For Research In Motion (RIM), the makers of the BlackBerry handsets, the Curve was the first phone from the company that targeted users beyond the enterprise segment. It was a smartphone that handled audio-video playback, Internet browsing, and had the ability to add functionality through apps, but was available for only Rs 17,000. This was a groundbreaking price for smartphones at the time, and the company found strong sales for the handset, even outside business users.
As part of the refresh of their phones following the launch of their new operating system OS7, RIM last week launched the BlackBerry Curve 9360, for Rs 19,990. The phone is a significant upgrade from the original. There are enhancements to the speed and battery life thanks to the new OS, and the hardware too has been given a refresh. Most significant on the software front is the update to the Web browser, which has been revamped completely, and is a lot faster in loading pages and multimedia content online. The phone now has a 5 MP camera, GPS, Wi-Fi, 3G and Bluetooth connectivity, up to 32 GB storage through Micro SD cards, 1 GB RAM and an 800 MHz processor that can handle most tasks with ease.
Slim and light: The BlackBerry Curve 9360
The Curve 9360 also comes with support for NFC (near field communication), a wireless data transfer technology that is being developed now to enable fast two-way communication between devices. Today, this technology is being developed around the world as a replacement for credit cards—it’s a secure communications technology, and could allow users to simply swipe their phone to make a purchase.
Visa and Mastercard have tied up already with Google to support this technology for payments on some Android phones, and while there isn’t an ecosystem in place here, RIM officials say talks are on with various banks to bring the technology to India as well.
The phone is a huge step up from the previous model, with a better display, better Web browser and better multimedia experience. For younger buyers, the Curve meets all the requirements, along with a slim and light design and, as is usually the case with BlackBerry phones, an excellent keyboard.
There are also certain enterprise features, such as preloaded applications for editing Office documents.
However, the Curve isn’t able to deliver a better experience than most other smartphones today. The BlackBerry interface has been streamlined and made a lot more user- friendly with the new OS, but it’s still not as easy to get into as an Android phone. Apart from that, the number of apps available that users will actually want is still very limited for BlackBerry devices. The BlackBerry App World has over 35,000 apps, but many are just individual e-books or wallpaper collections—BlackBerry’s app ecosystem lags well behind Android, and isn’t even in the same race as iOS when it comes to the app market.
Today, devices are not going to succeed without apps. That’s what kept the PlayBook from being a top-selling device, and that’s what is responsible for the death of Hewlett-Packard’s (HP’s) superb TouchPad. For Android too, the numbers aren’t so rosy. Despite the masses of Android manufacturers and their strong marketing budgets, almost half of all smartphones being sold today are still iPhones.
The other drawback of this phone is that the file management is not very intuitive. It’s all there and can be accessed by users, but getting to things and finding the right tools to use them is a bother. The updated Web browser, meanwhile, was clearly made with a touch interface in mind—it still works well for the Curve, but it isn’t as natural as a touch-screen device could be.
The biggest hurdle for the Curve, though, is its price. The first Curve was introduced at a lower price, and started selling well when the price dropped to Rs 11,000. Now that the device can be bought for just Rs 8,000, a lot of people are opting for it. In comparison, the new Curve is available for Rs 19,990, competing with some of the better Android phones. You can also buy a Samsung Galaxy S or an iPhone 3GS for the same price—devices that might be a little outdated today, but are still powerhouses, and excellent for listening to music, watching videos and browsing.
While RIM has put out a good phone, it might have stumbled on the pricing, and one can only hope that it will correct this soon.