RIM BlackBerry Curve 9310 (Verizon Wireless), The last thing RIM needs right now, after its middling, behind-the-times BlackBerry Curve 9370 ($99.99, 3 stars), is an even lower-end version, but that's exactly what we have here with the BlackBerry Curve 9310 ($49.99 direct). While it still has the same fluid interface and amazing keyboard for such a compact device, it also has virtually none of the features it needs to work as a modern smartphone. And while we'd love to recommend the 9310 as an inspired, entry-level texting phone, Verizon isn't pricing it like one, with plans starting at a whopping $80 per month. All of this leaves the Curve 9310 in search of a customer.
Design and Keyboard
The BlackBerry Curve 9310 certainly looks a lot classier than cheaper texting phones. It measures 4.3 by 2.4 by 0.5 inches (HWD) and weighs 3.7 ounces. It's made entirely of plastic, but with a pleasant, soft touch back panel, tapered edges, and a muted, matte gray plastic rim around the front panel.
The 2.4-inch, 320-by-240-pixel LCD screen has no touch capability, and what is now considered the absolute minimum screen resolution on a contemporary smartphone. The Curve has had the same screen resolution over its entire five-year lifespan, with the exception of the 8900 series in early 2009, and the Curve 9370, which RIM released around the start of 2012 and is still current; both of those phones have 480-by-360-pixel LCDs. Regardless, you really need higher than 320-by-240 for browsing the Web and running apps.
I've always liked RIM's optical trackpad, which is more durable than the old trackballs and more flexible than the original thumb wheel. It's great for controlling the on-screen cursor and selecting icons. Four prominent function buttons bracket the trackpad, and are the best I've tried on a BlackBerry. A new dedicated BBM shortcut key on the side fires up BlackBerry Messenger instantly, where you can share photos, videos, and documents and conduct group meetings as well as regular back-and-forth conversations with one person.
RIM got the Curve's QWERTY keyboard right a long time ago, even though it occasionally fiddles with the key shape and spacing. This one is also stellar. The Curve 9310 is a small phone, just like it always was—Bolds are for bigger hands, Curves are for smaller hands. But I can positively fly on this keyboard, which has just the right key size, travel, and click response. I wish I could take it and glue it to some other phones.
Call Quality, OS, and Apps
The Curve 9310 is a dual-band EV-DO Rev A (850/1900 MHz) device with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. I had no problem connecting to our WPA2-encrypted network in the PCMag Labs. The Curve 9310 isn't a world phone like the Curve 9370, though. Voice quality is fine, with a clear tone in the earpiece, and crisp transmissions through the microphone. Reception is below average; I heard some choppiness in the signal that wasn't there in the same spot on an iPhone 4 on Verizon.
Calls sounded clear through an Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset ($129, 4 stars). Voice dialing only worked if I spoke very slowly and loudly; otherwise it wasn't accurate enough. The speakerphone went nice and loud, albeit with a touch of distortion at top volume. Battery life was solid at 8 hours and 16 minutes of talk time.
A speedy (for this application) 800MHz processor is on board, along with BlackBerry OS 7.1. That should have been BlackBerry 10, but RIM has delayed that OS so many times now, we're not sure if we'll ever see it. The Curve 9310 is fairly simple to navigate, with a clear layout, a sluggish stock Web browser, and enough basic apps to keep you busy. It's still great with push email. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube clients keep you somewhat connected to this decade. VZ Navigator offers voice-enabled, turn-by-turn GPS navigation, but it's pricey at $10 per month, and there are no free or one-time fee apps available like on Android and iOS smartphones.
BlackBerry App World contains roughly 40,000 apps now. But that's far below anything you can get on other smartphones, and most of the apps here aren't nearly as powerful as their iOS, Android, or even Windows Phone counterparts. And just as it was at launch time in April 2009, BlackBerry App World itself remains buggy, with some downloads and pages not completing properly and taking multiple tries. If you like apps, stay far away.
Multimedia, Camera, and Conclusions
BlackBerrys were good music players back when few other phones were, and that continues here. (Back then, DRM was still a problem, so not as many people used their phones as music players as they do now.) The microSD card slot works with cards up to 32GB; my 32GB SanDisk card worked fine. You'll need one, because there's a paltry 91MB of free internal storage available. There's a standard-size 3.5mm headphone jack up on top, Slacker delivers free, streaming music, and there's a new FM radio, in a nod to the seventies. Music tracks sounded fine over Plantronics BackBeat Go Bluetooth headphones ($99, 4 stars). Standalone MP4, WMV, AVI, and Xvid videos up to 640-by-480-pixel resolution transcoded down and played fine, but DivX was out.
The 3.2-megapixel fixed focus camera has an LED flash, and now supports image stabilization, face detection, and geotagging—all welcome upgrades. Aside from that, this is still the same camera I've tested many times before on prior Curves, and it doesn't perform much differently here; it's also lower-end than the 5-megapixel sensor in the Curve 9370. You get decent shots in outdoor light and grainy photos indoors with inky black areas, though at least the flash is reasonably bright. Standard-definition, 640-by-480-pixel video recordings played smoothly at 30 frames per second, but lacked detail even outdoors in bright sunlight. There's no front-facing camera, so video chats are out.
RIM has delivered a nice, low-end Curve, but missed its optimal release date by about four years. The LG Lucid ($49.99, 4 stars) is an ideal substitution; it doesn't have a hardware keyboard, but it has dual-core performance, 4G LTE data speeds, 1080p video recording, video chats, a much higher resolution 4-inch touch screen, and access to hundreds of thousands of third party apps, all for the same exact price as the Curve 9310. Moving up in price, the oversized Samsung Galaxy S III ($199.99, 4.5 stars) is our current Editors' Choice, although it costs considerably more. If you really want a hardware keyboard, the Motorola Droid 4 ($199.99, 4.5 stars) is an excellent choice, although it's not quite as powerful as the Galaxy S III.
In case it needs to be said: All three of these phones are so far ahead of the Curve 9310, and even RIM's higher-end Bold 9900s, that it's actually a little sad.
|Service Provider Verizon Wireless|
|Operating System BlackBerry OS|
|Screen Size 2.4 inches|
|Screen Details 320-by-240-pixel, 262K color, TFT LCD|
|Megapixels 3.2 MP|
|Camera Flash Yes|
|Web Browser Yes|
|Form Factor Candy Bar|
|Bands 850, 1900|
|High-Speed Data EVDO Rev A, CDMA 1X|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested) 91 MB|
|Processor Speed 800 MHz|
Category › BlackBerry