BlackBerry's Curve range has always been about providing the full Qwerty experience on a modest budget, and that hasn't changed with the Curve 9360.The Curve 9360 manages to pack in a surprising amount of RIM's best gear.
BlackBerry OS 7 is on board, as is near field communication (NFC) technology, which allows you to make contactless payments using your phone; for example, you will be able to pay for a coffee and a sandwich in one of the growing number of outlets where NFC terminals are being installed. You'll also find a nippy processor (by BlackBerry standards, at least), and a 5-megapixel camera. Also included are 3G, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
This screen offers an okay resolution of 480x360 pixels. It's not touch sensitive, but that's not too much of a problem because the optical trackpad beneath it does a very good job of navigating menus and web pages. You can control its sensitivity too, to suit your own preferences. The square-ish shape of the screen lends itself to browsing, though the small size can be an issue, so video and films tend to look cramped.
The QWERTY keyboard is a little marvel of compact usability. The 35 keys are distinctive under the thumbs thanks to BlackBerry's trademark ridges, though they would have been even easier to use with just a tiny bit more space between each of them.
When you've got a whacking great Qwerty keyboard on the front of a phone, it stands to reason that the screen size is going to suffer -- there's just no way you can have a massive display and all those lovely buttons. Unless, that is, you want a phone that's so long you'll never be able to fit it in your pocket.
Naturally, this rule applies to the Curve 9360, which has a rather small 2.44-inch screen. Some Android devices in the same price bracket sport spacious 4.3-inch screens. That makes the Curve 9360's display credentials seem dismal.
On the plus side, with a resolution of 480x360 pixels, the Curve 9360 boasts a pixel density of 246ppi, which ensures a pin-sharp image quality. The TFT LCD panel also provides a bold and colourful image. It makes viewing photos and browsing the web much more pleasing.
BlackBerry Curve 9360 interface
Getting around the Curve 9360's interface will be second nature for BlackBerry addicts.
Unlike its sibling, the BlackBerry Bold 9900, the Curve 9360 doesn't feature a touchscreen. This is very much in keeping with the low-cost ethics of the Curve range. But when you consider that BlackBerry OS 7 has been built to accommodate both physical and touchscreen inputs, it's a let-down.
Touchscreens are appearing even on the cheapest of Android devices, so it wouldn't have broken the bank for RIM to factor one into the Curve 9360's design.
If you've gotten caught up in the mobile CPU race of late, you may be disappointed to learn that the Curve 9360 isn't sporting a flashy dual-core processor.
Instead, there's an 800MHz single-core chip beating at the heart of the phone. This puts it on an equal footing with the Orange Monte Carlo and Motorola Defy -- two Android devices that aren't exactly on the cutting edge.
The humble nature of the CPU doesn't matter. The Curve 9360 positively purrs along, with smooth scrolling, fast loading and generally pleasing performance. That's something that many dual-core Android devices can't muster, despite their raw power.
Of course, it could be argued that BlackBerry OS 7 is taxing the hardware much less than the incredibly versatile Android 2.3, but that's beside the point. RIM has selected what appears to be the ideal processor for the task at hand. We couldn't fault the phone's performance during our review period other than when it came to website rendering (see below).
While previous Curve handsets may have scrimped on features to keep the price low, one area they always excelled in was stamina. The battery life of the Curve 8520 put other smart phones to shame. It would last days rather than hours on a single charge, making it ideal for people who didn't want their handset constantly tethered to a wall socket.
Alas, this era of battery brilliance is coming to an end. As RIM has started to add connectivity options to the Curve range, the stamina of these phones has slowly dropped off. The increased demands of 3G and Wi-Fi mean you'll be charging the Curve 9360 at least once a day -- which is par for the course with many Android devices.
It's not just data traffic levels that cause this unfortunate drop-off in staying power; RIM has packed a 1,000mAh power cell inside the Curve 9360 -- that's a step down from the 1,150mAh version seen in the Curve 3G 9300.
By modern standards, putting such a low capacity battery in a smart phone seems like an almost suicidal choice. By way of comparison, the Galaxy Nexus has a 1,700mAh cell, while the iPhone 4S is sporting a battery with a 1,432mAh capacity.
However, the power demands of both those handsets far exceed those of the Curve 9360. With a single-core 800MHz processor and a small 480x360-pixel screen, RIM's device doesn't drink juice the same way a dual-core monster does.
Consequently, you can easily make the phone last a whole day on one charge, although this will obviously change if you're a heavy user. The bottom line is that BlackBerry phones no longer guarantee impressive stamina. That will be upsetting for many hardcore fans.
When ranked alongside the latest mid-range Android efforts, the BlackBerry Curve 9360 comes across as a disappointment. There's no touchscreen, dual-core processor or HD video recording. The selection of apps available to download is lacklustre.
However, when compared to previous Curve phones, the 9360 cannot be seen as anything other than a massive improvement. The super-thin design is gorgeous and BlackBerry OS 7 runs as smoothly as silk -- despite the humble nature of the 800Hz CPU. BlackBerry Messenger 6 is as great as ever and is sure to keep many a text-loving teen loyal to the brand.
But therein lies the problem -- RIM is effectively preaching to the converted. There's little here that is likely to appeal to anyone who doesn't already own a BlackBerry device. While the company should be commended for improving on its previous efforts, it arguably should be looking at what Google's hardware partners are up to in the mid-range market.
Having said that, the 9360 is unquestionably one of the best Curve . That is likely to be all that matters to hardcore BlackBerry fans shopping on a budget.
For those of you who are unsure, we'd highly recommend that you take a look at what Apple and Google are offering right now before laying down your moolah.