BlackBerry Curve 9320 Review
The BlackBerry Curve 9320 may not be the BlackBerry Smartphone that is hitting the headlines at the moment due to it being a low end, budget device but that doesn't mean it will not be popular. In fact, here in the UK it is quite possible that the 9320 may be 2012's best selling Smartphone?
For the last two years RIM have claimed the title of most handsets sold in Great Britain and with the youth of today all carrying a BlackBerry, the Curve 9320 is the perfect successor to the Curve 8520 and 9300 that have proved so popular.
Available sim free from only £130 and on contact from £10.50 a month the BlackBerry Curve 9320 is both affordable and should be the perfect reason to keep the 8520/9300 users on Team BlackBerry.
Running BlackBerry 7.1 the 9320 doesn't have the highest specs but due to it having the most up to date software it runs like a dream.
If you are in the market for the cheapest, best communication device yet I suggest you read on.
What's in the box?
3.5mm Stereo headset
- Charger with a 1.0m USB cable
- 2GB SD card
- In-Box Documentation
- Start Here Guide (lists link to Desktop Manager SW)
- Safety Information Booklet (SIB)
- Warranty Agreement
- Software Licence Agreement
The ten second review:
Device: BlackBerry Curve 9320
Price: From £129.99 sim free or £10.50 per month on contract
Summary: A low cost high performing BlackBerry. Perfect for social networking, instant messaging and email.
Best of: Hardware QWERTY keyboard, BlackBerry 7.1, social networking apps, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM)
Worst of: Screen resolution, web browsing in comparison to other platforms.
Buy it now from: All UK networks
BlackBerry Curve 9320 Specification:
- HSDPA: 7.2 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps
- Dimensions: 109 x 60 x 12.7 mm
- Weight: 103g
- Hardware QWERTY Keyboard
- Display: TFT, 65K colors, 320 x 240 pixels, 2.44 inches (~164 ppi pixel density)
- Touch-sensitive optical trackpad
- 3.5 headset jack
- Internal: 512 MB ROM, 512 MB RAM
- microSD, up to 32 GB
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
- Bluetooth v2.1 with A2DP
- microUSB v2.0
- Camera: 3.15 MP, 2048x1536 pixels, LED flash
- BlackBerry OS 7.1
- Accelerometer, proximity, compass
- Messaging: SMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email, IM
- Browser: HTML
- Radio: Stereo FM radio with RDS
- GPS with A-GPS support
- BBM key
- MP3/eAAC+/WMA/WAV/Flac player
- MP4/H.263/H.264/WMV player
- Docs to Go
- Voice memo/dial
- Predictive text input
- Battery: Standard battery, Li-Ion 1450 mAh
On the left side of the Curve 9320 we find the dedicated BBM key and the MicroUSB charging port. There is also what I thought was a mystery hole at the top however, after asking a friend at RIM what it is for it turns out that it allows for a phone charm to be attached. Girls like that, right?
On the top is the screen on/off button along with the headset jack.
The right houses the up/down volume and media controls including the small play/pause button. We also get the traditional convenience key which comes preset to launch the camera but you can change this to any feature/app on the device.
The front is just as you would expect from a BlackBerry Curve. At the top is the speaker grill and glorious LED. Under the screen is the optical track pad along with the call send/end buttons, back key and options key. And not forgetting the awesome hardware keyboard.
Over on the rear of the 9320 we find the camera lens, flash and the shiny BlackBerry logo as well as a speaker grill on the base.
- Operating System
- Hardware Keyboard
- Social Networking Integration
- Better battery life than previous Curve's
- Screen resolution
- Lack of some apps compared to other operating systems
- Not a gaming smartphone
As I said in the introduction to this review the BlackBerry Curve 9320 is currently the low end BlackBerry in RIM's range so if you are looking for the best BlackBerry smartphone then you need to read our Bold 9900 review. However, if you are looking for value for money then the Curve 9320 may well be for you.
In terms of progression from the Curve 8520/9300 to the 9320, Research in Motion have really stepped things up. Hardware wise we have a few improvements but the biggest difference is the operating system. The Curve 9320 runs BlackBerry 7.1 which is the latest version, now also running on the Bolds, Torche's and Curve 9360. And the difference between OS5/BB6 and BlackBerry 7.1 is like night and day. If you want to see why then check out our hands on video.
