"The best BlackBerry Curve experience to date was found on the Curve 8900, a device that combined luxury and ruggedness. Since then, this feeling has been absent from the Curve line. The BlackBerry Curve 9360 is a triumphant return to that."
RIM has moved away from making the BlackBerry Curve line feel cheap. Instead, they've given it a more solid, sleek feel all while making sure it still remains cost effective for end-users.
The 800MHz processor still shows signs of slowness, while other devices got bumped to 1.2GHz, the Curve 9360 did not. The lack of HD video recording is pretty far up there on our bad list as well to say the least (and we're still debating how big a deal it is to lack autofocus on the camera).
Thought it may be the "entry level" offering of the BlackBerry 7 Smartphone lineup, it trumps the BlackBerry 6 flagship -- the Bold 9780 -- in just about every way. If you need a nice looking, yet tough device to get the job done and are not looking to break the bank -- the BlackBerry Curve 9360 is a great choice! No doubt.
While not announced alongside the top tier devices such as the BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930, or the new BlackBerry Torch 9 line (Torch 9860/9850, Torch 9810) -- the BlackBerry Curve series is still going strong and some might say better then ever. Personally, I'd agree with that statement. The Curve series has a long standing history of being a tough and cost effective line and while its seen some changes over time -- now proves that to be the case more so then ever.
BlackBerry Curve 9360 Hardware Impressions
The BlackBerry Curve 9360 keeps all the styling we know, while packing a lot into a small package
Having been using the BlackBerry Bold 9900 since its release, with a short venture on the new BlackBerry Torch 9810, I'll admit picking up the new BlackBerry Curve 9360 felt like a little step back in time. Like I had just been downgraded to the previous BlackBerry experience. Those thoughts were of course generated without having given the device much time -- after a few minutes use, downloading apps and firing off some emails I realized rather quickly the BlackBerry Curve 9360 wasn't so much of a downgrade at all. It was actually quite a nice experience.
From top: Looking down from the top, you notice how thing the BlackBerry Curve 9360 is.
The new BlackBerry Curve 9360 keeps all the styling of the Curve line people know, while making stripping the device of some of that "cheap" feeling previous versions such as the 85xx, 93xx series had. The best BlackBerry Curve experience in my opinion was found on the BlackBerry Curve 8900, that device combined a luxury and ruggedness feel that has since been absent from the Curve line. The BlackBerry Curve 9360 is a triumphant return to that.
Appearance, Form Factor, Build Quality
Thin, stylish, rugged with a touch of class.
While RIM may have kept this device under wraps and separate from their high end line of devices such as the BlackBerry Bold and BlackBerry Torch, considering it never got the same spec upgrades as those devices -- the BlackBerry Curve 9360 is quite a looker. No it doesn't have a big touchscreen display, or a battery door made of composite glass but it's thin and has a certain charm to it that I'm sure quite a lot of folks will love.
When it comes to the form factor of the device, you know what you are getting here. It's a Curve, no doubt about it. You get the Curve keyboard -- and while it may not be my favorite keyboard of all time, it works and does so quite well. When you first take the Curve 9360 out of the box, I'm almost certain everybody's first thoughts are going to be "Wow, that's thin!" and that would be totally accurate. The Curve 9360 feels great in the hands, due in part to its thinness and the keyboard is nicely laid out. You really can't ask for much more then that.
Thickness compared to the BlackBerry Curve 8520
As I noted previously, the BlackBerry Curve 8900 was my favorite in the Curve series, and after having used the BlackBerry Curve 8520 and BlackBerry Curve 3G, I can't help but think RIM heard others out there when they were asking for a return to the BlackBerry Curve 8900 quality. The BlackBerry Curve 9360 feels solid and like it could withstand quite a bit of abuse where previous Curves felt like they could break in your hands if handled too rough.
