For those who have read my post about my experience using the Blackberry Internet Service for the first time knows, my only complaints were not on the service itself but on the Blackberry phone that I was using. When I was testing the service, I was using my own Curve 8520 and I complained about how it wasn’t made for a power user such as myself with its slow processor and EDGE connectivity. By the end of the editorial, I said that because of the affordability of BIS, I would gladly get another Blackberry as long as it had 3G and more processing power.
Well, about a week after I posted it, I was contacted by the PR of Blackberry and asked me if I wanted to test the successor to the Curve 9300 which itself is the successor to my Curve 8520, the Curve 9360. It has more processing power and finally, 3G connectivity. It is also running Blackberry’s latest operating system, OS version 7.
The Curve 9360 is thinner than the 8520, a lot thinner. This gives it a feeling of luxury as compared to its bulky predecessor. The deep silver accents surrounding the face also helps with the high-end feel.
However, things change when you turn the phone around. While the back still has a high-end feel, the back plate is plastic. This means that without a cover or sleeve, the back plate will scratch easily especially when placed in a pocket or a bag with a set of keys or coins.
When the Curve 8520 came out, RIM was touting that it was the first Blackberry for consumers. They even touted that multimedia buttons at the top for listening to music on the phone. These buttons are now gone on the 9360. Instead, the top of the phone is reserved for the Unlock button and the headset jack. The Unlock key molded on the top of the phone which makes it look like a soft key. However, you’ll still need to press the key in order to unlock the keyboard.
The keyboard remains the same which is good as I had already gotten used to the QWERTY keyboard and its feel. I was just able to type with wild abandon knowing that I would, at least, make minimal mistakes.
RIM has not only upgraded to a 5MP sensor on the camera but has also added flash. This is a big step from the 2MP camera with no flash on the 8520. I was able to take sharper photos even in low light situations. However, there is still heavy graining in these types of situations. The flash itself is a bit stronger than what I would have liked but it is a good feature to have especially in a dark environment such as bar or restaurant.
Blackberry OS 7 feels similar and yet very different from the OS 5 on the 8520 (I was able to update the phone from OS 4). The interface does take some getting used to especially coming from the old OS. On the other hand, whereas with the old UI, the Menu is taken as a separate screen, with OS 7, it is integrated to the home screen. If you want access to all of your apps, the apps bar at the bottom of the screen will fill the whole screen revealing all of your apps.
With the new OS, you are also able to set your favorite apps for easy access on a separate page, with another page placing your frequently used apps. There is also another page for the media apps. All these pages are readily accessible on the home screen itself with a flick of the thumb on the optical thumbpad.
Due to the optimizations on the browser itself and the additional processing power, browsing is a lot faster. Another welcome addition to the browser is multiple tabs. I was able to have around 3 tabs on before noticing slowdowns on the phone itself.
One problem I have with the 9360 is the heat. Under constant use (tweeting, browsing, or anything that uses data connection) the phone get uncomfortably warm. At first, I thought it was the battery heating up but I noticed that the heat was originating from a small portion of the phone which I suspect is where the CPU resides. This heat generation also means that the battery gets drained faster. While it will last a whole day without charging, by the time, I get home, it’s already warning me that it needs a charge.
While over all the phone itself is a step up from its predecessor, I still find myself wanting more especially when it comes to the internet browser. I had gotten used to having a bigger screen on touch smartphone that allows me to have readable text and a bigger reading surface. With the screen of the 9360, it’s too small to read text especially if the site is not optimized for mobile viewing.
Unfortunately, as I am writing this review, another competitor was announced and it’s from RIM themselves. While the 9360 was launched just a month ago, RIM has already announced another Curve, the Blackberry Curve 9380 which removes the physical QWERTY keyboard in lieu of a bigger screen and full-touch interface similar to the Blackberry Torch.
Plus: Slimmest Blackberry Curve; Faster than the 8520; Still has the best QWERTY keyboard on a smartphone; OS 7 feels more mature as a smartphone OS than the previous BB OS.
Minus: Gets unbearably hot; Small display for Internet browsing; Will be overshadowed by the 9380
Bottomline: While the Curve 9360 is a good smartphone for business use, browsing still feels dated even with its update.