BlackBerry Curve 9380 review: Not what you’d expect
BlackBerry OS 7 is new, but doesn’t feel like it
We already met with the RIM's latest OS on numerous phones with different hardware. At first it was a pleasure, but then it is inevitable to realize it’s the same old OS with the bare minimum of touch-optimizations.
And when we thought we saw everything, here comes the first ever touch-only Curve. It's a small and cute gadget, supposedly cheaper than its other touch-capable siblings. The 3.2" display has HVGA resolution, but the BB OS 7 is good in resolution scaling so it fits equally well on the VGA or even the WVGA ones.
We are going to look at the BB OS 7 in detail once again, for a complete and comprehensive coverage of the phone and its features. There are parts of reused text but that's inevitable given most of the interface is the same, it’s only scaled differently. And you can rest assured that all the BlackBerry Curve 9380 specifics are duly reflected.
Number 7 is the last upgrade of the OS before the upcoming switch to QNX. The OS 7 brings few new features (NFC and HD video are well worth a mention though) and focus rather goes to the improved user experience instead.
The new platform is based on more potent graphics hardware, and it’s exactly the higher system requirements that won’t allow older BlackBerry phones to run the new BB OS 7.
Here goes our traditional video demo to warm you up.
BlackBerry OS 7 looks are inspired by the Playbook's QNX-based tablet OS. The UI icons have been updated to mimic the PlayBook, but the rest is pretty much the same as you've seen it through the years - all functionality changes are kept to a minimum for good or bad.
The status area of the homescreen has virtual buttons in a row, allowing you to quickly toggle the cellular, Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth radios. It gives you quick access too to the alarm clock and settings menu.
Clicking on the loudspeaker icon underneath lets you change the currently active profile, while the magnifying glass on the other side of the homescreen lets you start a search. BlackBerry OS 7 is voice search enabled, too. Tapping on a small mic icon next to the Search bar will activate it.
Missed events - SMS, email or missed calls - can be quickly accessed by pressing the bar between the search and profile icons on the default screen.
Below that is the app tray, which consists of several tabs. You can easily swipe it out of sight or pull it up to show one to five rows of icons.
Sideways swipes reveal the different panes that sort the main menu into All, Favorites, Media, Downloads and Frequent. The frequently used apps list are auto populated by the system. You can define which of the main menu panes should be shown. Folders can be added to the main menu and items can be moved into folders.
You can either use the menu key or tap and hold on an icon to reveal options such as Move, Mark as Favorite, Move to folder.
So, there is a trackpad and there is a touchscreen. The trackpad is the usual sharp and precise control. One place where it makes a lot of sense is in listed submenus that pop up as you press the Menu key. Not that they are not thumbable - it's just that wrong presses are completely ruled out with the trackpad.
Pretty much everything you see is clickable in BlackBerry OS 7 and works the way it's supposed to. There are still small elements such as the homescreen Search and Profiles icons, which are easier to access via the trackpad rather than the touchscreen.
The important thing to note is that, unlike the flat iOS layout, the Curve 9380 has a menu button to access options that are not visible on the screen. You get used to that pretty quickly though so in the end, the Curve 9380 manages to keep both new and returning users happy. Trackpad and touchscreen complete each other in a natural way.