The battery door is my least favorite part of the device
I'll kick this portion off around the backside of the device, and get my biggest issue out of the way. The battery door -- I hate it. It's the one component of the BlackBerry Curve 9360 that I wish RIM would have improved upon. It's plastic, it feels cheap, it scratches easily and is darn near impossible to get off unless you have longer fingernails. There, I said it -- the battery door sucks. I feel better now. If you're looking to get a Curve 9360 -- get a case if nothing else, it'll keep the battery door safe. After the battery door you have all the usual suspects, mircoSD slot and SIM card slot -- the microSD card slot is hot swappable so no issues there at all. It can easily be inserted and removed, all without even taking the battery out.
Above the keyboard is of course, a row of BlackBerry controls. Those of you who make use of one-handed navigation will have no issues here and much like other BlackBerry 7 devices, instead of individual buttons, the Send, Menu, Back and End keys are all part of the same piece, with the trackpad centered in the middle.
Again keeping with the BlackBerry 7 line, you'll find the trackpad and display light up and power down in sequence. First the display, then the buttons and finally the trackpad. Nice touch added by the RIM engineers and glad it made it's way to the BlackBerry Curve 9360. Final notes on the trackpad, it's kind of raised up. I noticed previous Curve designs had it rather sunk in but RIM has raised them up once again, making finding the trackpad when not looking fairly easy.
Clean lines, silver band around the device -- all signs to me RIM wanted the 8900 styling again
Typical buttons and ports can be found around the BlackBerry Curve 9360. The right side of the phone has the standard volume up and down keys, with the mute key relocated from the top of the phone to be in between the volume keys. They serve double duty as media keys when playing music as well, for skipping tracks and play/pause. At the bottom right is the programmable convenience key. One thing you'll not find however, is the dedicated media keys at the top -- guess RIM is done with those. And really, I'm glad -- they wouldn't fit in here at all.
The left side of the Bold 9360 is kept clean, with just the microUSB port present.
The left side of the Curve 9360 is pretty bare. The microUSB port for syncing and/or charging is all you'll see. But given the port is built right into the housing, there should be no long term issues with loose USB ports and such as seen in previous models.
At the top of the phone is your button for locking/unlocking the screen and a 3.5mm headphone jack
At the top of the phone is your button for locking/unlocking the screen and a 3.5mm headphone jack. In my opinion, not the best spot for the headphone jack, as it creates some awkwardness when in use but for the most part I use Bluetooth headphones anyway, so not that big of a deal. The bottom of the device is, well -- nothing. Not even charging contacts for a charging pod. Just one little hole for what is presumably a microphone or speaker port.
This portion is where most people looking to pick up a BlackBerry Curve 9360 will draw concern. Unlike other devices in BlackBerry 7 line, the BlackBerry Curve 9360 doesn't get bumped up to the new 1.2GHz Qualcomm processors. Is that a bad thing? Could be, depending on what your expectations of the device are. In my opinion, it's not an issue as long as you go into the device purchase knowing that.
Realistically, the enhancements made within BlackBerry 7 go beyond RIM having just tossed more horsepower at it and the BlackBerry Curve 9360 proves that. BlackBerry 7 on the Curve 9360 runs quite nicely, and while I was able to reach the devices limits faster on it, then say my BlackBerry Bold 9900 ultimately -- it's still an improvement that is far and above the experience felt of previous generation Curves.
For Example: On my BlackBerry Bold 9900, I can download multiple apps at the same time all while doing other things. This is still possible on the BlackBerry Curve 9360 but not in the same capacity as my Bold 9900. Downloading four apps on the Bold 9900 at the same time, would only equate to being able to download 2-3 apps on the Curve 9360. But the fact it can still do it, while making making use of the Tavor MG-1 800MHz processor shows it's not just the processor working here -- it's the BlackBerry 7 optimization as well.