The Curve 9320 is not only a good looking phone but it feels great too. Sure, the build quality is not as top notch as the Bold 9900 but it is a third cheaper in cost. Not that there is anything wrong with the 9320's build. It feels solid, lightweight and sleek. It's 'curved' corners make it feel comfortable in the hand and although the battery cover is shiny plastic it isn't slippery like some phones tend to be. That said, many BlackBerry users protect their handsets with a case or skin anyway.
One change we do see with the 9320 compared to previous Curves is the four buttons either side of the optical trackpad. These are now seperate buttons like we have seen on the Torch 9860 and Bold 9790. They do feel a little different when using at first but within hours you don't even notice the change. In fact I think it adds to the quality of the hardware.
One feature that is unique to the new Curve is the dedicated BBM key. This is technically just a convenience key but now has the letters 'BBM' beside it and by default comes preset to launch BBM when pressed. It serves two purposes as far as I can see. The first is obviously a quick shortcut to opening BBM. The other benefit is that it means if you so wish you do not have to have the BBM icon on your top row of the screen therefore freeing up the space for another app. A nice added feature RIM, thanks.
Typing on the Curve's hardware keyboard is a breeze. Being identical to that on the previous Curve's and while not as luxurious as on the Bold series it allows for fast and precise 'power typing'.
So lets take a look at the software and features on the BlackBerry Curve 9320. If you are looking to upgrade your current BlackBerry Curve or to move from a feature phone to a smartphone the following will be essential reading. Don't get me wrong, I am a big BlackBerry fan but if something is not up to par I will say so. However, after using the 9320 for a week I am suitably impressed and RIM have made a great transition in the Curve line up.
Starting with the home screen it is typical BlackBerry, although very different to on the Curve 8520. At the top of the screen you are presented with vital information such as the battery icon, date, time and mobile connection. Beneath this we get three further features. The icon on the left is our noise profiles (which are all customisable), the one on the right is universal search and in the centre is our notifications tray. You will see in the screenshot below I have a Twitter notification. The same notification icons apply for all other apps on the device such as Facebook, ebay, calendar, sms etc. A handy way to see all your notifications in one place
By using the trackpad and clicking on the the top tray of the home screen will open up your connections options. Here you have quick and easy access to not only switch on and off options but also to set new connections up. All very straight forward and fool proof.
I mentioned universal search earlier. If you are not familiar with it you will find it an invaluable tool on your new BlackBerry. Although you can highlight and open the universal search option from the home screen there is a far quicker way to utilize the feature. From the home screen just start typing the word you are looking for and the BlackBerry will filter down any applications that may relate to that word. It is also the quickest way to find a contact on the Curve. I use it dozens of times a day.
The actual main menu on the Curve 9320 is much the same as we have seen on other BlackBerry 6 and 7 devices. By default the device comes with the option to swipe to further panes left and right where you have a favorites menu, a media one, downloads and frequent apps. I'm not a great lover of this feature and luckily with BlackBerry 7 you have the option to manage the panels, so I disable them all. Just the one menu page suits me just fine.
RIM were made famous by messaging and the email options on a BlackBerry is still one of the most important and most loved features. Part of the reason I use a BlackBerry as my main phone is due to this fact. In my opinion the BlackBerry handles email better than any other OS. Sure, the others all do push email but it is so simple on the BlackBerry. I can create and send an email in literally seconds or delete 50 emails in even less time. With support for up to ten email accounts the BlackBerry really is the king of email if you ask me. Many will disagree I am sure but we are all different. If you have used the Curve 8520 then you will know that in order to manage emails you would need to press the BlackBerry menu key and dive into the options. On BlackBerry 7 you have the option on most applications to just hold down the track pad and a list of options will pop up on the screen as shown below. Again, another nice feature to make life easier for you.
When you add an email account to your BlackBerry you will get a new email icon on your home screen. This applies even if you had ten seperate accounts. The beauty of the BlackBerry messaging app is that it acts as an integrated inbox. So for example: I have five email accounts. Each has a seperate icon but I choose to hide them from the main menu (something you can do with any icon), so all my accounts are managed from the one inbox. You can add SMS to the inbox too. Again you may well prefer to keep things seperate but it is sweet that you have that option.
Web browsing on BlackBerry Curves has traditionally been poor. The 8520 browser was slow as a snail. Things got better with the 9300 once it supported BlackBerry 6 but you will be pleased to know that the new browser on BlackBerry 7 is even faster. 40% I think. So, gone are the days of not bothering to use the web browser much on a BlackBerry.
