BlackBerry Curve 9380 hands-on (video)

We found it hard to get excited over that other recent QWERTY-less BlackBerry, but we've swallowed a lungful of fresh air and approached this new 3.2-inch, 800MHz Curve 9380 with an open mind. It's the first touch-only device in the entry-level Curve family and it deserves to be considered on its own merits. So, if you're in the market for a relatively cheap smartphone that hooks up seamlessly to RIM's persistently popular ecosystem, and which puts BlackBerry Messenger and BBM Music at your fingertips (rather than your thumbs), then please read on for our hands-on video and impressions.

Physically, the 9380 is a Curve device through and through. Despite the absence of a keypad, it looks and feels extremely similar to the 9360 -- and when viewed from the back it is identical. This is no bad thing, however, because these are well-built devices. One regret is that the that the glossy finish on the front and back smears easily, which doesn't happen with matte-finished higher-end BlackBerries like the Bold 9790, which was also announced today.

Unfortunately, the 9380 has also inherited the 9360's 480 x 360 screen resolution, which results in a low pixel density on the 3.2-inch LCD. This isn't much of a problem during general use, but you certainly notice it when browsing.

The device is thin and extremely pocketable -- we don't have official measurements to hand, but we gauged the thickness to be around 10mm. As with most hardy BBs, there's no particular urge to add to its girth by encasing it in a protective sleeve.

There are four back-lit buttons along the bottom -- Call, Options, Back, Hang-up/Power -- in addition to the optical trackpad in the center. These four buttons look like they might be capacitive, but they're push buttons. This is largely a matter of personal preference, but we can't help but notice that even much cheaper handsets like the Huawei Ideos X3 can deliver capacitive navigation buttons that often give a smoother experience.

There's a dedicated camera button positioned beneath the volume rocker, which is a big help. However, we found all the buttons along this right side of the phone to be thin, stiff and unsatisfying to press. The camera itself is 5MP and functional. It's not a patch on high-end smartphones, but it's fast and the bright LED flash makes it good at what it's intended for: social snaps for quick viewing and sharing.

Charging is done via the micro-USB port, which is the only feature on the left side of the phone. On the top edge we have the 3.5mm jack exactly where you'd expect to find it, and the essential lock button. On the rear side at the bottom you find a surprisingly powerful speaker, which delivers good bass when laid on a flat surface. Beneath the fiddly cover you find a microSD slot for up to 32GB of expanded storage and a SIM slot buried beneath an even more nail-bending 1230mAh battery. Onboard application storage is poor -- our fresh handset had just 120MB free.

The 800MHz processor boots the phone in just over a minute and seems to do a good job of running OS 7. However, this usual fluidity does not extend to the browser, which was slow and occasionally erratic at rendering detailed web pages.

Overall, the worthiness of this phone will depend on how much you're into the BlackBerry ecosystem, how much you prefer a touchscreen over a physical keyboard and -- most importantly -- how much you're willing to spend. RIM leaves pricing up to its carriers, but this device will have to be seriously cheap if it's to make an impact when it hits the market in a few weeks, because budget Androids are getting better all the time.