The processor area however, is where we had some questions. The Tavor MG-1 800MHz processor is noted to of have hav been used in the BlackBerry Torch. Now technically, that line from Marvell is capable of going up to 1GHz since it falls under the PXA9XX platform, or in this case -- PXA940 problem is, very little is known about that processor beyond that. So the real question here became does the Curve 9360 support liquid graphics? And does it support OpenGL? We reached out to RIM and asked a few questions about the processor and OpenGL support:
The BlackBerry Curve 9350/9360/9370 all support Liquid Graphics. They each have a GPU and the re-architected graphics pipeline works wonders, so you should notice the fast, responsive UI, which is made possible by Liquid Graphics. And yes, the BlackBerry Curve 9350/9360/9370 models all support OpenGL
Interesting, we know of course "Liquid Graphics" is just a combination of hardware and code optimization but it seems when RIM said they went deep into the code and cleaned it up, they redesigned it all to a certain point.
Keyboard / Typing
Traditional Curve keyboard here
Going as far back as the BlackBerry Curve 8300 when it launched, I always felt the Curve keyboard had a certain "clickiness" to it. And while I loved it on my 8300, the experience of using what, at the time was a BlackBerry Bold 9000 spoiled me. That's not to say I can't use the Curve keyboard -- I can. I just find that you either love it or hate it. The Curve 9360 did nothing to change my mind in that respect, it's a traditional Curve keyboard and if you're a fan of it -- then you'll feel right at home here. It's not mushy. it's not overly clicky or loud but you know, when typing on it that it's a Curve keyboard through and through.
No touchscreen here but the Curve is now on par with the Bold 9780's 480x360 screen
Now, the display. I'm sure a few people out there will leave some comments about how RIM should have upped the display resolution for the Curve series but fact is -- they did. Previous Curve generations made use of a 320x240 display that we can only assume was left over stock from when RIM was producing BlackBerry Curve 8300's but that, is no longer the case. The BlackBerry Curve 9360 is now on par with the likes of the BlackBerry Bold 9780 and comes loaded with a 480x360 display which produces 246ppi and measures 2.44" (measured diagonally). For comparison, the BlackBerry Bold 9900's 2.8-inch (diagonal) 24-bit display runs VGA at 640 x 480 pixels, for 287ppi.
The display is bright and vibrant but does of course lack any touchscreen capability and realistically -- it doesn't need it. For what RIM will be marketing this device as, and for the price it costs; the Touchscreen capability is better left out here. Although, I did often find myself reaching to touch it on many occasion but that was simply born of my Bold 9900 and Torch 9810 usage. For the curious, the screen is made of plastic -- it's actually one big piece that combines the buttons and top portion of the device.
Application Memory after five days of use and a handful of apps installed.
The BlackBerry Curve 9360 ships with 512MB of RAM and has an additional 512MB of on-board memory for media storage. Additionally, there is an expansion slot that supports up to 32GB microSD cards (whether or not a microSD card comes in the box will be carrier dependent - the TELUS unit reviewed here did ship with a 2GB microSD card).
The lack of additional storage space at this point is a concern for a lot of people. Although, I can say I never personally had any issues with a device that had 512MB of RAM and I never use the internal storage provided anyhow. That's what a microSD cared is for and with developers now able to store portions of apps on the SDCard the application space here in my opinion, isn't really a factor.
The Curve 9360's 1000mAh battery is small but should get most people through the day OK.
The second thing instantly noticeable about the BlackBerry Curve 9360 when you unbox it is how small the battery actually is. RIM is making use of a new battery to the Curve line and it's one that is actually lowered powered then the one they are replacing. The new E-M1 battery is set for 1000mAh and the old was set for 1150mAh, but will you notice the difference? Not from my experience -- the new E-M1 battery lasts just as long as my Bold 9780 battery from my usage maybe even better.
Here's how RIM rates the battery life on the BlackBerry Curve 9360:
GSM Talk Time: up to 5 hours; Standby Time: up to 14 days
UMTS Talk Time: up to 5 hours; Standby Time: up to 12 days
Audio Playback Time: up to 25 hours
Video Playback Time: up to 6 hours
So how's the real world battery life been?
