RIM concludes its three-pronged march toward updating its entry-level BlackBerry Curve series with the BlackBerry Curve 9370 for Verizon, a petite candy bar device with one major advantage over the 9360/9350 models: a GSM SIM slot for taking the handset overseas.
In addition to that, the Curve 9370 runs on BlackBerry 7 OS and has NFC (near-field communication) support for pairing accessories or reading SmartPoster tags, and a 5-megapixel camera. It isn't anywhere near as advanced as the refreshed Bold 9900/9930, or the Torch 9810 and 9850/9860, but if you're a BlackBerry enthusiast looking to upgrade your Curve, you can get it for $99.99 after a two-year contract and a $50 mail-in (or online) rebate.
Note: This review borrows from our BlackBerry Curve 9360 review where the devices' features overlap.
Any way you look at it, the Curve 9370 is a pixie of a phone. It's stylish enough, with a glossy black face that does indeed curve smoothly from the top and bottom to meet the back in two points. Unfortunately, the entry-level Curve lacks some of the finish needed to make a premium-looking device.
There are some dark-gray metallic-looking accents around the narrow rim and back, as well as around the optical touch pad and the RIM logo on the slightly textured back cover--which also has a faintly rubbery finish.
I mentioned that the Curve 9370 is small. At 4.3 inches long by 2.4 inches wide by 0.4 inch thick, it's also noticeably slimmer and lighter than its predecessor, the Curve 3G 9330. Weighing in at 3.5 ounces, no one can accuse it of being heavy, but I wouldn't call it a toy either.
The Curve 9370's display is also better and brighter on the 2.4-inch, HVGA screen (a 480x360-pixel resolution.) It isn't the gorgeous VGA touch screen on the Bold 9930, but it's certainly better than the earlier Curve's 320x240-pixel display.
BlackBerry 7 OS brings Liquid Graphics technology to the Curve 9370 to boost the display's vibrancy and responsiveness. Indeed, graphics and text proved to be colorful, vibrant, and sharp. The font size on the home screen was a little on the small side, however, which could cause some squinting, especially if you aren't blessed with a pilot's eagle eyes.
I'm on the fence when it comes to the Curve's non-touch-sensitive screen. On one hand, the display is small enough that using a touch screen would frustrate, and besides, the optical touch pad does just fine for navigation. On the other hand, the Curve 9370 and its nearly identical siblings are among the only smartphones today that actually lack touch-screen capabilities. In that sense, it feels behind the times. Surely, at this point in the smartphone game, phone owners deserve a choice as to whether they want to punch a screen or a button.
The button in question is the optical touch pad that sits directly below the Curve's display. It's essentially the same navigation array we saw on the previous Curve, consisting of the Send, Menu, Back, and End/Power keys, with that optical touch pad smack-dab in the middle. The keys are not touch-sensitive, and it takes a bit of pressure to push them. The optical touch pad is the same as on the other QWERTY BlackBerrys--easy to use, and you can navigate and select items with precision.
Beneath the array is the famous Curve keyboard, but a little different than you might remember it. The keys are a hair larger and rounder than on previous models, though the overall keyboard is still quite small compared with the Bold's. Yet, because the keys are separated and raised, typing posed no problem. I will say that the keys are a little plasticky and toylike, and less distinctive than on other BlackBerry models. While I didn't mind it, my own hands being fairly small, to me the Curve 9370's keyboard has lost its edge.
It's high time you met the phone's other externals. On the left spine is the Micro-USB charging port, while the right spine is home to a very skinny volume rocker and a similarly slim customizable shortcut key. Both are molded from the same strip of plastic and protrude from the phone in sharp, overly narrow mounds that dig into your fingers when you press them. Gone are the media keys at the top--now there is a 3.5mm headset jack, with a screen-lock key right beside it. The camera lens and LED flash are on the back.
Another nice feature added courtesy of BlackBerry 7 OS is NFC, or near-field communication. Theoretically, NFC allows you to purchase goods or services by swiping your phone over a compatible payment system device, or to transfer files by touching phones thanks to applications like BlackBerry Tag. You can also use NFC to pair accessories and read SmartPoster tags.
I wasn't able to test NFC with this review device, but now that NFC is beginning to permeate stores thanks to Google Wallet, it's good to see RIM ready. For more details on BlackBerry 7 OS, read CNET's BlackBerry Torch 9810 review. The Curve 9360 also supports GPS and Bluetooth, and uses Microsoft's Bing search service by default.
The Curve 9730 does offer one feature unique to RIM's updated Curve series, and that's an extra SIM card slot that makes the phone global-ready. Sure, the T-Mobile version of the device (the 9360) doesn't need it, since it already rides the GSM SIM card technology, but the slot is something that the Sprint version (the 9350) lacks. Just keep in mind that the Curve 9370 is locked into Verizon's network while in the U.S., and you will not be able to use the phone with a GSM SIM card until you cross national borders.