The Gadget Post
Make no mistake regarding this: The Bold 9900 is the best BlackBerry smartphone to date. But even with a good-looking overhaul featured by a new capacitive touchscreen (plus all the familiar features which make a BlackBerry a Blackberry) could it be enough to seal the space between Apple or Android? Maybe a little?
- 2.8in, 640 x 480 display
- 1.2GHz Processor
- BlackBerry OS 7.0
- Mini qwerty keyboard
Design and Features
BlackBerry continues to be against it recently, its handsets really only holding their own based on people’s passion for the form factor and their abilities at basic phone duties. When it came to apps, web browsing, as well as other smartphone fripperies, though, they lagged well behind. Rim hopes to improve all that featuring its latest handset, the BlackBerry Bold 9900.
RIM has created some interesting design decisions with the Bold 9900. Gone is the leatherette back, substituted by a carbon fibre panel. The shiny chrome strip of old has been replaced by stainless steel band that no longer loops round the back and front like on its predecessor, the BlackBerry Bold 9780, but harks back to the initial Bold 9000 by only bordering the front. The sides of the back are also bevelled and given a soft touch matt black plastic finish. The result is a phone that looks at first glance very familiar but up close retains a sophisticated vibe – the carbon fibre is a particularly nice touch.
The design changes haven’t affected the phone’s build quality either – this is possibly the best-built BlackBerry yet. It also remains very comfortable and secure, the beveled edges allowing the phone to nestle, rather than dig, into your hand. The lock button that sits on the top edge is a bit of a stretch, though, and is recessed a little too much, making it a little awkward. This is a little annoying as it’s a function you use everyday.
Otherwise the general layout and selection of buttons and other external features is excellent. On the right edge you have volume buttons flanking a play/pause button and a camera button. That play/pause button allows you to play or pause your music without unlocking your phone, which is immensely useful . The camera button is also very handy as it will launch the camera app when pressed, enabling you to get to taking a photo with just two button clicks – unlock then camera button.
On the left edge is the microUSB socket, which is used for data transfer and charging, and – rather annoyingly – the headphone jack. Having the socket here means that your headphones stick out at an awkward angle, making it a pain to get the phone in your pocket, unless you have an angled headphone jack.
Get through the challenge of prising the back plate off and you can access the rather modest 1230mAh battery or add a micro SD card to bolster the phone’s 8GB of inbuilt storage with up to 32GB more (40GB max total). You can’t swap either the SIM or micro SD card without removing the battery, though. Above the back cover is the camera, along with its LED flash.
A nice bonus is the decent leatherette case included in the box, along with a modular charger, a separate USB cable and a headset with inline mic and remote – for answering calls and play/pausing music – and an angled jack.
An natural problem with the classic BlackBerry shape has always been that you can only fit in so big a screen. This hasn’t really changed with the Bold 9900 but RIM has managed to fit the largest screen yet in this model. At 2.8in from corner to corner, it still pales in comparison to the 4in ones you get on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S 2. Nonetheless, RIM has increased the resolution so you get 640 x 480 pixels (compared to 480 x 360 on old models). This makes for a wonderfully sharp display. In fact, it’s so sharp you simply can’t see the pixels, no matter how close you hold it. Viewing angles are good in that you can still clearly see the display from even the most acute angle but there is a fair amount of colour shift as you do so. Overall, though, it’s a big improvement over predecessors
Making less of an obvious advance is the keyboard, but this really is largely because the Bold series’s keyboard was always streets ahead already. RIM has improved things, though, by widening it by 5%, giving your fingers just that little bit more room for manoeuvre.The design will be familiar to regular BlackBerry users, and should cause them no concern, but for newbies there exists a tiny amount of head-scratching involved. The letters, space bar, delete and return keys appear precisely where you expect nevertheless the lack of devoted number keys, and that all punctuation marks are hidden as supplementary functions – even the full stop – may make for something of a learning curve.
Overall typing speed is additionally hampered by the mediocre text prediction. While pro-BlackBerry users can get without prediction at all, we found prediction essential to mask the odd finger slip. But, while the more obvious mistakes were picked up, the prediction engine here is nowhere near the level of the Android, iPhone or Windows Phone devices.
