Designed for the budget-conscious world traveler, the BlackBerry Curve 9370 for Verizon Wireless is a slim and sleek phone with a full QWERTY keyboard. Capable of working in up to 200 countries, this device features the latest BlackBerry 7 operating system and lasts all day on a charge. At $99.99, it's a bargain compared to the Bold 9930, too. But is that enough to get smartphone shoppers on board?
At 4.3 x 2.4 x 0.4 inches, the 3.5-ounce Curve 9370 is one of the lightest and most compact smartphones on the market. It's slightly lighter and thinner than the 3.7-ounce BlackBerry Curve 3G 9330 and its 4.3 x 2.4 x 0.5-inch frame, as well as the 4.6 ounce, 4.5 x 2.6 x 0.4-inch BlackBerry Bold 9930.
BlackBerry continues to be synonymous with an industrial design that's as beautiful as it is functional. While not as luxe as BlackBerry's Bold line, the Curve 9370 doesn't feel cheap, either. Its glossy 2.4-inch display sits in a shiny black bezel below a prominent BlackBerry logo. The bezel curves gracefully toward the top and bottom of the headset. Dedicated buttons for Phone, Menu, Back and Home sit beneath the display, bracketing a chrome-wrapped trackpad button.
Click to EnlargeA three-row QWERTY physical keyboard fills the lower half of the Curve 9370. A slate gray metallic band wraps around the edges, adding a nice contrast and playing up the dedicated camera button and the two volume buttons along the right side. The phone's rear panel uses a black matte soft touch plastic with a basket weave pattern, ensuring a firm grip. Overall, the Curve 9370 has a similar design to the Torch 9850, albeit with a physical keyboard instead of a touchscreen.
A headphone jack resides at the top of the phone next to a lock button, while a microUSB jack sits along the left side.
Click to EnlargeThe Curve line has characteristically small keys and the Curve 9370 is no different. However, the 9370's keys have a more rounded shape than previous models, such as the Curve 3G 9330. Typing on the full QWERTY keyboard was quick and responsive. We prefer typing on the BlackBerry Bold 9900's keyboard, which has large keys and springier feedback.
Display and Audio
Click to EnlargeThe Curve 9370's features a tiny 2.4-inch 480 x 360-pixel display. The resolution is a welcome upgrade from the Curve 9330's 2.4-inch 320 x 240p screen, but the lack of touch input seems downright dated in 2012. Instead, you'll need to rely on the optical trackpad, which was fairly easy to operate.
At 466 lux, the Curve handily beat out the 306 lux smartphone average. While text was relatively sharp, we found ourselves straining to read the diminutive text. The "Red Tails" HD trailer on YouTube delivered big explosions with vivid hues of crimson and orange with large plumes of black smoke that popped against the blue sky. However, the trailer was plagued by pervasive graininess, which diminished the viewing experience.
You won't get the loudest audio from the Curve 9370's rear speaker, but you will get crisp, clear sound. When we listened to Anita Baker's "Sweet Love" on Slacker Radio, we could easily distinguish between the piano, strings, bass and percussion in the track as well as Baker's silky alto vocals. There was, however, a bit of tininess at full volume, which led to distortion.
Software and Interface
Click to EnlargeRunning BlackBerry 7 OS, a medium-size clock sits at the top of the Curve 9370's screen, flanked by the date, battery status and mini-notifications for network service. Icons for audio settings and search are directly under the top bar surrounding a new message alert field for our various emails, text messages, missed calls and social networks.
Below, apps can be sorted by several categories, including Frequent, Media, and Favorites. We were able to configure how many apps were shown on the home screen (between 1-3 rows) by clicking on the title bar.
Other notable BlackBerry 7 OS features include an HTML-5 powered Web browser (but no Flash support) and voice search capability in Universal Search. The OS can also utilize augmented reality applications and NFC, which allows the Curve 9370 to interact with other NFC-enabled devices.
Thanks to Liquid Graphics technology, which delivers smoother rendering and fluid animations, scrolling through apps and home screens using the trackpad was very fluid and responsive, with little to no latency.
Email, Messaging and BBM
Click to EnlargeThe Curve 9370 just wouldn't be a BlackBerry without some serious messaging chops. The handset can hold up to 10 email accounts plus one BlackBerry email account, meaning we could add our old Excite.com email if we were so inclined. It also can sync up with Microsoft Exchange for mobile professionals.
In addition, the three onboard instant messaging clients (Yahoo! Messenger, Windows Live Messenger and Google Talk) gave us plenty of ways to keep in contact with all our friends and family. BlackBerry's Social Feeds app aggregated all that chatter into a manageable feed, allowing us to answer at will.
