It seems like there’s no stopping RIM from launching new devices. The latest to make it out from the Canadian firm is the 9380. Following in the footsteps of the Torch 9860, the Curve 9380 is designed to try and offer as much with lower specs and naturally, at a lower price. Here’s what we thought.

Form Factor
It’s designed to look just like its bigger brother from the Torch family with a few alterations here and there. To start off with, it has smaller display – 3.2-inches (capacitive) with a lower resolution of 360 x 480 pixels. That’s not an issue at all, since viewing angles in all lighting conditions are quite good. The raised buttons from the 9860 have been replaced with flat surface keys and can be just a little tricky to press, since there’s no real bifurcation of the buttons. The large Screen lock on the top curved surface coupled with the overall “stretched-over-the-edge” look of the handset makes it slightly difficult to tap when required. RIM’s TrackPad technology is still top notch.

Much lighter than big brother

Much lighter than big brother

One issue did persist, though and that’s the ‘scratch-magnet’ display. We had the same issue with the 9860. Within just a week or so of usage, simply placing it or removing it from your pocket is enough to create a rather unsightly surface on the display, which gives the 9380 a rather “used” look. With the screen on, though, you’ll hardly notice the marks as the vibrant colors manages to conceal the faults, quite well.

Looks sharp even from the rear

Looks sharp even from the rear

Just like the Curve 9360, the 9380 also features a rear panel than can easily be popped out using the protruding (rubberized) volume keys on the side. A hot swap memory card slot is also available under the cover. Internal memory has also been reduced to 512 MB, but the 9380 still retains a 5MP camera (only it’s fixed focus this time) with an LED flash. MicroUSB charging/PC interfacing is also available and BlackBerry’s convenience key is placed just below the volume/media buttons. A 3.5mm handsfree is placed at the top. At just 98g, the 9380 is very lightweight and easy to manage and all in all, it’s quite a neat looking product.

Features and Performance
Interface
The Curve 9380 runs BlackBerry OS 7 on an 806MHz processor and does it quite well. There’s no noticeable lag in UI functioning and usability. One glitch that didn’t seem to go away was the handset hanging, or rather, screen's freezing when we tried downloading apps via the AppWorld application. This persisted even after we reset the device. One could attribute this to it being a bug in the test piece and we can only hope so. The on-screen QWERTY keypad seemed to be much more responsive for typing as compared to its higher-end companion. Response time overall was quick and without hassle from activating apps to playing games and multi-tasking.

A toned-down version of the Torch 9860

A toned-down version of the Torch 9860


Media
As usual, when it comes to audio quality, RIM has made sure that your music experience is top notch. With the audio booster and EQ presets thrown in, the Curve 9380 is crisp, clear and loud enough to one never having to worry about ever peaking the volume. Bass levels pack in a decent punch, even without the EQ presets or Audio Boost being activated. When it comes to video playback the 9380 reads most files including a few in AVI formats, but not all. MOV, WMV and MP4 files with resolutions of up to 704 x 480 and 640 x 480 played without any problems. A couple of 720p files in MP4 and MOV formats were also good to go with minor lag noticeable, but not enough to hinder watching the videos.

No big issues with media

No big issues with media

RIM is still sticking to the same old pre-loaded games even after all these years – BrickBreaker and Word Mole. It’s about time we saw something a little more lively and modern or at least a little graphics heavy for the higher-end devices. There’s also no FM radio. Something else RIM should consider adding to their portfolio of devices.

Connectivity
The Curve 9380 is equipped for most of today’s available net connectivity options like 3G, Wi-Fi, EDGE and GPRS with BIS (BlackBerry Internet Service) and BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) options. Regular office and personal e-mail accounts are also readily available and easy to set up using the wizard. The updated browser for OS 7 may not support Flash, but is nevertheless quite speedy and well planned for usability.

Plenty of connectivity options available

Plenty of connectivity options available

The usual connectivity based and social networking apps like Google Talk, MSN Live, Yahoo! Messenger and of course, BBM are all accounted for. Facebook and Twitter apps and BlackBerry’s Social Feed app were pre-loaded as well. Contacts integration with your Google and Facebook accounts is easy to set up for quick cloud storage solutions. A dedicated YouTube app is still not available and you’ll be directed to the mobile YouTube page via the pre-installed shortcut. Wikitude can also be quite handy and is also included out-of-the-box. RIM still persists on preloading BlackBerry Maps even though they haven’t yet (again, it’s been years now) released maps for India. They have thrown in a compass though.

Misc. Features
The few extras that you’ve got to play with include BlackBerry Protect for remote wiping, transferring data to a new device and backing up as well as restoring data when you need to. Regular features like Documents to Go, Voice Notes, a Password Keeper app, Calculator, Tasks, Calendar and a Memo pad are also on board.

Camera
BlackBerry has loaded up the 9830 with a 5MP fixed focus camera, complete with LED flash and Image Stabilization, Face Detection, Night Shot and quite a few other preset modes. On the whole, image quality was quite average. Details looked quite crisp on the smaller resolution display, but in native, the details looks very pastel and colors blended with each other in some areas. One tends to expect a little more from a 5MP camera on a phone with this type of price tag. Indoor shots with the flash, on the contrary, seemed much better with proper lighting adding to the overall clarity. 

Not the best 5MP camera out there

Not the best 5MP camera out there

Battery
With a 1230mAh battery powering the handset, we didn’t expect too much. In our stand alone video test, we were able to get about 6 hours and 15 minutes of playback on a single charge with connectivity shut off. In our tech2 Loop Test, though the results were not even close to being too good – the 9380 ran for one full loop that consisted of two hours of video, 1.5 hours of talk time, two hours audio playback and 2 hours of audio streaming. We ran all of this with internet running in the background downloading e-mails, other notifications etc. We were still able to get about 20 minutes worth of video in the second loop, before the handset went completely dead. That’s just about average, but adequate for about a full day’s usage and a little bit of the next, as well. However, if you’re heavily dependant on emails and messaging, then you’re liable to end up charging your handset before a full day is out.

The Bottom Line
The Curve 9380 bears a price tag of Rs.20,990. In our opinion, that’s just a tad more on the steep side, especially for a Curve series handset. While the handset itself proved to be reasonably versatile and handled itself quite well overall, the current price is, again, just a little too much. Nevertheless, if you’re not willing to shell out Rs.5,000 to Rs.6,000 more for the Torches or the Touch and Type Bold handsets, then you should consider this one. But for right now, the Curve 9380 is the cheapest, totally touchscreen BlackBerry out there that does have some pretty cool features to offer.

Publish date: November 26, 2011 3:41 pm| Modified date: December 18, 2013 9:01 pm

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