Pages load quickly and smoothly on the 9320. It may not be the same experience as on the iPhone or Android devices but it isn't bad you know. If you use a BlackBerry you would have chosen it not for its browser but for its superb communication powers. It is however a HUGE improvement compared to previous Curve's.
As you can see below web pages load in full and using the options key you can access the zoom features as well as a host of other options ranging from bookmarking to even adding a web page to your main home screen.
Tabbed browsing is supported so switching between open web pages is seamless. The BlackBerry browser may not be the best in the world but RIM have thought carefully about its features and options to make it as user friendly as possible.
Jumping into the media options the Curve 9320 handles most of these pretty well. You will notice below that in the media app you have music, videos, camcorder, radio, the podcast app, photos and a music store.
The music player is identical to other BlackBerry 7 models as far as I can see. The interface is simple to navigate and you have the options to view tracks by artist, album, genres or playlists. Or just shuffle. Once a track is playing the on screen controls are simple and straight forward. Plus it looks good with the album artwork being displayed.
In terms of the music quality it is overall very good. The speaker is little tinny, but aren't they all, however once you have the headphones plugged in things really start to rock and music sounds fantastic.
Diving into the options in the music player it lets you tweak a few things. In the screen shot below you will see the 'bass boost' highlighted. If you click here you have a further selection of options to suit your listening needs. These are bass lower, dance, hip hop, jazz, lounge, loud, rock, treble boost and vocal boost.
The Curve 9320 has a FM radio built in. This is a new feature and a welcomed one at that. Very handy for the commute to work. You can either scan for stations or find them yourself if you know what frequency you are after. Once you have a decent station you can easily add it to a favorites list for quick access next time. Nice.
Viewing either photographs you have taken or images you have saved to your BlackBerry is as simple as peas, (is that a real saying?) When opening the app you have the options to view camera pictures, picture library, wallpapers or any other app specific pictures. Once again, holding down the track pad will supply you with a selection of further options, which is perfect if you want to quickly send a picture to a friend via email, BBM, Twitter etc. Having used the BlackBerry Bold 9900 for some months now I have found it a little hard going back to a non touch screen device. That said, you soon adjust so if you are thinking of moving over to the Curve 9320 from maybe a low end touch screen Android device you will soon get into the BlackBerry way of life. In fact if you do we can be BBM friends (maybe).
If you fancy downloading some music to your BlackBerry you will be pleased to know that the Amazon MP3 store is built in. As you would expect you have the option to browse by song, artist or album and although I am not a huge fan I have used the store in the past for single track downloads and it works well. If you don't have an Amazon account setting one up is pretty painless, although you will need a credit or debit card for payments.
BBM has to be the most popular feature on any BlackBerry. That's the main reason the BlackBerry does so well here in the UK as for £5 a month on most networks you get your BBM, email and web access for that great low fee. With many phones you would only get 50 text messages for that amount, yet with a BlackBerry you could send as many BBM's as you like. Wicked!
Now, I could go on about BlackBerry Messenger all day but I wont bore you too much as I am pretty sure most of you will know exactly what it is. What I will say though, hand on heart, is that it is the best instant messaging client on any platform without doubt. It just works.
Much like BBM the BlackBerry Curve 9320 excels at social networking. The device is pre loaded with both Twitter for BlackBerry and the Facebook app and I frankly wouldn't want to live without them. Not that I am addicted or anything!
Both applications offer real time push notifications so if you get a mention on Twitter or a message on Facebook your BlackBerry is going to beep at you, flash its LED at you and show you the notification on the home screen. What more would you need?
Both apps are attractive and a piece of cake to use. The Facebook app I think offers a few more features than Twitter but that's just the difference between the two social networks. Either way, I love both and use them daily which ever BlackBerry model I am using.
As you can see below you have a Facebook timeline much the same as you would on a PC. Clicking the word 'Facebook' at the top opens up the main menu (centre image) where you will see the services available to you. From the time line you also have quick access to your notifications, friend requests and messages (pictured right).
Facebook chat is built into the app so no need to download a third party app like in days of the past. And yes, that is me wearing a wig! For comedy purposes, I don't go out in it!