BlackBerry Messenger, the preferred means of communication for BlackBerry users, is also included. BBM allows users to chat and create groups as well as share photos and images. There are a number of apps that boast deep BBM integration, too. Foursquare enables users to post check-ins and badges to BMM and chat with both Foursquare and BBM users. We used ScoreMobile for BlackBerry to chat with fellow Giants fans. We could also find other BBM users near us using Wikitude and its augmented reality.
Specs and Performance
The 800-MHz processor in the Curve 9370 delivered a moderately fast experience. Opening and switching between apps took about a second. The camera opened in approximately two seconds. However, it also took two seconds to snap a picture and another second before the camera was ready to take the next shot. However, we were able to play a few rounds of "BrickBreaker" while simultaneously streaming from Slacker Radio with three open Web pages.
The Curve 9370 comes with a prepackaged 2GB microSD card but can be expanded to a 32GB card.
Web Browsing and 3G
Click to EnlargeAlthough BlackBerry 7 OS' Web browser is supposed to be optimized for zooming and panning, we continually encountered problems on this front. In many cases, clicking the touchpad caused the page to zoom in too far, forcing us to pan from side to side to see the full picture.
After the page zoomed in, we saw about a second of extreme graininess or annoying blocks of checkerboard as the page adjusted to the size change. We also encountered the checkerboard effect as we scrolled down the page or panned left to right. However, we liked being able to view and open multiple tabs using the tab icon in the top right corner.
Unfortunately, loading Web pages was rather sluggish over Verizon's 3G network. The mobile versions of ESPN.com, NYTimes.com and CNN.com took 14.4, 11.4, and 8.4 seconds to load, respectively. The desktop version of Laptopmag.com took 42.3 seconds. By comparison, mobile devices on Verizon's 4G LTE network are able to load mobile sites in an average of 4 seconds and full desktop sites within 15 seconds.
Downloading apps was also a trial of patience. Foursquare, a relatively small file at 1.2MB, took about a minute to load.
The BlackBerry App store remains fairly anemic at just over 43,000 apps, compared to the Android Market and Apple's App store, which might explain the Curve 9370's relatively light suite of preloaded apps.
BlackBerry-branded apps include Backup Assistant, Password Keeper, Social Feeds and BlackBerry Protect, which allows users to locate their device as well as remotely wipe or lock it. Verizon also bundles the Curve 9370 with a number of its own apps, such as VZ Navigator, VCast Videos, VCast Song ID and Vzw Tones.
Third-party apps include Documents To Go, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Bing Slacker Radio.
Camera and Camcorder
Click to EnlargeCapturing stills and videos using the Curve 9370's 5-megapixel camera delivered mixed results. Shots of the neighborhood flower shop yielded some great colors, including vibrant magentas and periwinkle blues. However, we experienced blurring with a few of our shots despite using some of the various settings (such as Landscape, Night and Party).
Our 480p video of New York City Traffic delivered bold colors with fairly sharp detail. We were able to read the text on the side of a taxi as well as on the awning across the street. Still, we noticed the camera had trouble focusing when we panned up to the sky.
The BlackBerry Curve 9370 lacks a front-facing camera, so video chatting is out of the question.
Call Quality and Battery Life
Calls made on Verizon Wireless' network were loud with crisp, clear audio. Whether our callers were on cellphones or landlines, they reported high-quality audio with little to no background noise. There was a second of delay when connecting to landlines, however. The speakerphone delivered loud audio on our end, though some of our callers reported a slight echo.
BlackBerry claims that the Curve 9370's 1000 mAh Standard Lithium battery can last for 5.5 hours of talk time. During our testing, which included social networking, light Web surfing and streaming audio, the Curve 9370 had approximately 25 percent battery life after 11 hours. That's a lot longer than most Android phones currently on the market.
Click to EnlargeThe $99.99 BlackBerry Curve 9370 offers all the tried-and-true features BlackBerry users have come to expect in a very compact design. You get a solid keyboard, great messaging capability and long battery life, with world phone capability as a bonus. However, the sluggish 3G Web browsing, small screen with no touch capability, and standard-def video recording make this device a tough sell. If you really want a BlackBerry on Verizon, we say get the Bold 9930 ($199 on Verizon, $59 on Amazon), which adds a sharper touch screen and HD video recording.
For $50 less than the Curve 9370, the Droid 3 has a larger 4-inch qHD display, a great keyboard, and the robust Android Market. And for the same $99 price as this Curve, you can pick up the Samsung Stratosphere, which sports a full keyboard and faster 4G LTE data. We suppose the BlackBerry Curve 9370 is a decent choice for the BlackBerry faithful, but handsets like this help explain why that group is shrinking.