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BlackBerry Bold 9900 – an initial thoughts review

It’s hard to say whether RIM can compete in today’s smartphone arena, but historically we know the original Bold 9000 raised the bar for smartphones in many ways. The new BlackBerry Bold 9900 features a solid, quality build and a carbon fibre laced back cover and for the first time, a RIM product feels like a top-end, high-quality device. The hardware in the Bold hasn’t uncovered any drastic changes for the Blackberry 7 OS, but there are noticeable improvements here and there.

Research In Motion has maintained a familiarity in the design, as you would expect. The mobile phone manufacture has also opted for a more straightforward colour palette, and abandoned the colour red for the symbol keys. The display itself is striking, whilst being the first higher-resolution device that really delivers on touch sensitivity and performance too. Whilst flicking, swiping and pinching the screen, spare a thought for the highly frustrating ‘Storm’ - which not so long ago sought after high acclaim, but now seems fairly hideous when compared to the latest Bold.

Web browsing has been vastly improved; the pages are far quicker to render where both scrolling and zooming are smoother and more fluid. You can also see this whilst navigating around the phone, as transitioning between applications seems much quicker. One Mobile Ring hasn’t noticed the Blackberry clock symbol appear, suggesting the new OS is making far better use of the slightly limited 1.2GHz processor in background tasks.

RIM has also dramatically improved the keyboard on the 9900, as it has a far more tactile feel and is more spacious, than featured on previous models. Unless you are intent on using only the touch screen, this keypad is about the best you can hope for these days. You won’t however notice too much difference within the recent operating systems, but naturally the firm has managed to strip distended code from the platform where the phone runs fast with little or no lag.

The one obvious issue that saps most of the fun from the phone's experience is the App World. If you are a golfer, then there is no need to worry as all your needs should be easily met. As a hardened business phone, most of the fun is restricted to organiser applications, most of which are already available on the device itself. This is an area where Blackberry obviously needs to improve, if they are to attract more consumers from the mainstream.

Unfortunately, the speaker does underperform massively during calls, especially in low-end frequencies. This becomes increasingly apparent in a busy atmosphere and especially in the car where the sound of the engine tends to muffle the audio rather unforgivably. When listening through the loudspeaker, the maximum volume just simply isn’t enough. The audio sounds quite ‘choppy’, but we didn’t really expect miracles in this aspect of the device.

This is certainly the slimmest BlackBerry yet, although some protrusions at the back make the Bold 9900 appear a bit thicker. It is a comfortable, reliable device that fits nicely into your pocket and will go a full 3 days of fun-filled activity without the need for a charge. When you do recharge the battery, the charging dock is also quite handy as an alarm clock stand and appears to be built in this way to avoid excessive wear on the micro USB port. Another useful ergonomic feature is the 3.5mm headphones jack, as it creates an unnatural lip in the contours of the back, allowing fingers to rest comfortably when holding the handset.

The overall feel from the 9900 Bold is that improvements to its functionality seem to have been more successful in the everyday experience. The basic hardware hasn’t changed dramatically from the outside, but the smart move has been to improve the efficiency of the operating system without overhauling it. In this way, the improvements will be more tenable to BlackBerry customers whilst providing a much more solid build, better looking and smaller device.

OMR feels there is no way the 9900 can directly compete with the iPhone 4, but it demonstrates the continuity in the development of one of the most efficient communicators in business today. The ‘Black on white’ colour scheme throughout messaging may seem pretty boring, but it is incredibly effective. Subconsciously, you wouldn't think much of it but the text will be easier to read and highlight in this way. It has an awful lot to boast over Nokia’s X7, but we feel it would appeal to a larger demographic if only the applications were mildly more exciting.

If the Bold 9900 was human, it wouldn’t have a sense of humour, it would work long hours, weekends and it wouldn’t take kindly to ‘apps’. It would deny the existence of the ‘snooze’ button, and the word ‘jovial’ wouldn’t even exist in its dictionary. These attributes are what makes it such a successful business phone, and a smart communicator.

- B

Originally published at

Rob has worked in the affiliate industry for many years with large publishers, and previously worked as a journalist on titles such as Wired, PC Magazine, ITProPortal, The Register, The Inquirer, Pocket-Lint, Mobile Industry Review, Know Your Mobile and The Gadget Show.