Clock apps are not exciting, let's face it. The BlackBerry clock does however have some nice options which maybe you wouldn't know about unless reading a review. For example, you have the choice of four different styles of clock. When you plug your BlackBerry into the charger the clock will automatically appear on screen and if you set the bedside mode the screen will dim allowing you to still view the time on your BlackBerry but without it lighting up the room and stopping you from getting off to sleep. How very considerate of you RIM. Off course you get all the usual add ons with a clock, such as an alarm, stopwatch and timer. Not much to say about these apart from they work well and once again are quick and easy to use, like most things on the BlackBerry. In fact I use the Timer app most days when cooking.
Onto the camera which on the Curve 9320 is a 3.2 mega pixel. Once again, not the highest specced camera but we are talking about a cheap BlackBerry here. It does have a flash though. The camera interface is identical to that on the other BlackBerry 7 models. You have the shutter button in the centre, which you can activate by pressing the trackpad. The 9320 takes pictures pretty fast. It isn't auto focus which means it wont be perfect for macro shots but that is really its only downside.
The two icons to the left of the shutter button are a shortcut to your picture gallery and the other is location if you are happy to add locations to your pictures. The icon directly to the right of the shutter tab is the flash options and here you can select to have the flash on, off or on auto.
The final tab on the far right is the scenes mode. As you can see from the pictures below there are a vast array of options here. To be honest with you I never seem to even remember these options and always leave it on auto mode but that's just me.
In terms of camera performance, as you will see from the selection of photos below the 9320 does a reasonable job. Not brilliant but as you would expect from a 3.2mp camera. It's maybe a shame I didn't choose a nice sunny day to test the camera but in fairness we have more overcast days here in the UK anyway. Photos are more than acceptable for uploading to social networking sites or even printing.
The flash does a reasonable job for indoor and low light shots. Not the most powerful but good enough.
The video camera is as I thought it would be. No HD quality to be found here but once again we are using a budget BlackBerry so no surprises.
You can see a sample below anyway.
If you are going to use a smartphone you are going to want apps and that is where BlackBerry App World comes in. App World is very user friendly and will provide you with not only detailed information about each app but you will also see screen shots and reviews. As well as the featured apps that will appear at the top of the screen (and are scrollable left and right), you can view apps by category or by top paid, top free, newest and highest rated.
If you are moving from a feature phone to a BlackBerry there is one thing you must know and this is where I must speak the truth. BlackBerry App World is very different to the apps that you will find on iOS, Android, Symbian and Windows Phone. The selection is far less and gaming on the BlackBerry platform is much worse than on the aforementioned platforms. There are some great games to play on BlackBerry but you cant really compare them to the likes of the iPhone which was partly designed for gaming. On an upside though the productivity apps are great and I use a load of these every day on my BlackBerry.
As I mentioned earlier on in the review you must decide what you want from your smartphone. A fantastic communication device or one for playing games? I know which I prefer.
The built in calendar is one of the features that I use dozens of times a day, mainly for reminding me to do things. Setting up a entry takes only seconds although there is a lot of information you can add if you need too. I love the way you can share the calendar entry with someone else. Just enter there email address and they will get the same entry on their BlackBerry calendar. If you want one calendar for work and one for personal then that's not a problem as the BlackBerry supports multiple calendars. I only use one but I have the option to use five as I have five emails accounts set up.
Like on most platforms you have a choice when it comes to viewing your calendar. You can view by day, week, month and agenda and whichever of these is your favorite you can set as the default so each time the calendar is opened that is what you will see.
BlackBerry Maps comes pre installed on the Curve 9320 and it may not be as attractive and have as many features as on some other OS's but it does the job. You have the option to search locally for things, get directions or just look up an address. You wont find voice guided navigation here but instructions to get you to a destination will be in text. Not perfect for when driving but handy if walking around a new city or planning a trip in advance. I use BlackBerry Maps pretty frequently when in London and it has never let me down yet.
There are keyboard shortcuts available (like on most BlackBerry apps) so zooming in and out is as easy as pressing the 'i' and 'O' letter keys. Simples.
Social feeds is an application that was first introduced with BlackBerry 6. It is not an app I use myself as I like to keep things seperate however if you fancy viewing your social networking notifications, instant messages, tweets etc in one feed then this will be right up your street.
If you like to keep up to date with the news or blogs then you will be happy to know that a RSS reader is built into the app. I am sure it does more but as I am not a fan/user I cant really say much more about it.
With the BlackBerry Curve being a super communication device you do get some other instant messaging clients pre loaded as well as BBM. Within the instant messaging folder you will find Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and Gtalk. If these are apps you use you will have the choice to either leave them here or to move them to your home screen and position them where ever you like. I use Gtalk daily and have used the other two native apps in the past. They all work perfectly and like all the other native BlackBerry apps if you get a notification you will get the noise, LED flash and icon notification.
