India is one of the priority markets for Research In Motion (RIM) and come April, it will launch a couple of smartphones in its entry-level Curve range targeted at Indian consumers. Earlier this month we exclusively reported about the Curve 9220′s pricing and launch timeline and over the weekend I got to spend a few minutes with its 3G variant, the Curve 9320. I did not get much time with the device but the five minutes or so I spent while driving in a car (hence the poor quality pictures) were enough to impress me. This is a product that is made for India and I understand if the western press is left bewildered why I am speaking so highly about such a low-end product. BlackBerry smartphones still sell well in India and the two new Curve smartphones will only strengthen its position here, courtesy some aggressive pricing strategy from RIM. Read on for my early impressions and another shot.
To begin with, the Curve 9320 feels just perfect – neither too tiny, nor too large. Though it is all plastic, it still felt good to hold and the quality of plastics used is much better than that found even on some high-end smartphones from Samsung. In all probability, there would be hardly any difference between the Curve 9220 and 9320 in terms of look and feel. The only difference being the camera and the absence of 3G in the 9220.
The 9320 also had a BBM shortcut button on the left edge, which is quite handy (you can notice the slight bump on the left edge just above the calling key). In all probability, RIM could offer some free BBM plans when it launches the devices in India. The phones will run on BlackBerry OS 7.1 that comes with deeper BBM integration, especially when it comes to third-party apps. Our source, who has been using the phone, says the battery easily lasts over a day on a 2G network with heavy calling. I’m told these phones will also have FM radio, though I was not able to check it during my brief hands-on.
Considering that the Curve 9220 is expected to be priced around Rs 9,000, we would like to believe its 3G variant is most likely to be priced under Rs 12,000. Irrespective of the fact of how RIM is doing globally (hint: it is down in the dumps) I think they have got the right products for India, where smartphones are not subsidized by carriers. Its mid-end and high-end Bold series smartphones are doing decent numbers and these two devices will do the big volumes.
I have never used a BlackBerry smartphone apart from using review units for a week or so. But after checking out the Curve 9320, I might be willing to buy one to use as my workhorse smartphone while saving the iPhone 4 that I use as my primary device for multimedia, apps and Internet browsing. Higher praise than that is difficult to give.