I left the Curve 9360 to charge over night, took it off the charger at 10AM and used it all day. Emails, BBM, web, Twitter, Facebook and three 10 minute calls -- even went to the mall, a low coverage area. Come time for bed that night I was sitting at around 30% battery life remaining, slept for four hours woke up to approx. 25% remaining and used it till mid-afternoon. Finally, it showed red and I had to put it on the charger. So if the question you find yourself asking is will it last me a all day? Then the answer I have is yes -- unless for some reason you spend a LOT of time making calls.
Phone, Audio, Data
When it comes to using the BlackBerry Curve 9360 Smartphone as a phone, I had no issues. Attribute that to the device or the Rogers network, that's entirely up to you. I believe it's both really, you need a good device and a good network to have good call quality and if one of those things is missing then somewhere along the line the experience is ruined
Given that the microphone port is right there on the bottom portion of the front bezel, no one had any issues hearing me when I called them. Calls sounded fine, not tinny nor did they have any echo to them and most importantly -- no one told me I sounded like I was talking underwater.
Speaker phone could have been approved, for those listening on the other end it seems fine but when it comes time for them to talk -- you may find yourself hard pressed to hear them as it seems like there isn't enough sound pumping to the speakers -- though, I know the power is there cause music sounds fine when played.
Looking at data usage, you'll be getting a device capable of pushing 7.2Mbps but that's not the 14.4Mbps as seen on other BlackBerry 7 devices. We'll leave the whole 4G vs. FauxG argument alone and just say, you'll be getting 3G speeds here and if you're coming from any other previous BlackBerry you'll have no issues with speed. Though remember, speed is relevant to your carrier for the most part.
Cameras / Video Recording
Video Recording: Still no HD video recording for the Curve series of devices but we assume that is due to the processor used. That said; video quality isn't all that bad. No one should be buying a Curve 9360 based on it's video capture ability but if you need some video, it will do the trick just fine. You can watch the example above that turns out 480p shot at 640x480.
5 Megapixel EDOF Camera:
Taken on the Curve 9360's 5mp EDOF Camera
The debate about the EDoF camera's used on the latest BlackBerry devices rages on. Some people have issues with the camera while others, like myself have no real concerns with it. I've taken plenty of pics on my Bold 9900, none of which I would say turned out horrific. The only time I personally experience issues of concern is when conditions are less then ideal for taking pictures -- like it being dark out or trying to take close up shots of text. For some, such things as taking images of text on paper might be important, and it's true -- other devices like the Bold 9780 do handle that better especially when auto focus comes into play. That said; consider your options and your use cases for the device. Worst case, if you don't like the camera or it doesn't fit your needs -- make use of the return policy.
Not as elegantly hidden as the Bold 9900's NFC Antenna
Much like the BlackBerry Bold 9900, the Curve 9630 does support NFC, or Near Field Communication, which is a short-range wireless technology (4cm or less) that allows two devices to communicate - there's always an initiator and a target. That can mean a few things for usage like bringing the phone close to a poster to launch an action such as downloading an app, or pairing accessories together, or even making wireless payments. However, where NFC is still an emerging technology, the uses for it that are currently supported are rather slim -- which kind of makes us wonder why RIM included it on the Curve 9360 but not other devices. As it stands, usage in the US and Canada is slim -- but usage in other areas such as the UK are more broadly available. As we know it, folks in the UK love BlackBerry devices so maybe RIM was banking on selling a bunch of Curve 9360'S there and NFC getting more use on their cost-effective offering. To learn more on NFC you can read up on it here and be sure to check out the demo video we recorded of NFC in action on the BlackBerry Bold 9900 back at BlackBerry World.
