I’m in my 30s and was an adult when mobile telephony was introduced in India in the mid-90s. One abiding memory of the time - besides the ridiculously high tariffs - was the size of the mobile phones. You could carry a brick in one hand and a phone in another and unless you looked, you wouldn’t know the difference. I also remember some of RIM’s early, clunky BlackBerry smartphones and when I first opened the box that RIM’s new 9360 Curve came in, I was struck by how far the BlackBerry range had come—something similar to how far mobile phones have come from the quite-literal bricks of mid-90s.
In a line, the new BlackBerry Curve 9360 is the first BlackBerry that lives up to the Curve brand. Truly curvy, if there’s one USP of this smartphone, it’s brilliant design that makes it perhaps the sexiest BlackBerry on the market.
First word: Wow! Every marketing team uses words like sleek and lightweight (am sure they did this back in the 90s too), but the BlackBerry Curve 9360 being described as sleek and lightweight isn’t marketing spiel but quite close to Gospel truth. RIM says the BlackBerry Bold 9900 is the thinnest BlackBerry, clocking in at 10.5 mm, but smart design makes this 11 mm smartphone seem even thinner. And it weighs under 100 gms, so it’s definitely the lightest BlackBerry out there. Dimensions are 109 mm x 60 mm x 11 mm.
It’s the way the back curves and fuses seamlessly into the face of the smartphone—it’s an optical illusion, but it certainly looks like the 9360 is razor thin and the lack of weight completes the illusion. An elegant, grey metal rim is at the back and despite the smooth rear battery cover (Near Field Communication antenna on the underside), grip is excellent because of a thin rubberised strip between the cover and the metal rim. Gone are the clunky side buttons of earlier BlackBerry smartphones too. Okay, they were really not clunky but when you compare the earlier buttons to the contoured rubberised fins that are part of the rubber casing, which now act as buttons, the older stuff seems clunky in comparison.
Familiar BlackBerry Curve rear
On the right side of the 9360 there are now four buttons, as opposed to the usual three—a practice that started with the Bold 9900. The two media buttons are great, but the Pause button isn’t a complete fin and I think it’s too tiny. The bottom one is a convenience key you can customise as per your liking. Unfortunately, there's no convenience key on the left, a bad omission that also began with the 9900. There's a micro USB port for charging and sync while the standard 3.5mm audio out slot is on top with a lock button. I like the fact that the audio out is on top—the smartphone fits easier in the pocket.
Speaking of which, this was one BlackBerry I wouldn’t want a holster for—no more ugly bulges in trouser front pockets. And unlike other BlackBerry rear covers, which usually open from the bottom or sometimes the top, this one opens from one side and fits back in so snug without a lock, I’m once again left drooling over the design. Seriously, RIM, couldn’t you have got this team to also design the Bold 9900? I love the Bold but when I see what they’ve done with the Curve 9360, I wish the Bold used similar design cues.
The keypad is better than older Curve series and despite being no match to RIM’s best keypads on the Bold series, can hold their own against keypads built by any other smartphone maker. And in another welcome change, the microSD card is hot swappable. A feature that’s missing in RIM’s high-end Bold 9900.
Features & Performance
The 9360 Curve comes with a 2.44-inch, 480 x 360 pixel transmissible TFT LCD that is quite sharp thanks to BlackBerry 7 OS' Liquid Graphics technology. Pretty good for a mid-range smartphone. At the heart of the 9360 is a new processor and while it doesn’t cross the Gigahertz barrier with a Qualcomm Scorpion, the 800 MHz 32-bit Marvell PXA940 is powerful enough to ensure a smooth user experience. To put things in perspective, remember that the Bold 9780, which was released less than a year ago, was powered by a 624 MHz Marvell processor.
A nice side profile
The Curve comes with 512 MB of RAM and 512 MB ROM—the lack of onboard memory I didn’t like one bit, especially when all the recent BlackBerry smartphones have featured fairly generous amounts of onboard memory. The microSD/SDHC slot supports up to 32 GB memory cards for additional media storage. I used the 9360 with BES enabled on a 3G network and found it quite quick and responsive. Though I’m spoiled by the top-end Bold 9900 and its speedier processor, I didn’t find a noticeable performance lag. GPS and Wi-Fi support are included in the 9360.
I’m not going to dwell on OS 7 and you can read up on my take on OS 7 here. Suffice it to say that despite a slower processor as compared to other BlackBerry smartphones running OS 7, the Curve 9360 holds its own. OS 7 app problems are still a painful reality though and many of my older OS 6 apps still don’t work on OS 7. And for those who think you can upgrade an older BlackBerry to OS 7, you can’t. So, even if you got the Bold 9780 a few months ago, you’re stuck with OS 6.