Once a must-have device if one wanted email on one’s cellphone, Research In Motion (RIM) has witnessed its fortunes dwindle in the past couple of years. Just like Nokia, which failed to notice the tectonic shift in smartphone usage trends, RIM failed to evolve its BlackBerry smartphones to keep up with changing times and needs of the users. Today BlackBerry’s market share is all but wiped off in most mature countries. However, in emerging markets, especially India, RIM is growing its market share primarily due to its free IM service called BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and cheap Internet service plans with most carriers. Also Read - VU launches Masterpiece TV with 85-inch QLED display, 50W soundbar in India
Even as RIM goes through a period of transition – it is developing a new OS called BlackBerry 10, which is based on QNX – it acknowledges the need to keep refreshing its products for markets like India, where it still has a chance to grow. With no high-end products planned for release before the first BB10 smartphone towards the end of the year, RIM hopes its entry-level Curve 9220 and in the near future its 3G variant, the 9320, will be enough to satiate the needs of its demanding user base. RIM hopes to sell these relatively cheaper smartphones by the millions to keep up is shipment numbers. But is the Curve 9220 cut out to fulfil RIM’s needs? Let’s find out. Also Read - Honor Band 6 fitness tracker teased ahead of November 3 launch
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The Curve 9220 takes over from the 8520, which has been a run-away success for RIM. Being the cheapest BlackBerry on offer, the 8520 attracted youngsters who simply wanted BBM and little of RIM’s other features targeted at enterprises. It is also responsible for the company’s popularity in consumer segment, which had not been the case earlier.
The 9220 takes design cues from the 8520 and there is very little to differentiate the two from the front. Still the designers have managed to make it sleeker while adding a bigger battery, added a new BBM shortcut key on the left edge and removed the music keys on the top. The exoskeleton still remains plastic though I like the quality of plastics RIM has used unlike what we see even in most high-end Samsung smartphones. Overall, if one has used the 8520, one will feel right at home with the 9220.
RIM has stuck to the basics by altering hardware that really matters to the consumer. While the display still remains to be at 2.4-inches with a QVGA (320×240 pixels) resolution and the camera at 2-megapixels with no autofocus, it has doubled the ROM to 512MB and increased the battery to 1,450 mAh from 1,150 mAh. RIM hasn’t revealed the processor but I won’t be surprised if it also underwent an upgrade.
Combine this with BlackBerry OS 7.1 and the difference is noticeable. Everything works like a charm and the battery almost lasts twice as long as the 8520. Keeping in mind the needs of the Indian user, RIM has added FM radio for the first time. The dedicated BBM key is a handy feature but I doubt if it would become a standard feature in future BB10 smartphones.
The 9220 is one of the few phones that run on the latest BlackBerry OS 7.1. In fact, many BlackBerry models that are priced higher than the 9220 haven’t received the update, yet. The UI is much fluid and contemporary, especially considering those who have been using the 8520. Apps can now be connected with BBM, which could come handy especially when it comes to sharing stuff from Twitter and Facebook. I could not find the option to set up the phone’s mobile hotspot feature, which was considered to be one of the major USPs of the new OS. RIM might have skipped this feature for the 9220 as it doesn’t support 3G. Overall, existing 8520 users would find it refreshing, especially when it comes to the browser and other UI elements.
The biggest things one would notice in the 9220 is the fluid UI and smooth processing of commands. Not once during my usage did I see the dreaded sand clock animation. I was also impressed with the battery, which lasted me almost 48 hours with my normal usage of a couple of hours of calls and a lot of BBM-ing. RIM wasn’t kidding when it the 9220 had the best battery performance on any BlackBerry smartphone.
On the flip side, there is no 3G connectivity, which is an oddity on any smartphone priced upwards of Rs 10,000. The 2-megapixel fixed-focus camera is nothing worth writing home about. The dedicated BBM key ain’t anything new either but just a marketing gimmick. Older BlackBerry smartphones had a configurable shortcut key, which the user could configure to trigger BBM.
With bare minimum features, RIM is attaching a lot of value to its proprietary offerings, especially BBM and e-mail. I don’t see any reason why existing 8520 users (the device was launched in 2009) would consider to upgrade to the 9220. Also, the price tag of Rs 10,990 ensures that it remains a device only for the BlackBerry faithful. For that sort of money there are far better Android smartphones available in the market. Even for those who only want a BlackBerry smartphone, I would suggest waiting for the Curve 9320, which would offer a better camera as well as 3G connectivity.
When I first got wind of the 9220, I was expecting RIM to price it closer to Rs 9,000 with the 8520 getting slashed to Rs 6,500 level. However, that was not to be. I think RIM has missed a golden opportunity here to hit at Nokia’s Asha series phones and probably get new BlackBerry users rather than just catering to its loyalists.
Photo Credits: Rohit Sharma