BlackBerry Curve 9320 Offers BBM Key, Best Battery Life Yet

The BlackBerry Curve 9320, designed for socially minded first-time smartphone users, is part of RIM's plan to bring more users to BB7 until BlackBerry 10 shows up.

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion on May 9, a week after its BlackBerry World 2012 show in Orlando, Fla., introduced a new smartphone for sociable consumers, the BlackBerry Curve 9320.

It's understandable that RIM should show off the phone now€”the CTIA Wireless 2012 event in New Orleans this week has the world focused on smartphones, tablets and other gadgets.

Plus, with BlackBerry World attendees looking to RIM for the latest and greatest, the Curve 9320, a simple and likely affordable smartphone geared toward first-time smartphone owners, would have disappointed. Its target audience, however€”which RIM says includes current Curve owners looking to "step up"€”is likely to be pleased.

In a growing market of devices requiring all 10 fingers and oversized pockets, the Curve 9320 is immensely holdable, pocketable and one-thumb usable. It measures 4.29 by 2.36 by 0.5 inches, weighs 3.6 ounces and pairs a backlit QWERTY RIM keyboard with an optical keypad and a 2.44-inch (on the diagonal) Colour Display.

Speaking to its touted, socially inclined attributes, it features a dedicated BlackBerry Messaging (BBM) shortcut key, comes with Twitter and Facebook preloaded, and builds BBM directly into these popular networking apps.

Additionally, it comes loaded with a new Social Feeds 2.0 app that lets users post updates to multiple feeds simultaneously. On the user's end, it can also tie together multiple feeds into a single view.

There's a built-in FM radio€”sort of a funny throwback, but a feature lots of users enjoy and one that doesn't require a data plan or use up data services. Plus, the 9320's battery is said to be the longest-lasting of any Curve smartphone, providing seven hours of talk time, 18 days of standby time and 30 hours of FM radio listening or music playback.

There's a 3.2-megapixel camera with video, four-times zoom and geo-tagging€”since GPS is also on board€”plus support for more than two dozen audio, video and photo formats.

There's 512MB of memory and a microSD slot for adding 32GB more. The Curve 9320 runs the BlackBerry 7.1 operating system, which means voice-activated universal search is included, as well as WiFi Hotspot support, enabling up to five other devices to hop online.

RIM's newest platform, BlackBerry 10, won't arrive until later this year, and until then, the company's plan, new CEO Thorsten Heins explained during RIM's March 29 earnings call, is to move as many BB 7 devices as possible with offerings such as the Curve 9320.

In Orlando, Heins showed off an early version of the Dev Alpha, the newest BlackBerry handset, but more importantly, the BlackBerry 10 platform it runs on. Heins also worked to convey RIM's tightened focus.

While in the past this topic has led to reports that RIM is getting out of the consumer game, Heins says that isn't the case at all. RIM is simply becoming trimmer and more efficient, and trying to be better about using partners to address areas that aren't part of its core business. When RIM talks to customers about what they love about their BlackBerry phones, said Heins, it comes down to the phone's ability to help them succeed, whatever their definition of success.

While RIM's market share is nose-diving, and the company's fortune is in question, Heins told BlackBerry World attendees during his keynote, "I'm proud to be part of a company ... that helps people to achieve success on a daily basis."

Pricing and availability of the Curve 9320 will be determined by RIM's various carrier partners.

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