Sunday

BlackBerry Curve 9310 review




When RIM sent the BlackBerryCool HQ a budget-minded BlackBerry 7 device the BlackBerry Curve 9320, there weren’t a lot of takers. One in particular claiming that going from a Bold 9900 keyboard to a lesser model was simply not in the cards for his pampered thumbs.
I’ve always regarded the BlackBerry Curve line of phones to be the ones that simply work. They’re less buggy than initial releases of other lines of BlackBerry devices and developers seem to have no problem finding the time to make a great build of their app for the Curve series. I was on a BlackBerry 9810 so I do consider this a bit of a downgrade in terms of screen and camera.

I’ve been trying figure out what the Curve’s secret sauce is, what feature or combination of factors make it something people want in their purse or pocket. Tens of millions of people can’t be wrong, I’m sure a number of Curve owners hate their phone but there’s something special about the Curve that makes it a hit: Value.
The Curve series has a remarkable ability of working well despite never trying to be cutting edge: like the Honda Civic of smartphones.
Design
The BlackBerry Curve 9310 doesn't have any design surprises hidden anywhere. It still sports the same black, plastic, and professional aesthetic as most RIM devices. It stands 4.29 inches tall, 2.36 inches wide, and half an inch thick. Weighing 3.67 ounces, it's a featherweight compared with other modern smartphones.
It's a cinch to maneuver with just one hand and my thumb had no problem reaching across the keyboard to press buttons. The handset fits easily into the front or back pockets of my jeans and walking around with it was comfortable. It wasn't bulky being carried on my person, and I could easily toss it in a small bag or clutch.
On the left is a subtle bump that is tucked underneath the rubber accent that runs along the Curve 9310's edges. It is a BBM shortcut key for instant messaging. Above that is a Micro-USB port. Up top are a 3.5mm headphone jack and the lock/unlock button for the keyboard. To the right are a volume rocker and a convenience key, meant to quickly open whatever application you choose (though the camera is set as the default). Both the volume and convenience buttons look like bumps underneath the phone's surface.
The back hosts the 3.2 camera lens, which is on the left side. Way on the right side resides the LED flash. There is no small indentation on the black plate that you can use to help remove the backing. Instead, you need to push the plate downward to detach it from the rest of the 9310. When you get it off, you can see the 1450mAh lithium ion battery and microSD card slot.
The device has a 2.44-inch LCD screen with a resolution of 320x240 pixels. The display shows 164ppi and is impressively bright. Colors came off vivid and rich, even though the images themselves didn't look so crisp. Default wallpaper and photos looked grainy and color gradients showed noticeable streaking. Text and menu icons also had aliasing along the edges.
Above the display is a speakerphone and LED flash indicator. Directly below are a send key (which makes and answer calls), a menu key, the signature touch-pad key, a back/escape key, and an end/power key. The touch pad key was responsive and worked well. It sensitively picked up the slightest of my finger strokes and registered quickly with the screen.
Underneath these sets of buttons is the four-row portrait keyboard. Though the handset itself is small, the keyboard didn't feel cramped. True, the keys aren't as graciously sized as I've seen in other QWERTY phones, but they were all effortless to press with little to no resistance. Their protruding bubble shape made each key easy to locate, and I had enough space that I could press just one button at a time. The curve layout is attractive as it is standard, and typing out messages was a breeze.
Display
Bright, Low-res, and cheap. If you’re the type to want to browse PDFs or work on documents you may want to go for a BlackBerry 9900 instead.  
BlackBerry 7.1 is a great OS for this little device. With it you can make a mobile hotspot making your laptop a fully connected wherever you get data on your phone.
BlackBerry Maps-I know RIM has been pushing for their 1st party mapping app to take hold, but 5 seconds after downloading Google Maps for BlackBerry It had me on GPS. I’m indoors not facing any window, when I tried to load BlackBerry Maps it launched on a featureless map at maximum zoom with my location estimation changing from this moment to the next. I give the first party mapping a try every time I get a new device and it always pales in comparison to Google’s offering.
BlackBerry 7 is great if you’re coming from BlackBerry 6 or older devices. It’s very fast to bounce between email and your apps. The transitions between pages are lightning-quick
Keyboard
The Chicklet style keypad is compact and the clicky feedback and stiff keys make for error-free typing. I barely press the backspace button anymore because the way the keyboard works is that every button press is entirely deliberate.
One-handed operation is where the keyboard really shines, you can press any key on the device with either your left or your right hand. I think has more to do with the weight balance of the phone. My BlackBerry 9810 was terrible for this and get wobbly and top-heavy when attempting one-handed operation.
Features
BlackBerry Curve 9320, 9310, 9220 Users: Do You Actually Use the BBM Button? (Poll) 

