages and exclusive messaging services.
My biggest concern with the mandatory BIS requirement in order to use any online features of your BlackBerry is that connectivity depends solely on RIM itself. A few short weeks ago, the RIM servers were experiencing technical difficulties for a few hours that specific weekend, which meant that BlackBerry users experienced something of a black-out, similar to that experienced on a few occasions last year.
All in all, the BlackBerry Curve 9380 is a good device to have, especially if you’re not one for mobile gaming and the likes, opting instead for efficient social and email functionality, along with affordable data. At an average cost around R2500, this device competes with a number of entry- to mid-level Android smartphones, a market in which it could respectively compete in.
You can find the full specifications here.