Within the applications folder on the 9320 you will discover an array of handy treats. Some are standard like tasks and a calculator but you will also find a couple of special ones. BlackBerry Protect is one that you MUST use if you buy a BlackBerry. As well as it backing up your contacts, sms, calendar etc the app will also come in very handy if you lose or can't find your device. BlackBerry Protect will allow you to communicate with your missing BlackBerry via the web. You can track it on a map, send it a message, set of a really loud alarm or even wipe all data from the handset. If you fancy having a quick look at a video I shot of BlackBerry Protect on the web click here.
The other application that may well come in handy is Docs to Go. Not only will this allow you to view word and excel documents, you can also create them which is invaluable if you ask me. Where ever you are you can create an 'official' letter, or made adjustments to documents either received via email or already on your BlackBerry. This budget BlackBerry does a lot for its price tag!
I mentioned gaming a short while ago. Like all BlackBerry Smartphones the Curve 9320 comes with Brick Breaker and Word Mole installed and in addition you get a couple of trial games too, Tetris and Uno. These are ok for killing a bit of time on a bus or train but they aren't exactly Angry Birds!
Many people that get there first smartphone can be quite daunted by its features and getting things up and running. Fear not you folk as tweaking your settings and preferences is as simple as a simple thing that came first in a simple competition!
Each menu is self explanatory and you cant really go wrong. One feature that is great for BlackBerry users that have not so great eyesight is that you can change the font and font size to suit you. The font changing screen will even show you what your new selection will look like before saving the setting. Sweet.
Probably my favorite new feature with BlackBerry 7.1 is the built in Device Analyser. If you are experiencing any problems with your device the analyser can probably tell you why. The battery test is the one I love most. Battery life on the previous BlackBerry Curve's has not been the best and fortunately RIM have given us a bigger battery with the 9320. However, if you want to view your battery discharge rate or see what is using up the most battery you can do so here. This is not only accurate as it is built into the operating system but it also means you don't need to download a separate battery monitoring application from App World which has been necessary in the past. Frankly, I am not sure how reliable they were anyway and they must have used some battery life therefore defeating the purpose?
So as you can see below you can run these tests for a variety of issues you may encounter. Clever stuff RIM. Thanks for the addition.
The Curve 9320 here in the UK comes with a few applications installed that I haven't used before. Whether these apps are on your 9320 may well depend on if the network allows them but my unlocked Curve had the following installed:
OK magazine. If you fancy keeping up to date with the celebrity gossip then this one is a must.
Sky Sports football score centre: Not my cup of tea but I hear football is quite popular these days! This app will keep you in the loop of what's happening with the UK's matches and as it is a BBM connected app you can share the results with your BBM friends.
Beat the Intro: Not one I have heard of before but quite a fun music game. The app plays a song and you have to guess from the on-screen options who is singing it. I wasn't very good at this one!
QYPE is a a location based review and discovery app. I'm not a huge fan of applications like this but that's just me. The ebay app however is awesome and I have used it many times before. As well as searching for items you can bid and keep track of items you are watching/bidding on. You will also get notifications when relevant, such as when an item is ending or if you are outbid. Love it.
When it comes to YouTube on any BlackBerry we are slightly let down as as we don't have a proper app but just a link to the mobile site. Don't get me wrong, the mobile site works just fine but considering YouTube's popularity I am surprised we do not have a super native by now. The mobile site will let you do most things you can do on your computer so it isn't all bad. However with the Curve not having the best screen resolution the YouTube video quality will not be as good as on some higher end models. But once again, remember we are talking about a £130 BlackBerry here.
The BlackBerry Curve 9320 is the perfect successor to the 8520 and 9300. Improvements have been made all round and for the price you really can't go wrong. Sure, there are cheaper Android devices on the market and they will do some things better than the BlackBerry 9320 but there are many things that the BlackBerry does a whole lot better than them.
As far as I am concerned you can't beat the hardware keyboard on a smartphone and the Curve one is as useable and friendly as any other BlackBerry.
If communicating with your friends quickly and efficiently is paramount then this is the low cost smartphone to go for.
Nice work RIM. If this new Curve doesn't keep current Curve users on Team BlackBerry then they are bonkers!
Reviewed by: James