The BlackBerry 7.1 OS comes with a few new features and updates. These include an FM radio, Wi-Fi calling, mobile hot-spot capabilities, auto suggest in the universal search function, and BlackBerry Tag for NFC-enabled devices. Unfortunately, I was only able to access the FM radio on the Curve 9310. Though it worked reliably and was simple and easy to use (the only downside is that it only plays if you have a headset plugged in), features like mobile hot spots and Wi-Fi calling are unavailable either due to device incapability or a lack of support from Boost.
You'll still get plenty of the usual applications as well, like a Web browser, Slacker Radio, BBM 6.1, BlackBerry Maps, YouTube, BlackBerry Conference Calls, a data protection and backup assistant, the BlackBerry App World store, and a handful of social networking apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Social Feeds, which consolidates all your feeds into one location.
Other basic apps include a calendar, e-mail, an alarm clock, two games (BrickBreaker and World Mole), a memo pad, a task list, a calculator, Documents to Go, a voice dialer and note recorder, and a password keeper.

Camera and video
Photo options for the 3.2 megapixel camera includes flash, a 4x digital zoom, geotagging, 11 scene modes (auto, face detection, portrait, sports, landscape, party, close-up, snow, beach, night, and even text for taking pictures of, well, text). There's also image stabilization, and three picture sizes you can save photos in. Video recording options include 1.8x digital zoom, continuous flash, five scene modes, and two video formats (normal and MMS mode).
Photo quality was mediocre. Colors appeared overly saturated and objects were blurred. Edges were not well-defined, and dark hues were hard to distinguish from each other. Taking pictures against a white background showed a lot of digital noise and graininess.
Video fared a little better. There was a bit of a lag time between my moving of the camera and the recorded feedback, and objects for the most part were in focus and crisp (though there was slight aliasing on the edges). However, because there's no auto-focus, lighting was all over the place. White light coming from windows would be washed out, and dark objects weren't well-defined.
Performance
I tested the dual-band (CDMA 800, 1900) BlackBerry Curve 9310 in San Francisco using Boost Mobile's network. Call quality was solid. There was no extraneous buzzing or noise, none of my calls were dropped, and audio didn't clip in and out. Voices were audible, but a bit muffled. Turning up the volume helped a lot, and on its maximum level, my friends came in loud and clear. I was told that I too sounded a bit muted as well. Speakerphone was impressive, however. In addition to calls with my friends, I was surprised that audio from music and YouTube videos packed a big punch from such a small device.
Though the 9310 is able to connect to Boost's 3G network, it's heavily promoted under the carrier's shrinking $45-a-month BBM plan, which gives users access to the Web only through a Wi-Fi connection. An unlimited plan that includes data starts out at $60 a month. Boost's network isn't the fastest, but it does the job. The device took an average of 9 and 14 seconds to load CNET and ESPN's mobile sites, respectively. (Desktop versions of both sites weren't available). It took 56 seconds to load The New York Times' desktop site, and 14 seconds for its mobile site, on average.
The phone's reported talk time is 8 hours. Although I haven't finished our battery drain tests, anecdotally, the phone has a great battery life. Only about a 30 percent of the battery drained after I spent the day browsing the Internet, talking on the phone, and watching videos. I didn't even have to charge it after that and there was plenty enough battery for the next day. According to FCC radiation tests, the phone has a digital SAR rating of 1.58W/kg.
Conclusion
Though it's certainly no game changer, the Curve 9310 is a reliable device that sticks to what BlackBerry devotees (however few and far between) come to love. Its familiar portrait keyboard, complete with touch-pad navigation, is still easy to use and makes texting a walk in the park. Call quality was perfectly satisfactory and audio from the speaker was impressive. And if you're to keen on high specs, the phone's 3.2 megapixel camera is enough to get by.