Other Internals - Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi
Connection options aplenty, but no concerns
Bluetooth: The Curve 9360 supports it -- no issues arose in my testing. All devices connected fine and by now, this is the real world expectation.
GPS: The Curve 9360 has GPS on-board, it loads up rather quickly from my testing. It doesn't seem as accurate as the Bold 9900 or the Torch 9810 but it's close enough for it to never be a concern -- it's on par with my Bold 9780 for sure.
WiFi: WiFi connectivity is present: 802.11 b/g/n
What about WiFi hotspot? Nope -- not here, at least not yet. Could come in and update but for now RIM is keeping quiet on the matter. We reached out to RIM on this one too, and got this for a response:
Mobile Hotspot functionality is not available.
It wasn't expected for it to be present anyhow, only the BlackBerry Torch and Bold lines were slated for it at one point or another.
Other Sensors: The BlackBerry Bold 9900 and Torch line include a magnetometer that acts as a digital compass, but that item was left out of the BlackBerry Curve 9360 as the hardware doesn't support it. So, no Wikitude here folks -- sorry. It's kinda creepy anyway.
The BlackBerry Curve 9360's hardware is refreshing
When it comes down to it, the BlackBerry Curve 9360 is a nice piece of hardware all around. Sure, you could nitpick at the fact it doesn't have a faster processor, more RAM and more application storage but that's not really the point. The BlackBerry Curve 9360 exists for those who either don't want or don't need all of those things and just want a BlackBerry that works and doesn't cost a whole lot.
What started life as BlackBerry 6.1 has now transitioned into the new BlackBerry 7 OS. Code optimization, liquid graphics. Swiping, zooming and scrolling all while maintaining the same BlackBerry feel just in a faster, improved environment. That about sums up BlackBerry 7 from a RIM standpoint. But how does all that translate to a current BlackBerry user? Quite nicely in fact.
I'm not going to blow the RIM smoke and say that it's a totally trans-formative experience that'll change the way you look at the BlackBerry OS but I will say things do generally feel better on BlackBerry 7 vs. BlackBerry 6. With built-in features you can tell RIM is getting ready to transition into something bigger, being QNX. But the fact they took the time to clean up the useless code left over from when the BlackBerry OS first starting out shows they're still relying on BlackBerry 7 as we know it to get them through things.
BlackBerry 7 overall feels better then BlackBerry 6 all while maintaining the familiar BlackBerry feeling. Something that I'm sure some will say is a bad thing at this point, claiming RIM needs a complete overhaul to QNX on their smartphones but realistically - RIM will do fine with BlackBerry 7 for now. Coupled with the hardware improvements, even if liquid graphics is something they just made up; they've since turned it into something real by making the changes visible to the end user.
Add in the ability to manage panels, bake in BlackBerry Protect and BlackBerry ID and a browser that is on par with iOS, Android as well as vocal universal search and you add some value to the aging OS for users that is visual and there for all to see. When it comes down to it, RIM should have done this a while ago -- clean up dirty code, get hardware up to snuff and make things more stable but they didn't. We're getting it now, for some it maybe too late but at the same time -- not everyone wants a overnight overhaul into QNX and for those anyone who is fine waiting for RIM to do it right, BlackBerry 7 is a nice subtle change with some real deep down changes.
BlackBerry Curve 9360 Conclusions
Even with a Rogers wallpaper, it still looks sexy
Bottom line, the BlackBerry Curve 9360 meant to be a higher specced device then previous Curve generations wrapped into a sleek and ultimately cost-effective form factor and it does that superbly. It's nice, it feels like a device that will last you a while and get the job done and make you look good while doing it. I think for those who don't need all of what the higher specced and ultimately higher priced devices off, the BlackBerry Curve 9360 is a great choice and am glad to see RIM keep the Curve line alive. The most funny thing about the Curve 9360 though, is the fact that even though it remains the cost-effective device in the line up -- it still blows past by BlackBerry Bold 9780 in terms of speed and how well it functions.
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