BlackBerry Curve 9380: RIM’s salvation?

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The new BlackBerry looks slim, packs BlackBerry 7 OS and attempts to straddle the business market while making a play for fashion-conscious users

While BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) has a reputation for including physical keyboards on its smartphones, it’s actually been in the touchscreen business for a long time.

Way back in 2008, after seeing the surging success of the iPhone 3G, RIM released the BlackBerry Storm, complete with an unusual screen that pressed down like a button. Sadly for RIM, it proved to be a flop. In 2010, the firm returned with a hybrid model, the BlackBerry Torch 9860, which has been followed by a string of models that have seen RIM introduce touchscreens into almost all of its phones.

Slim and sturdy
The Curve brand is RIM’s budget smartphone line, and the Curve 9380 screams ‘affordable’ specs with its sub-1GHz processor, low-resolution 320×480 touchscreen and 512MB of internal storage. Specification has never been at the heart of the BlackBerry proposition, however, and there’s a reason so many of the eight million BlackBerrys being used in the UK right now are Curves.

RIM was never known for crafting attractive, petite smartphones. The Torch and Torch 2 are clumpy, Star Trek-style business devices, but that all changed with the recent introduction of the Curve 9360, a new-entry level model that’s just 11mm thick, and seems even thinner.  The BlackBerry Curve 9380 mimics its design language, despite the absence of buttons.

Plastic fantastic
While the chrome trim, domed top and bottom and heavy use of black plastic have all been hallmarks of BlackBerry for years, they don’t feel cheap or tired here due to that thin profile and 98g weight.

Physically, it’s not lacking anything, though it doesn’t throw in any surprises. While the clicky SurePress screen of the Storm is thankfully long gone, you still get a row of buttons below the display that are part of the plastic front face. They’re easy enough to push down and that ease of use is shared by the small optical trackpad. In practice, we rarely used it, but it was useful for accurate text selection.

Change at the top
The left hand-side features a micro USB charger, while the right holds the standard volume controls and camera key. One change Curve users might not be used to has taken place on top: dedicated media keys have now been removed, and the whole top side now acts as a screen lock key. In a welcome addition, the 3.5mm audio jack has been moved to the top.

Full article in Mobile News issue 505 (January 16, 2012).

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