The BlackBerry Curve 9320 is a little BlackBerry with a (relatively) little price tag to boot. Priced at just under £150 offline, it packs in all the features you'd expect to see on a higher end BlackBerry such as Wi-Fi tethering, 3G and GPS while sticking to RIM’s QWERTY roots with a keyboard-centric form-factor and landscape display. But with handsets like the Huawei Ascend G300 hitting stores with more oomph and less cost, is there room for a budget BlackBerry in the hearts and hands of today’s mobile user?
BlackBerry Curve 9320: Design
While the 9320 It looks like a BlackBerry it doesn’t have the same glossy metalic elements we’ve come to expect from other Curves and Bolds. Instead is a matte, gun metal grey plastic rim around the main black fascia which houses a keyboard, four physical buttons and a thumb pad.
Along the side are a series of buttons including a dedicated BBM button on the left, a volume rocker to the right and a customisable button below, set to camera by default. Up top is the power button.
In contrast to the matte sides, the back is high gloss black plastic bringing the design together nicely. It physically sits right where its price denotes, not super high-end, but neither is it a cheap afterthought.
The keyboard is definitely a high-point of the Curve 9360, featuring separated keys which even with our big thumbs were usable in-spite of the phone’s 60mm width.
BlackBerry Curve 9320: Screen
At 2.4-inches with qVGA resolution, this gives the Curve a dpi of 164. Naturally, not all that sharp, the text-centricity of BlackBerry’s could use more pixels, however RIM make it easy to resize display text which helps things along nicely.
Viewing angles are ok, though not great and colour reproduction is decent. Brightness is good though viewing in bright sunlight will make colours that look a little faded, most notable when picture taking.
BlackBerry Curve 9320: User Interface
Running BlackBerry 7.1, the Curve 9320 offers an OS with well documented shortcomings, legacy issues and a successor expected in months. That said, given the price, we’re prepared to make allowances for some native shortcomings, but does the 9320 throw any device specific curve balls our way?
Setting up the phone requires you enter or create your BlackBerry ID. This is a 5-minute process which is followed by inputting all your email and social accounts. Upon completion, you’re treated to the BlackBerry experience: with the bottom portion of the screen offering apps, your wallpaper taking precedence and notifications, time and date in the upper portion.
There is no touchscreen as with most of the new line-up and in turn, if you’re coming from an Android phone you might be put off. That said, the main area this really hampers usability is web browsing which is pretty terrible regardless.
The forte of the 9320 however is the messaging. Email is handled well, inboxes are combined and BBM, Whatsapp, Twitter and Facebook are a doddle - perfect for the target audience.
BlackBerry Curve 9320: Camera
There's a 3.2-megapixel fixed focus camera on the 9320. While fixed focus gets a bad wrap, the camera uses EDoF technology. This stands for extended depth of field and means you can capture shots with more content in detail. It also packs a flash which is a bonus.
As you can see from the pictures, image quality is decent for a low-end BlackBerry and we were able to take some very attractive shots thanks to the surprisingly good dynamic range. That said, turn the lights down and the noise sky-rockets. The flash does help matters, making the BlackBerry Curve 9320 a perfect companion camera for BBM, Whats app, Twitter and emails. Video is recorded at a low resolution once again making it suited to sharing or keeping on the device.
BlackBerry Curve 9320: Connectivity and Storage
The Curve 9230 is a very well connected device especially considering its price with Wi-Fi, tethering, 3G, GPS and Bluetooth on board. As mentioned, thanks to BBM, Whatsapp and Gtalk all you touch type talkers will be well looked after and email is also simple to get your head around.
Where the 9320 falls very short however is web browsing. The on board browser is clunky at best, however the lack of touchscreen is the final nail in the coffin, making every navigation tiresome, like wading through digital tar.
There's also a micro SD card slot on board the 9320 so you can get up to 32GB of music content on it. With a decent onboard music player and a 3.5mm headphone jack, coupled with its portability the 9320 can turn into a handy MP3 player, though we wouldn't use it for video with its low res screen and poor codec support.
BlackBerry Curve 9320: Performance
When installing apps, the Curve 9320 hangs, and refreshing content can take a while however generally, BlackBerry 7.1 isn’t all that demanding. Day to day tasks like email and chat work well and we didn’t get frustrated at any point other than when waiting for downloaded apps to install.
Call quality is pretty good for the most part. We found conversations audible with the microphone performing well on our side.
Battery life is solid with up to 7 hours talk time and 18 days standby. This translates to about two days of moderate use and just over a day if you’re going for it.
BlackBerry Curve 9230: Conclusion
All in all, we’re impressed with the BlackBerry Curve 9230. The fact that this lower mid-range BlackBerry comes loaded with all the connections you’d expect from an Android phone is reassuring. The OS browser is a pain to use, the app selection isn’t great and the Huawei Ascend G300 does offer more for less, however with its keyboard and messaging prowess, it’s definitely on the money for a certain type of user.