While today’s attention will almost undoubtedly be focused on the Nexus One, for the last two and a half weeks or so I have been playing with the Blackberry 9700 Bold. I’ve kept the phone far longer than I was supposed to as I simply didn’t want to give it back. I love it even with all the faults of the Blackberry OS, and there are not many. The 9700 is a magnificent device for both the power user and the individual who simply relies on email.
With the massive popularity of the iPhone and the rising popularity and adoption of Android, it’s safe to ask where does Blackberry go from here? Let’s preface that by saying that Blackberry is holding steady in the marketplace even as other phones seem to gobble up the press attention. Blackberry has a firm grip on the corporate world and while the iPhone slowly but surely attempts to crack away at it; they have a long long way to go.
The hardware on the Blackberry really is quite wonderful, especially compared to the previous Bold which I always found just a little too large. At first glance, the keyboard seemed a bit cramped but, after a day or two of usage, I was firing off messages without missing a beat. Previous Blackberry users will feel right at home with the Bold 9700 with the traditional layout of the keyboard and side operating buttons and their functions. However, I did enjoy the addition of the touch-based lock and silent switch on the top allowing for quick access to those two functions.
As the first T-Mobile 3G Blackberry, I had high expectations for the 9700 and, thankfully, it doesn’t disappoint. It fits in the hand perfectly and has plenty of horsepower to get you through your daily routine and the battery life is something else. I experienced almost 6 hours of runtime on the device with typical usage. In the first few days as I was tinkering around, I was a bit under 4:30 of battery time.
RIM certainly has their hands full and while some might consider the look of the Blackberry tired, I adopt the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra. The 480 x 360 screen is beautiful, inside and outside, and makes for a truly enjoyable experience on the phone. Wallpapers are sharp as are emails, messages and, well, everything else you can do on the phone. Even the browser, which I’ll touch on later, has smooth-looking colors. The faux leather cover that hides the battery on the back makes the fun that much more pleasant to hold on to and considering how perfectly this phone fits in the hand, that’s saying something.
RIM sends you home with their usual assortment of goodies contained in the box, charger, holster, USB cable, earphones and a 2GB microSD card to ensure you can take plenty of pictures with the 3.2 megapixel camera which really comes back with some sharp images. The 624 MHz processor is no slouch and easily handles multitasking back and forth between emails, messages, Pandora and the browser without so much as a stutter. Customizing the phone is a treat with themes, ringtones and wallpaper available on the interwebs aplenty. The constant ability to change the look on the Blackberry has always been a selling point for me as customizability is key to my happiness. For others, the stock look will do fine, but if you want to add just your own little touch, you’ll have the ability to do so in spades.
Heavy keyboard users will be thrilled with the QWERTY keyboard as it is just a delight to use. As I stated earlier, there was a slight curve for me but after 48 hours with the device, I was in heaven shooting off emails without error. The trackpad makes me want to forget about the days of the trackball and happily so. While I didn’t find the trackball terribly difficult to use, browsing long emails or lengthy webpages gave my thumbs daily workouts. There is a slight curve to the trackpad as you should adjust the sensitivity to a percentage you’re comfortable with using. After that slight adjustment, using it became second nature and while it doesn’t make up for full on touch, it might be that much easier to move around the phone’s often deep menu system.
Testing the BOLD 9700 around South Florida proved yet again to be a delight. Notice my continued use of the word? I just loved this phone! While my house seems to be devoid of 3G, outside of my neighborhood 3G signals came through strong and clear and phone calls were crisp and not a single person complained when talking to me on the other end.
I don’t take advantage of the UMA service on T-Mobile, but I expect it performs as well as expected though I did use the Wi-Fi in house to browse the web. I didn’t test load speeds as I didn’t do much browsing outside of my home but the phone rendered web pages as best the Blackberry can. The browser is the single remaining complaint I have with the Blackberry OS and, while they are making inroads toward webkit adoption, that day simply isn’t coming fast enough. In the days of Android and iPhone, the Blackberry browser is really just unacceptably bad and should be the foremost priority in Waterloo.
All said and done, the Blackberry 9700 is a superb device for on-the-go professionals, addicted emails users and those individuals who want a tried and true operating system. Not to be forgotten is the excellent Blackberry Messenger service which is really the most addictive part of my Blackberry world since the instantaneous ability to connect with other Blackberry users is just fun.
The Blackberry 9700 took all the positive aspects of the Blackberry 9000 and dropped them into a smaller, more attractive package. The Curve is my favorite phone of all time and yet with the 9700, I got all the size advantage of the Curve with a new OS, 3G and battery life that rivals the 8300 series. Chalk up an equally great keyboard and I believe we have a winner here. If Android or Windows Mobile aren’t your thing, the 3G Blackberry is an excellent device and you’d be foolish not to give it a look.