Even the software itself is geared toward simplicity, and offers a wide variety of scene modes that are designed to enhance images based on the subject and lighting condition. Face detection, portrait, sports, landscape, party, close-up, snow, beach, night and text are all in the mix, while the default setting automatically adjusts images to any given situation. Our experience suggests the tendency of the software is to make colors appear more vibrant, even to the point of "pulling" additional blue from the sky on a relatively cloudy day. Hence, coloration is rarely accurate, and while the end result is usually pleasant, we found over-saturation to be an occasional issue. There's no option to disable these enhancements, either. While some may prefer to eschew the additional processing, the oversight seems forgivable. After all, the camera on the 9360 is hardly meant for photo purists, but rather for those who wish to take handsome snapshots for online albums with minimal effort.
Video recording on the Curve 9360 is limited to a maximum resolution of 640 x 480 (VGA), with 176 x 144 (MMS) being the only other option. It captures movies at 29 frames per second and does a rather good job at conveying fluid motion. Of course, this isn't saying much when most smartphones capture VGA video as the bare minimum -- but again, it's perfectly sufficient for use on the web. In the settings, you'll find another smattering of scene modes, although these are limited to portrait, landscape, closeup, beach and automatic.
In the days of modern operating systems such as Android, iOS and Windows Phone, using the BlackBerry OS feels more akin to a graphing calculator with an address book and a heavy coat of lipstick.
There's no kind way to say it, but BlackBerry 7 OS is stuck in the doldrums of time. It's a former champion fighting well past its prime, desperately longing for retirement -- if only an adequate replacement were ready to take its place
. That's not to suggest the interface isn't relatively attractive or intuitive, but RIM's software improvements over the years have been incremental and largely superficial. The OS still struggles with multitasking -- for example, music cuts out when we take pictures -- and despite better renders from the WebKit browser, navigating the web with a cursor on a smartphone feels antiquated and slow. In the days of modern operating systems such as Android, iOS and Windows Phone, using the BlackBerry OS feels more akin to a graphing calculator with an address book and a heavy coat of lipstick.
Modernity aside, for those who've come to know the BlackBerry's inner workings through the years, it continues to fit like a glove and behave as expected. We appreciate the setup application, which allows AOL, Gmail, Windows Live and Yahoo! users to easily integrate their email, contacts, calendars and instant messaging into the phone. This is likewise true for social networks, with support for Facebook and Twitter out of the gate. The Social Feeds application serves as a fine aggregator of activity from both accounts, and notifications are integrated into the centralized hub that also reports new email messages, appointments and missed calls. The software is very well geared to those who use their phones primarily as a communication device, and in this sense, the BlackBerry approach is hard to discount.
All you BlackBerry loyalists out there might've guessed this handles media in a straightforward way as well. BlackBerry Media Sync integrates nicely with both iTunes and Windows Media Player. After installing this software to our PC, we were able to easily transfer music, photos and videos to the handset. Mac users are also covered with a similar set of tools. Those who prefer the option will also be glad to know that the phone supports USB mass storage for manual management. Our only gripe with respect to media is the insulting 1GB microSD card, which we filled up in the blink of an eye. Generally speaking, anybody looking to use the Curve 9360 for music and videos absolutely must upgrade the storage to get any mileage from the device.
Our time using the Curve's web browser was excruciating, even over WiFi. Given complex pages, the phone often stalled or choked entirely, and on more than one occasion, we waited several minutes for pages to load and render. In these situations, even system features such as the screen lock became unresponsive, and our attempts to return to the home screen only confounded the issue. More often than we care to admit, we were driven to pull the battery rather than wait for the phone to catch its breath. For anybody who might wish to use the web in a meaningful way, the Curve 9360 is an unacceptable solution.
On the surface, it would appear that the Curve ships with an overabundance of software, however in reality, most of these options are merely links to install the applications. While we didn't activate many, we suspect that if each of the 19 extraneous programs had been included, there would be little to no room for users to install apps of their own preference. Items specific to AT&T include AppCenter, Code Scanner, FamilyMap, Maps + Navigation and myAT&T. There are also selections for Bloomberg, CityID, Documents to Go, Vlingo, The Weather Channel and Wikitude, along with chat clients for Google Talk, Windows Live and Yahoo!. Even the games folder is populated with items such as Bejewled
, Sims 3
and World Series of Poker
, along with the familiar BrickBreaker
and Word Mole
While applications install without a hitch, BlackBerry OS insists that the phone restart after applying updates. In addition, the update process is generally excruciating, often requiring minutes for each application to download and install, which typically causes the system to become unresponsive. Adding insult to injury, the phone often takes more than four minutes to fully boot. This would have been painful enough on its own, but it's an absolute disaster that users have to suffer these long wait times every time they update an app.
From a technical and innovation standpoint, RIM's current product lineup is running on fumes
. In an era when all that keeps the company going is the existing goodwill of its most dedicated users and a vault of cash reserves, it can't afford to release products that further alienate its customer base and tarnish its reputation. Unfortunately, the BlackBerry Curve 9360 is an outright disaster. While it offers a handful of improvements over the Curve 3G, it does little to keep pace in the highly competitive budget phone arena, where devices such as the Motorola Atrix 4G retail for a similar $29. Even dedicated BlackBerry users should avoid the Curve 9360 at all costs -- it can't match the performance, feature set and overall quality of the Torch 9810, which sells for just $20 more. If RIM intends to keep the Curve franchise alive, it must deliver compelling solutions that will excite consumers. If it's unable to do so without encroaching too much on the Bold's territory, then it's time to make both devices one and call it a day.