The BlackBerry Curve 8520 took many parts of the world by storm. That device is clearly now out of date and that is where the Curve 9220 steps in. Running BlackBerry 7.1 it looks to offer most of the features that a high end BlackBerry would but with reduced specs. Is there still a place in the market for a 2G BlackBerry
In my opinion RIM has made the right move with the BlackBerry Curve 9220. It is not the best BlackBerry but it isn't meant to be. What it is meant to be is good value for money and in my book it is. If the old 8520 can do so well for RIM I don't see why its successor won't have the same impact on certain markets.
The major let down with the Curve 9220 lies with it being a 2G device. However, that is the reason it is only being sold in countries where 2G is still widely used. The camera lacks some punch but we must remember this is an entry-level BlackBerry.
The BlackBerry Curve 9220 may be lacking in terms of having 3G onboard but aside from that it matches up to its big brother the Curve 9320 in most areas. If you are after a communication device first and foremost and are on a budget then the BlackBerry Curve 9220 may well suit your needs
Recently all eyes have been on RIM regarding the upcoming BlackBerry 10 operating system that we will see in the first quarter of next year. Many of us have forgotten about the little old BlackBerry Curve 9220. I too am guilty of this as it is not even being sold here in the UK. The phone is already available in many countries and these are places where RIM still sees that a 2G device will be popular. Both the Curve 9220 and 9320 are cheap options for a consumer wanting a BlackBerry and although limited by not having 3G in the device it is still a powerful smartphone for communication and social networking.
BlackBerry Curve 9220 Hardware Impressions
The BlackBerry Curve 9220 is a good looking phone. Being all black (unlike the 9320 which has a silver bezel) in my opinion it looks sleek and mean. Things have evolved nicely on from its predecessor, the BlackBerry Curve 8520. While both devices look very much alike at first there are some subtle differences. I love the new addition of the dedicated BBM key on the left side of the device. While technically this is just a convenience key, it is set by default to open BlackBerry Messenger and even has BBM written next to it - a nice touch by RIM.
Dedicated BBM key - We like!
We also get some changes on the top of the device. Remember that is where we had the media controls on the Curve 8520. They are now gone and have been replaced with a single button to wake up the screen.
So the 9220 still very much looks like a Curve and that isn't a bad thing. In many countries the BlackBerry Curve is the best selling smartphone so it kind of makes sense not to change things to dramatically.
9360 vs 9220 - note the new style four buttons either side of the trackpad
Appearance, Form Factor and Build Quality
When it comes to build quality it is a hard one to judge yet so important. To me the device feels pretty solid, but clearly not as robust as the higher end Bolds and Torches. The Curve 9220 is made from plastic so no nice metal to be seen here. Being a new device the only real way to test its build quality is with time, and that I did not have on my side while doing the review. If it were my BlackBerry it would still be in perfect condition in six months to a year. But with the likes of hundreds of thousands of teenagers adopting the Curve range as their BlackBerry of choice I suspect many will not be quite so careful as me. The same applies to any phone though; treat it well and it will last.
Like all BlackBerry Curves the 9220 feels great in the hand. Its curved corners make the device feel right at home in your palm and using the device one handed or two feels perfectly natural.
If you are new to a BlackBerry -- or a phone of this form factor -- using it for the first day or so may well seem a little strange but believe me, you soon get used to things. The spacing between the keys is just enough to allow even people with large hands the speed and nimbleness to swiftly type long messages. It really is quite a joy to use.
Above the keyboard you will find four buttons that sit alongside the optical track pad. We have had a slight re-design since the last Curve and instead of the four buttons being sat in one piece of plastic they are now four individual buttons. As far as I am concerned this adds to the quality of the device. To me this design just feels a little more sturdy and high quality than on previous Curves.
The optical trackpad will allow you glide around the BlackBerry screen with ease. If you fancy adjusting the speed that it operates at then that's not an issue as you can speed it up and slow it down from within the settings. Think of the trackpad as if it were a mouse. Not the rodent one, I mean a computer mouse. When you stop on something on screen you press the trackpad down to select that option. As well as just clicking the trackpad it is the perfect tool for highlighting text whether it is in a message, document or while social networking.
I mentioned earlier in the review about the dedicated BBM key on the left side of the handset. Above that is where the MicroUSB charging port is located.
