Research in Motion (RIM), the maker of BlackBerry has been under adverse market pressure for a while now and one of its key strategies to turn things around was to speed up its release cycle. The RIM head honchos in Waterloo, Canada have probably heard enough ranting about BlackBerry smartphones featuring fairly dated processors and a visibly aging OS.
And of course, nothing makes things crystal clear to head honchos as a dip in market share, which is exactly what RIM has been witnessing globally. Even as I write this, Gartner’s latest data shows that RIM’s market share in mobile phones has fallen from 3.2 percent in Q2 2010 to 3 percent in Q2 2011, while Apple’s has nearly doubled. Of course the once mighty mobile phone leader Nokia has crashed in a far more spectacular fashion, and seeing Nokia’s fate and its own crashing stock price must be making the once-upon-a-time smartphone leader RIM quite wary.
RIM’s response: A whole new series of smartphones with mouth-watering specs have been announced and are being launched in the next few days and weeks. This is the biggest launch in RIM’s history—never before has the smartphone maker launched so many devices in so short a time, but I guess tough times demand drastic, out-of-comfort-zone measures. And the first in the pack is the BlackBerry Bold 9900.
Check out our quick video review below -
At first glance the Bold 9900 reminded me of the Bold 9000, the first BlackBerry to feature the ‘Bold’ brand and which brings back great memories for a BlackBerry regular like me. Trawl any BlackBerry-related forum and you’ll see many users wistfully remembering the Bold 9000 despite two more great Bold smartphones (the 9700 and the 9780) being released in later years.But that’s where the similarity ends. The Bold 9900 may look like the Bold 9000 from the front, but is thinner, slightly smaller and if you compare what’s inside the difference would be as stark as comparing the insides of a Toyota commuter car with a Porsche.
Very elegant design
Touted as the thinnest BlackBerry yet (115 x 66 x 10.5 mm), I think the Bold 9900 looks great—very businesslike and is built like a tank. I don’t like bling and the brushed metal rim with a thin polished edge is the very opposite of bling, as it gently whispers class. The rear battery isn’t faux leather as in the 9780, and is smooth as they come, and with good reason. Under the rear cover is the Near Field Communication (NFC) antenna, so the rear had to be smooth carbon fibre so there would be no signal disruptions. Fortunately, thanks to the gentle protrusion at the rear which is rubberised, the device won’t slip from your hands. Brilliant design!
Weighing in at 130 gms, the Bold 9900 is heavier and bigger than its immediate predecessor. RIM is swimming against the usual flow here, but I think it’s a great decision — I loved the feel of the 9900 in my hands. Incidentally, some informal dipstick surveys I did revealed that the fairer sex may find it a tad too large. Button positioning is a bit different from the standard BlackBerry style. On the right of the 9900 there are now four buttons, as opposed to the usual three. Three are media buttons with a welcome pause button in the middle and the bottom one is a convenience key you can customize as per your liking.
The slimmest Bold yet
Unfortunately, there's no convenience key on the left, a glaring omission I didn't like one bit. There's a micro USB port for charging and sync and a standard 3.5mm audio out slot with a nice contoured design. On the top there's a single lock button which is placed bang in the centre and far easier to click than the top lock button on some earlier BlackBerry smartphones.
The 9900 boasts of a 2.8-inch, 640 x 480 pixel capacitive touchscreen that is incredibly sharp thanks to BlackBerry 7 OS' Liquid Graphics technology. This is the best BlackBerry display yet. The touchscreen is very precise and responsive and the trackpad plus touchscreen combo works great. Even though I prefer QWERTY over touchscreens any day, I found myself intuitively using the touchscreen often.
I'm usually not the betting kind, but in this case, I’ll bet large amounts that the QWERTY keyboard on the Bold 9900 is the best on any smartphone. Period. In my opinion, the erstwhile Bold 9000 had the best QWERTY keyboard till date, but that great keyboard has finally been dethroned by one that's even more silky soft, slightly larger and is all-in-all, jaw-dropping amazing. Not one wrong keystroke from the get go - it's that good.