BlackBerry Bold (9900) Review: A Great, But Dead-End, Product
The BlackBerry Bold 9900 is quite possibly RIM's best smartphone. But unfortunately, it falls short of the iPhone and Android devices. RIM tries to cram too much into one device, and that ultimately make everything below average -- except the keyboard, which is fantastic.
But that doesn't mean the Bold is ugly. In fact, the stainless steel bezel -- obviously indebted to Apple -- and curved lines look much higher-end than earlier models. Meanwhile, the carbon-fiber back is coated with a grippy, rubberized material that's both good-looking and functional -- it won't slip out of your hand. As the thinnest BlackBerry yet, it's sleeker and altogether sturdier than the Curve, and smaller than most Android devices, but a bit stockier and wider than the iPhone. But here's the rub: even though the Bold is similar in both size and top-tier material to the iPhone, the iPhone has a larger display. It's like comparing apples and bigger, better apples.
The Bold is stuck with a less-than-bold 2.8-inch screen. If you're used to touch screens, like I am, you'll forget how small displays can get. And it's tiny. The 640-by-480 pixel resolution is sharp for what you get. Color saturation is vivid and everything looks good from various angles. It's one of the best displays on a BlackBerry, but unfortunately, subpar for most smartphones -- a telling sign of how far behind RIM is. Still, the touch is responsive, but you'll have to squint to read on such a small screen. Fortunately, for some tasks, you won't need the screen -- you can use the trackpad below, flanked by four capacitive buttons -- the traditional BlackBerry layout. A touch screen and a trackpad, you say? It's really unnecessary -- maybe a result of conference-room groupthink. But the Bold tries to accommodate everyone, which ends up satisfying no one.
Without the trackpad, the RIM could have expanded the touch screen. And without the touch screen, the trackpad would actually serve a purpose. Okay, it does serve one purpose: it helps you navigate third-party apps designed with the trackpad in mind. Great, what kind of apps? Well, that's the thing... RIM doesn't have many apps. Yeah, I'm baffled by the reasoning too.
The 5-megapixel camera is mediocre. There's an LED flash, but you won't be able to auto-focus. I found photos often came out dull and blurry. It's functional in a bind, but it's certainly not good enough to replace a point and shoot. The filters and tools are the same as ones you'd find on older models, so there's a few options like shooting modes for party and sport, among others, but nothing particularly exciting. The camera is behind the times, I can't really put it any other way. The best example is the lack of a front-facing lens. Most devices have them today, most except the Bold.
The Bold is the first device to run on BlackBerry 7, and frankly, it's a let-down if you're expecting a major overhaul. Yes, it makes some improvements to BlackBerry 6, but they're subtle and overall, it's the same product with a few minor tweaks. E-mail and BBM remain top-notch, but BBM is less relevant as people jump to iOS and Android apps like WhatsApp.
But it's not all bad news: the keyboard is awesome -- just awesome. If you loathe touch screens and apps, but love QWERTYs, you'll have a different opinion, because that's where it delivers. The buttons are well-spaced, responsive, and easy to push. Your fingers will fly over the perfectly shaped buttons. So RIM does deserve kudos there. The only problem you'll run into is the predictive text -- it's just not very good at figuring out your next move, so you'll have an easier time turning it off.
If Android has you burnt out on over-cluttered home screens, BlackBerry's simple setup will be a refreshing change. It's sparse: there's an app launcher at the bottom, which opens to show a number of small icons, arranged however you want. BlackBerry isn't known for its multimedia, and you won't get the robust movies and TV experience as you would on a device with a bigger screen. You'll get a speedier Web browser -- RIM claims it's 40 percent faster than the BB6 version -- and from what I saw, it was noticeably faster. But the small screen ruins any immersive Internet experience. Watching videos is poor, and reading for long periods strains the eyes. It's not good.
The app ecosystem is still a barren graveyard of ruined dreams. Developers aren't showing interest in the platform, because they won't make money due to the lack of customers with BlackBerry devices. People won't buy BlackBerry because there aren't any apps. It's a vicious cycle that won't be fixed soon. So if you want apps, and who doesn't, skip the Bold, and BlackBerry in general, for Apple or Google's platform.
Oddly, RIM added an NFC chip, showing that can think ahead. NFC lets you wirelessly transfer files and use the Bold as an e-wallet, when stores begin adopting the technology -- not anytime soon. It's a quaint novelty, but offers little practical use. By the time NFC takes off, you'll long have forgotten about that Bold in the shoebox. The music player, meanwhile, has a lot of great qualities. First, you can pause or play it with a dedicated button on the side. Second, the sound quality is spectacular. But you can't install any streaming services -- you see, the app problem rearing its ugly head again. Still, you won't have a problem adding MP3s if you prefer to store them locally. And you can keep a lot: 8-gigabytes of memory and up to 32-gigabyte with a microSD card.
The 1.2-gigahertz chip is plenty fast, so there's no hiccups or lag -- but there's not many intensive apps to push the processor. The 1,200 mAh battery is solid, and you'll get more than a day or two on a single charge, unheard of for most smartphones, but hardly a challenge considering the small screen. It runs on HSPA-plus, which carriers often call 4G, but it's more like 3.5G.
Overall, the Bold has a few bright spots -- like the fantastic keyboard -- but they hardly make up for the myriad of flaws. The main problem is trying to crap everything in one device. The touch screen and touchpad leave room for little, and frankly, I can only recommend it if you're interested in a keyboard. The lack of apps is a deathblow, and if you only need to e-mail and message, it's pretty good. But really, it's overpriced for a subpar device, and there are cheaper and better choices out there.
Agree or disagree? We'd love to hear your thoughts. Share your experience and leave a comment below. ♦
Other Reviews From Around the Web:
Categories: Business | Fun | Messaging
You Might Also Like:
Enjoy This Article? Get E-Mail Updates -- It's Free!
AMOLED (Accelerometer / Proximity Sensor / Light Sensor)
Write a review and share you thoughts.
blog comments powered by Disqus