On the opposite side we get our second convenience key as well as our volume controls. In-between the up and down volume controls we now find a small third button. This is used as a play/pause button when using the music player. A nice added addition and one that is now found on many of the BlackBerry 7 devices.
Note the small button between the up/down volume controls
While we are on the subject of the top of the handset you will also find the 3.5mm headset jack located here next to the screen lock button. If you don't fancy using the headphones that are supplied with the Curve you can always use your own. Having the jack located here means that when the BlackBerry is slid into a pocket the headset port is pointing upwards which should prevent damage to both the cable and phone. When using headphones with my BlackBerry Bold 9900 I often find myself being overly cautions as the port is on the side of the device. Looks like the Curve beats the Bold in this area.
Media controls are now gone from the top and replaced with a single button
Over on the rear of the 9220 there isn't a huge amount of action going on. We get our 2MP camera -- but no flash I'm afraid. Most of the real estate on the back is made up of the battery cover. It is pretty cheap feeling if I'm honest, but as a bonus we do get the nice big shiny BlackBerry logo on it. The battery cover is smooth and glossy but I haven't found that it makes the phone slippery. Many users tend to protect their BlackBerry with a skin or case anyway but even with it naked it shouldn't be a concern.
Things are a little dull on the rear of the 9220
A nice big 1450 mAh power battery sits inside the BlackBerry
BlackBerry Curve 9220 Display
Not great screen resolution on the Curve 9220
The screen is one of the few let downs with the Curve 9220. Like on the 8520 and Curve 9300 its resolution is not great; meaning that things do tend to look a little grainy. You are not going to get the same crisp experience as you would on a high end BlackBerry but once again it comes down to the fact that you get what you pay for. If you are getting the BlackBerry Curve as your first smartphone you probably won't even notice it. It isn't a major issue but worth pointing out if you were expecting HD quality.
BlackBerry Curve 9220 Typing
The traditional BlackBerry Curve keyboard
The best part of the hardware has to be the QWERTY keyboard. This is identical to on previous models in the Curve range; the 9360, 9300 and 8520. I suppose you could say it is predictable. This design of keyboard has been around for a few years now and it just works. The keys feel tactile and give a real click when pressed. They don't feel as soft to press as on the Bold models but you are not paying for luxury here.
BlackBerry Curve 9220 Battery
Being just a 2G device does have hits advantages and when it comes to the battery department this thing is awesome. I must admit I haven't been using it as heavily as I have other devices as doing certain things such as web browsing on 2G is so poor. However, I last charged the 9220 up three days ago and it is still going strong with 40% left. I have had a constant stream of email coming into the device as well as tweets so I would imagine that with heavy usage you are going to get a couple of days out of this beast. Because of the device analyzer that is pre-installed into the OS it is easy to monitor battery consumption. While idle the 9220 was averaging at a discharge rate of 1.04% per hour which for a BlackBerry running 7.1 is truly amazing.
BlackBerry Curve 9220 Camera/Video recording
When it comes to the camera I wasn't expecting too much as the 9220 is only packing 2 mega pixels. Just as well really as it is not great. It isn't terrible though. As you can see from the sample shots I took on a summers day the colors look nice and bright and looking at the photos on your phone will seem fine. It will be okay for uploads to social networking sites too but if you plan on printing images just remember that the bigger they are they more grainy they will appear.
With the Curve 9220 not coming with a flash you will be limited to when you can use the camera with reasonable results. As you can see; at night time it is awful so if you plan on picking up the 9220 please bear this in mind.
Much like the camera, the video camera is lacking a little too in the quality department. We haven't seen much progression here from the likes of the 8520 which is a real shame. Video once again is grainy and laggy. I understand that the 9220 is the most basic BlackBerry you can now buy from the new range but would the cost be so much different to at least include the 3.2 mp camera that is in the Curve 9320?
If the 9220's success is anything like the 8520 then chances are that hundreds of thousands if not millions of teenagers will be using the handset. And we know how much they like their media - music in particular. The music player on the device is the standard BlackBerry 7 one so initially you will be presented with a list of your music split into sections - all songs, artists, albums, genres, playlists and a shuffle options. Once one of these is selected you then get a further list showing the album artwork and the song and artist. You also see these three things when the track is actually playing but in a larger area. At the base of the screen are your media controls but if you press the BlackBerry button you can alter a few settings. Select the options tab here and a few tweaks can be made. The best one in my opinion is the headset equalizer. Here you have the option to choose the style of music you prefer and the device will alter the sound accordingly. You can increase and decrease bass, the same for treble, or choose from a range of styles from rock to jazz - sweet.
