BlackBerry Curve 9320 review

As with every smartphone these days, the BlackBerry Curve 9320 is aimed at social networkers. To this end RIM says the Curve 9320 is blessed with good battery life and connectivity, as well as 'social-centric' features that include a dedicated button for BlackBerry's popular BBM instant messaging service.

The Curve 9320 retails SIM-free for around £150, and costs from around £10 a month on contract. Given its feature set, this makes it a value proposition: just don't expect an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S for a fraction of the price - with only a single-core 806MHz processor the Curve 9320 is very much on the budget end of the scale. See also: Group test: what's the best smartphone?

BlackBerry Curve 9320: build and design

It's plasticky and light-weight, but the BlackBerry Curve 9320 feels well put together. It's squat shape with shiny curved back feels comfortable in the palm of your hand. All the edges are, well, curved and at 60x109x12.7mm it's thicker than the Curve 9360, but small and thin for a smartphone. The Curve 9320 weighs just 103g, which again isn't the lightest for a BlackBerry phone, but is still on the light side for a full-featured handset.

You'll know the Curve 9320 is a budget smartphone when you first fire up the screen. If you're used to iPhone, Nokia Lumia or Samsung Galaxy levels of loveliness, the 9320's 164ppi display will appear absurdly small and old fashioned. But those are unfair comparisons: this phone costs a fraction of what the aforementioned handsets do, and its 2.4in, 320x240 display is as good as it needs to be. Just don't start prodding at it: the Curve 9320 eschews a touchscreen in favour of the traditional BlackBerry hardware qwerty keyboard.

This keyboard will feel familiar to BlackBerry fans, and cripplingly ineffecient to those more used to onscreen touchscreen keyboards that offer haptic feedback. The keys are tiny, raised plastic buttons that click when pushed. Above the keyboard is a row of five buttons, the middle of which is a trackpad which doubles as an enter key for navigating around the Curve 9320. The other keys are call, menu, back one step, and hang up, the latter of which doubles as the on/off switch. Like the qwerty keys, these buttons need a push to register a click.

On the left of the Curve 9320 is the dedicated BBM button, which will be useful to the vast numbers of people who swear by BlackBerry's Messenger service. In our clumsy hands, however, it meant we kept unintentionally launching BBM. On the righthand side are the volume buttons, as well as an odd little shortcut button: by default it fires up the camera, but you can assign other functions as you see fit.

There's only 512MB of onboard storage, but you have the opportunity to add in up to another 32GB via a MicroSD card. You'll want to.

BlackBerry Curve 9320: connectivity

The Curve offers all the basics you'd expect from a modern smartphone: Wi-Fi is supported up the wireless N, and you get HSDPA/HSUPA 3G cellular connectivity, as well as GPS and Bluetooth, and the bonus of an FM radio. By defualt you can also broadcast your 3G connection as a wireless hotspot (although this may quickly eat up your data allowance).

BlackBerry Curve 9320: battery life

BlackBerry has seen fit to equip the Curve 9320 with a healthy 5.3Wh power pack. Battery life is noticeably good, the best we've come across for a 3G device. The Curve sails past the usual acid test for a smartphone: a full day of intensive use. In fact, but using it intermittently for email and web browsing and the occasional calls we could comfortably get through a couple of days. Kudos to RIM for that.

BlackBerry Curve 9320: camera

The Curve 9320's camera sits around the back of the device. You may quickly decide that this is exactly where it should stay: the Curve 9320 is unlikely to replace your standalone point and shoot camera.

The Curve 9320's camera has a 3.2Mp sensor and an LED flash. Perversely, the paucity of the Curve's display means that images taken on the phone don't look too bad on its screen, or at least no worse than all images on such a small screen. There's an image stabilisation function, but it's barely worth mentioning (it barely works).

Images aren't bad exactly, just a little flat and lacking in detail:

BlackBerry Curve 9320 test shot

BlackBerry Curve 9320 test shot

NEXT PAGE: BlackBerry Curve 9320 calling, messaging and internet; plus the OS and media player >>



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