BlackBerry Curve 9220 Review

RIM Philippines sent CTB a review unit of its latest addition to the BlackBerry lineup in the country, the BlackBerry Curve 9220. The Curve 9220 is RIM’s latest offering for its entry-level Curve lineup yet it carries the latest version of the company’s proprietary mobile platform, the BlackBerry OS 7.1. Announced back in April, the BlackBerry Curve 9220 finally made its way in the Philippines a month later, and RIM Philippines brought the handset here in Cebu in June. This handset is marketed to appeal mostly for young smartphone users and teens alike, or as its category suggest – the Curve 9220 is for “entry-level” users. I have had so many quick encounters with BlackBerry devices in the past and I must admit that this is the first time I dated a BlackBerry phone, so I guess I had enough time to see myself what this handset has to offer inside and out. Anyhow, CTB’s full review of the BB Curve 9220 follows after the break.
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The Build

The BlackBerry Curve 9220 measures 109 x 60 x 12.7 mm and in real world, it means it could sit comfortably in the palm of a typical Asian user. It’s not too big, nor too small – just an average-sized handset. In the frontage is the usual BB signature, that is the QWERTY keyboard; and the 2.44-inch display is just right above the row of useful keys namely (from left): the Send key, Menu Key, the Optical Trackpad, Escape Key, and End/Power Key. The phone’s earpiece speaker is just right above the screen beside the Notification LED.

Though I had quick encounters with BlackBerry devices before which I mentioned earlier, it actually didn’t make me more familiar with the devices hardware. The BlackBerry Curve 9220 for instance is a bit confusing the first time I used it, and I believe that’s going to be the case for you as well particularly if you’re new to BB hardware. But yes, a quick glimpse to the device’s user manual really helps. Heck that should be the thing I have checked first right?

Anyway, the image above shows the BlackBerry Curve 9220 external design (credit: User Manual), but I have actual photos of the handset here for a more comprehensive tour.


Basically, the BlackBerry Curve 9220 feels plasticky in the outside. Sans the QWERTY keyboard, the frontage is all-flat with tapered design in the top and bottom edges. The back has curve accent as well and so the corners of the handset. Along the back cover is a rubberized material which certainly increase your grip of the handset while protecting the 2MP camera. Nothing else you can find at the back except of RIM’s BlackBerry logo and the engraved “Curve” text within the rubberized material.

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The removable battery and so the SIM and microSD slot lie just under the back cover which you can remove at ease.

BlackBerry Curve 9220 Specs

2G Network (EDGE, GPRS)
BlackBerry 7.1 OS
2.44” (320 x 240 pixels) display
QWERTY keyboard, Touch-sensitive optical trackpad
512MB RAM, 512MB ROM
microSD slot supporting up to 32 GB
2.0 MP camera, video capture and playback
Orientation Sensor (Accelerometer), Compass, Proximity Sensor
Wi-Fi, 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP
1450 mAh removable, rechargeable battery
109 x 60 x 12.7 mm
102g

Getting Started and Setup

The first time you power up the Curve 9220, you’ll be required to perform basic setup of the handset. This include setting up applications permission requests, which basically just ask your permission how every installed app use information stored in the phone.

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From the Setup menu, you can also personalize the handset and there’s also a list of tutorials and How-to’s which really of great help for first time BlackBerry users.

Connectivity

The BlackBerry Curve 9220 is equipped with both wired and wireless connectivity options. The microUSB slot allows you to hook up the handset to a selection of hosts such as the computer itself. Aside from charging the phone’s battery, it’s also through the microUSB interface where RIM’s BlackBerry Desktop Software (more on this later) communicate with your BlackBerry handset.

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The BlackBerry Curve 9220 supports Bluetooth technology, thus you can pair compatible Bluetooth devices such as phones and accessories.

As far as wireless connectivity is concerned, the significant drawback with the Curve 9220 is the lack of support for 3G network. The Curve 9220 is just a 2G device which means you can only use mobile internet either through a GPRS or EDGE network. To put this into perspective, GPRS and EDGE aren’t really ideal for streaming videos or for rendering feature-rich web-based contents, but it still does fair in web-browsing and reading/sending emails alike.

Wi-Fi connectivity isn’t a problem with the Curve 9220 though. Technically, this is because RIM put a Wi-Fi radio under its hood that works best with Wireless-N networking, offering a faster throughput than the other standards available today.

The BlackBerry OS 7.1

The BlackBerry OS 7.1 is RIM’s latest mobile operating system which was made available on the Curve 9220 out of the box. Though I can’t compare how this version fairs with earlier build of the BlackBerry OS, what I can say at the interface level is there are some similarities with Symbian OS. Though I understand that BlackBerry OS was designed with enterprise features in mind, I don’t really see it beneficial to a typical “entry-level” smartphone user.

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The UI of BB OS is intuitive and simple to use. In the upper portion of the screen is a horizontal bar with options to navigate All apps, Favorites, Media apps, Downloads, and Frequently used apps (you can minimize this though). On top of the options available on each app, the Menu key provides more options, some of which are unique to each app. And like any other advanced mobile platforms, the BlackBerry OS 7.1 supports multi-tasking in which you can switch between opened apps.

BlackBerry Desktop Software

Talking about the BlackBerry Desktop Software, it’s a software that allows you to manage your BlackBerry phone from within your desktop PC. Basically, it’s just like iTunes for Apple iPhone, Zune for Windows Phone, or for Samsung users – the BlackBerry Desktop Software is just like the Kies software. Below are some of the screenshots I took while playing with the files and apps I have on the Curve 9220.