The BlackBerry 9900 runs on BlackBerry 7 OS, featuring a relatively hefty amount of updates over its predecessor, the most prominent change being the new so-called liquid graphics. This refers to RIM’s very sensible decision to ensure that, having its phone now a touch interface, the interface should react smoothly and swiftly, without the clunkiness that some models exhibit – and this is something the corporation has definitely accomplished.
Moving around websites, scrolling through lists and navigating menus are all tasks made fluid and intuitive thanks to the excellent way the touchscreen tracks your motion as well as the display transmits it back. It’s a subtle thing but getting this feel exactly right is precisely where many touchscreen handsets fall down, and is often where Android handsets can still feel a little bit clunky. Here, though, you’re always left feeling self-assured of your movements.
It’s also amazingly intuitive flirting back and forth between the touchscreen as well as optical pointer that sits smack bang in the centre of the handset. Evidently it’s completely unnecessary as all actions the pointer can perform can also be done using the touchscreen but sometimes it just feels right to scroll through a menu or pinpoint a cursor using it. And, going back to the touchscreen once you’ve done so doesn’t result in any odd responses from the software; it simply carries on responding just as you’d hope.
No doubt helping here is the significantly improved processor sitting at the handset’s heart. Previous Bolds have maxed-out at 624MHz but the Bold 9900 has a 1.2GHz Qualcomm 8655 chip. It might not be dual-core but it makes mincemeat of the BlackBerry OS, with there seldom being a sign of slow down or stutter.
The entire styling and layout of the interface hasn’t changed all that much with the homescreen still eschewing the trend for icons and widgets, and multiple… well, homescreens. Instead you have a blank section at the center – all the more space for your favorite image – with info and notification segments above and a thin strip of app shortcuts and a link to the main app launcher/menu below. The mixture of these works wonderfully, giving you instant access to useful information and making the majority of apps easily available.
Case-Mate Brushed Aluminum Barely There Case for BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900/9930 – 1 Pack – Case – Retail Packaging – Silver
- Fits with Blackberry Bold Touch 9900 and 9930 models
- Extremely slim profile showcases more of your phone
- Access to all ports and functions
The Brushed Aluminum Barely There is a sporty cases for your device. The gunmetal hard shell surrounds the perimeter of the case, while the genuine brushed aluminum inlay shows off more of your device.
List Price: $ 39.99
Price: $ 13.01
The top-most section shows all your basic phone information for instance date, time, and signal strength in a clean and simple manner, and tapping this brings up a convenient array of options, including Wi-FI and Bluetooth and Alarms. Again BlackBerry appears to have got the selection here just right, and there is not too much so as to bamboozle but not so little as to require constantly delving into the main menu.
Below this is the notifications section, which is just a thin bar that at a glance shows how many messages you have, apps that need updating, calendar appointments you have, and such like. Tap this and the screen is filled with a list showing the full selection of information (with a maximum of three notifications per app). Like much of the phone’s interface, the style is quite stark – each set of notices is just a text list – but it doesn’t feel backward because of this, just functional.
The final piece of the homescreen is the app launcher. This sits at the bottom of the screen, and can be either completely hidden, a single line of six apps or two lines of 12 apps. You can then either tap or drag up the bar to fully open the list of apps. Here you now get the chance to arrange apps in whatever order you please, putting them in folders or even hiding them from prying eyes. You can also sort them into categorized pages, though you can’t add (or remove) pages so the default selection of All, Favorite’s, Media, and Downloads is your lot.
As mentioned earlier, it’s a system that works well and once you’ve arranged your apps as you please you can generally get to your favorites in double-quick time. The only difficulty is the lack of labels on the icons, meaning there’s a bit of a learning curve in working out what icon infers what.
The search function is another boon of the homescreen. Start typing while on the homescreen or tap the magnifying glass icon in the top right corner and the search feature will kick in. Instantly you’ll start seeing contacts, messages, calendar entries, apps and more that match your search, and as you continue typing the search will be refined. And in a subtle but welcome touch, when you click a search result, it doesn’t forgot the search you just made so if you jump to a search result then tap the Back button a couple of times to get back, you aren’t greeted by a blank page. This is in contrast to much of the competition that ditch the search as soon as you navigate away.