The speaker on the 9220 is pretty loud but you always get a better quality sound from the headset so use that whenever you can.
BlackBerry music player - Simple yet effective
And if you don't have the music track you want then why not switch to the FM radio. Even my Bold 9900 doesn't have this function. The headset needs to plugged in for the radio to work as it acts as an ariel and then you can scan and save your favourite stations. Good stuff.
Complete with FM Radio
Scan and save your favorite radio stations
When it comes to social media this is one of the areas where the Curve 9220 does a great job. Sure, upload speeds will not be the fastest due to the 2G restriction but you will get the same app experience as will the high end devices. Both Twitter for BlackBerry and Facebook are superb apps and the Curve handles them beautifully. With push notifications in both these applications you will be kept up to date with your social feeds.
Uploading photos is a piece of cake. You can either do it from within the app or alternatively it can be done from within the picture gallery. Updating your status is only a couple of clicks away from the home screen so you will find interacting with your buddies really is quite effortless.
The 9220 is lacking slightly in the connectivity department compared to the higher end devices, but once again this is reflected in the price. We get Bluetooth and WiFi, both which are standard features these days so nothing to exciting there. NFC is missing as well is the WiFi hotspot option but the latter may be down to the fact that using a 2G device as a hotspot wouldn't be much fun.
Where I was really shocked was when I discovered that the 9220 doesn't support GPS. I took the Curve out with me in the car and loaded up a speedometer application where I was then told by the BlackBerry that it would not work due to lack of GPS. I had to double check so I tried to download a Sat Nav app from App World and it wasn't having any of it. This kinda sucks, so if you need to rely on your smartphone for GPS I suggest you look elsewhere.
BlackBerry Curve 9220 Accessories
With a brand new smartphone chances are you will want to pick up a few accessories. Whether it be a new microSD card or a case for added protection Shop CrackBerry has you covered. We recently introduced some new international shipping options to make things more affordable for overseas purchases. Be sure to check it out and see if there is anything that catches your eye.
BlackBerry Curve 9220 Hardware Wrap-Up
Hardware wise the BlackBerry Curve 9220 is a pretty solid device for what it costs. As I have already mentioned; it is not a competitor for the high end BlackBerry smartphones and its quality is reflected here, however it is a good bit of kit. It is nice to hold, has some design additions from previous models and with that glorious Curve keyboard you cant really go wrong.
Despite the lack of 3G on this model I am totally confident that users will be more than happy with their new device. For communication you will become super efficient in messaging and social networking.
BlackBerry 7.1 Impressions
If you are upgrading from a Curve 8520 to the 9220 you will overjoyed with BlackBerry 7.1. The progression is pretty massive. The whole experience is smoother and more reliable with the addition of many new features and options. Simple things such the option to mange home screen panes, using universal search and the device analyzer options are all great additions to the software. I could list the features in 7.1 compared to OS5 all day long but I don't see it would help. Let's face it - the 8520 is history. If carriers are still selling it this will stop happening this year and the 9220 will take its place. You are just going to have to trust me on this one - the BlackBerry OS is really a long way from where it was a few years ago.
BlackBerry Curve 9220 Conclusions
The BlackBerry Curve may not win the battle for best smartphone but if there was a competition for best budget smartphone it is in with a chance. It may be lacking in some areas in comparison to many budget Android devices but they don't all have a sweet hardware keyboard, a flashing LED and BBM. It is all about personal preference when it comes to choosing a new phone and the BlackBerry Curve sales figures speak for themselves. I certainly couldn't live without my BlackBerry.
Despite the 9220 lacking in the 3G department; I would imagine that this doesn't matter as it is bound for countries that still heavily rely on just 2G. To summarize the 9220 in just a few words is pretty easy for me - Kick Ass. That's it. The cheap handset does just what it is meant to do - be a phone with amazing communication abilities.
BlackBerry Curve 9220 Summary
Great OS progression from previous models in the Curve range
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