What I liked most with the BlackBerry Desktop Software is the simple yet intuitive interface. It’s just too simple really that I don’t have to go through yet another tutorial before getting started. Interestingly, there’s a unique feature on BlackBerry Desktop Software that I haven’t seen in other platforms yet (or did I miss it?), that is an option in the lower-left corner of the interface that allows users to configure a BlackBerry handset to act as a Modem – basically for internet sharing.

The BlackBerry App World

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The BlackBerry App World is where BlackBerry users download games and apps. For the uninitiated, it’s basically similar to the Apps Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android handsets, Windows Phone Marketplace for Windows Phones, or Nokia Store for Nokia handsets. I’ve tried downloading free apps on the BlackBerry Curve 9220 and it works just fine and seamless.

Internet Browsing

Internet browsing is one of the main features that complements for a complete mobile experience. With the Curve 9220, web browsing through Wi-Fi is great while at some point, mobile internet through GPRS or EDGE is fair enough. But as far as internet browsing is concerned, it’s not just about connectivity but screen display also matters most. The Curve 9220 features a 2.44-inch display with a pixel density of 164ppi and what exactly this means when consuming web contents is that, you’d frequently zoom in and out whenever you’re viewing pages.

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The native web browser app is fair enough and it does render Flash and JavaScript-based contents over Wi-Fi in seconds. The browser app also allows you to save links as bookmarks, add it to Home Screen for quick access, or send links directly to your contacts either through email, SMS, BBM, or social networking sites.

Social Networking

The review unit sent to CTB already has social networking apps pre-installed. This include Facebook and Twitter which obviously are the most popular social networking sites today. The Twitter and Facebook apps for BlackBerry features a completely different interface than other smartphone platforms. In addition to that, such social networking apps are deeply integrated to a selection of BlackBerry native apps such as BB Calendar, BB Messages, and BB Contacts. What exactly this integration means is, for instance, once you connect the Facebook app to the BlackBerry Messages app – you’ll be able to see your Facebook notifications and messages within the BB Messages app.

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With BlackBerry, there’s also a feature called BBM Connected Apps which was first introduced in BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) 6. Basically, it allows those apps designed to work with BBM to connect you to other BBM users. There’s also an app called Social Feeds which basically is an aggregator of updates from social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, or even RSS feeds.

Entertainment, Multimedia, & Camera

The BlackBerry OS 7.1 brings multimedia applications such as the native Music, Pictures, Videos, and Podcast apps. And since the Curve 9220 is also running BB OS 7.1, such applications are also available out of the box. Through the BlackBerry Desktop Software, you can either add existing multimedia files from a computer, or you can download from the pre-installed Music Store app. Though I haven’t tried downloading music files from the Music Store, it appears that RIM partnered with Amazon MP3 so users can purchase music files using their Amazon accounts.

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Aside from the native Media apps on BB OS 7.1, you can also stream videos from the popular site YouTube. The YouTube app in BB OS 7.1 however, is not a full-fledged app which means it only launch a web browser and access YouTube’s mobile site. Ironically, it’s just like firing up the native mobile browser and typing “YouTube.com” in the address bar. Nevertheless, the app allows you to upload videos stored in your phone and share it in YouTube.

The BlackBerry Curve 9220 is built with a 2MP camera capable of video recording. It may sound not really promising, but surprisingly — the images are sharp when viewed in the computer. The camera is best to use with sufficient light though (no LED flash) and since it’s not auto-focus, the close up shots would give you wonderful results. Anyway, I’ll just let you make your own judgment based on the sample shots below.


Battery Performance

The BlackBerry Curve 9220 is powered by a rechargeable and replaceable 1450mAh battery. At standby mode, this lasts for more or less 2 weeks even without turning on the Battery Saving Mode, or enabling the Auto On/Off feature. The Auto On/Off feature allows you to automatically turn on and off the handset at any given preset time. As a hardcore smartphone user though, that is with Wi-Fi always on, MP3 playback, social networking and web browsing — the battery allows me to enjoy more or less 10 hours a day. Though battery performance would vary for every user and how the phone is used, I must say that a 1450mAh power source is more than just enough for the BB Curve 9220.

Verdict

I’m not really a fan of QWERTY keyboards and small screen displays, but dating the Curve 9220 for a couple of weeks now seems to change that story. The Curve 9220 QWERTY keyboard is solid and compact and though most of the time I got confused between the Alt and Capitalize keys, using the keyboard every so often helped me become more adept in using it. The screen pixel density at 164ppi is already clear and vivid for a display, but the small screen size makes it difficult to view objects at some points.

I understand this handset being on RIM’s entry-level lineup, better yet – it does deliver what it promised to offer. The Social Networking complemented with the Social Feeds and BBM Connected App features is great. And though the handset only leverages 2G network (GPRS/EDGE) for internet access on-the-go, it does offer faster browsing experience over Wi-Fi.

I have no problem just yet with the number of apps available in the App World, but RIM already have a stash of awesome apps for download. At this point, I can’t compare BlackBerry OS 7.1 to the likes of Android and iOS platforms given the fact that the Curve 9220 is not an all-touch screen phone. But given the profile of the Curve 9220, that is an entry-level phone, yet carrying the latest build of BlackBerry OS – I must say that RIM really did the right thing. This is because with BB OS 7.1 on Curve 9220, RIM also give entry-level users a glimpse of how its most-advanced OS (yet) looks like before it introduced the much-anticipated BlackBerry OS 10 anytime soon.

Pros

  • Solid and Compact Build
  • Latest OS is on board
  • Support for Wireless N
  • Social Networking features, e.g BBM, BBM Connected Apps, Social Feeds
  • Enterprise features
  • High-performance battery

Cons

  • QWERTY Keyboard not ideal for people with bigger thumbs
  • No 3G network support
  • Low resolution camera
  • Web browsing navigation is difficult most of the time

Rating

3.5/5