Multimedia has never been a strong suit of BlackBerrys and in many ways that hasn’t changed on this phone simply because the screen is still a bit small. It also doesn’t excel when it comes to video format support with MKV and RMVB formats unsupported. High bit-rate H.264 encoded files also won’t play though your average DivX or MP4 clip up to 720p will play fine. The interface for doing so is simple but effective and you can drag and drop files onto the phone.
The same applies for music; just drag and drop and away you go. It will play MP3, AAC and WMA files but lossless formats like FLAC aren’t supported. Nonetheless, the phone delivers great-sounding music from its headphone jack, with plenty of oomph and no background hiss. Oh, and did we mention we love that you can play and pause music with that side button? You can also access the Amazon MP3 store right from the phone, where most individual songs cost £0.99 and albums £7.49. Few of the streaming music services seemed to be catered for in the BlackBerry App World, though.
- This unlocked cell phone is compatible with GSM carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile. Not all carrier features may be supported.
- 1.2 GHz processor and 8GB of expandable memory
- Sleek, high-end, and loaded with the ultimate tools, the thinnest, sleekest BlackBerry smartphone yet
- BlackBerry 7 OS has been powerfully enhanced
- Communicate and interact like never before with the fluid touch screen
Technical Details : 2.8″ capacitive touch display Full, wide QWERTY keyboard BlackBerry 7 OS 1.2 GHz Processor 5.0MP camera with flash 720p HD video recording capability 1230 mAH battery 768 MB RAM 8GB on-board memory Micro SD slot supports up to 32GB Dual-band Wi-Fi GPS Tri-band HSPA+, Quad-band GSM/EDGE NFC technology New Augmented Reality enabled with digital compass and accelerometer BlackBerry QWERTY keyboard 24-bit high-resolution touch screen 10.5mm thin design New powerful 1.2GHz process
List Price: $ 699.99
Price: $ 190.00
As with video, photo viewing isn’t exactly this phone’s most obvious forte due to screen size but given the quality of the screen you can more-than enjoy images when the need arises. The image viewer is a simple affair but one that’s nice and easy to use, with smooth animations as you swipe left and right between images.
When it comes to taking your own images, the 9900 doesn’t exactly excel. That its camera only shoots at five megapixels, compared to the eight of many rivals, is bad enough, but it also lacks autofocus, making close up/macro shots impossible. This is particularly annoying as you can get very useful apps for scanning business cards, and they will struggle to make out the necessary detail on this handset.
One upside to the lack of focus, when combined with the phone’s speedy operation, is you can take a shot very quickly – you can go from the homescreen to having taken a shot in a couple of seconds. Also, you do get a reasonably powerful LED flash and overall coloration and sharpness of images is reasonable.
Video has improved compared to predecessors but it’s still not overly impressive. You can shoot at up to 720p and again results are perfectly reasonable, and the LED is there for shooting in the dark. We also particularly like that you can pause and resume shooting without it automatically creating a second clip. However, you can’t turn the light on and off while recording and overall image quality is nothing special. Also, there are no facilities for editing or uploading video pre-installed (nor for images for that matter).
In fact there didn’t seem to be much in the way of video and photo editing apps available on the Blackberry app store either. The App World, while stocked with the basics and sporting a vastly improved interface over previous versions, is somewhat lacking.
Also somewhat lacking is battery life. Not that the Bold 9900 drops dead with half a day’s use but, considering BlackBerrys have long been known for lasting much longer than the competition, the couple of days you’ll get from the Bold 9900 (in general use) may be a little disappointing.
All in all , the BlackBerry Bold 9900 is amongst the perfect upgrade for current BlackBerry consumers, assuming you can tolerate the slight drop in battery life. The keyboard’s excellent, the touchscreen’s wonderful, performance is outstanding, and the new software adds plenty too. What’s more the limitations won’t feel as such if you’re accustomed to previous BlackBerrys. However, if you’re looking at this phone as simply the best RIM currently has to contest with the iPhones and Androids of this world, then it doesn’t quite compare. Yes, a great deal of its limitations are merely down to form factor but nonetheless the screen is small, the camera isn’t up to snuff, and the selection of apps is woeful.
Still its a Blackberry and I love it.