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BlackBerry Bold 9000
In many ways the Blackberry is perhaps the only "locked ecosystem" business model outside Apple's media players that's worked so well. Despite facing a crippling lawsuit only a couple of years ago, RIM has grown from strength to strength and only emerged stronger. The company's choke-hold on the corporate email market is only too visible.
What is it about a BlackBerry phone that makes it so indispensable to business users? In an era of multiple smartphone platforms, how are these phones maintaining their lead? These questions were uppermost in our minds as we set about reviewing the device.
We don’t intend to cover the design aspects in detail as we had done that quite adequately in the preview of the handset. Click here for a more detailed perspective on the form factor. Just to reiterate, though the BlackBerry bold may seem a bit bulky, this won't be an issue for existing users looking to upgrade to the next best thing from RIM. The Bold 9000 offers a sense of elegance and class to the line.
For starters, the brilliant 480 x 320 pixel resolution screen is great for videos as well as the use of the camera. The keypad may take a little bit of getting used to if you’re transitioning from a normal handset to QWERTY, but it won’t take more than a few minutes. What we really liked is RIM’s decision to go universal with the Bold’s external connectivity options, such as a 3.5mm earphone and standard miniUSB sockets. The Pearl trackball is very handy for navigation.
A shortcut key can be assigned to a specific feature of your choice, and there's a dedicated camera key as well. The device has 1GB internal memory, but supports external memory via microSD cards. One problem is that removing the microSD card is not an easy task. This seems to be the only flaw in the handset’s design – everything else is A-OK.
Features and Performance
Interface and OS Performance
The Blackberry Bold is the most powerful unit that RIM has shipped yet. It comes with a 624 MHz Marvell processor, 128 MB of RAM for application usage, 1GB of onboard storage, and external expansion via a microSD slot. This gives the phone a clear edge over earlier versions.
Multi-tasking was smooth, with multiple applications running. Opening large document and emails was a relatively painless procedure, as the phone was able to process them quickly without issues or slowdowns.
The only issue we faced was the occasional hangup. In some rare cases, the phone's OS would simply hang with a 523 APP error and it would require us to pull out the battery to restart. That's another issue; we've used hundreds of smartphones in the past but none has been as slow when it comes to bootup time. A startup from a battery pullout can take as long as 2½ minutes.
Once it booted up the phone was thankfully smooth and responsive, and posed no issues. The Bold has received a much-needed UI upgrade from its previous iterations. The new UI looks incredibly sharp and detailed.
Being a modern-day device, the Bold comes packed to the hilt with wireless connectivity. Not only does it feature quad-band GSM support, it goes further and offers tri-band HSDPA connectivity. Furthermore, the phone has native support for Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g), Bluetooth with A2DP, and a full range of GSM data connectivity options.
Since India is still a 2.75g market, we were able to test only EDGE connectivity. There were no issues here as the phone was easily able to hold on to an EDGE signal in areas where our comparison phone (the E61i) merrily downgraded itself to simple GPRS connectivity. Wi-Fi was also fairly easy to configure and despite having complicated office network security in place, we were able to easily set up our phone and be online in minutes.
Email, Contacts and Productivity
We tested the Bold on the Vodafone network using both BIS and BES-enabled data services. In each case, setup was very smooth, with virtually no time needed for the phone to start receiving mail. The configuration was done via BlackBerry's site and was pretty seamless. Having lived with Nokia phones that make you jump through hoops to configure email systems, the act of configuring seven email IDs from seven different providers by simply entering the login/password at the BlackBerry site (and having the configuration done automatically) was a welcome change.
As was common in the past for BIS services, all email inboxes show up as separate inboxes and a single integrated mailbox. There was no change here and longterm BlackBerry users will warm to this familiar touch. So what has changed? The answer lies in addition of HTML mail. In the past, all HTML mails sent to BlackBerry devices used to be stripped down to HTML code if there were images. This is now a thing of the past. The BlackBerry Bold is able to easily display HTML mail while preserving the fonts and formatting without any loss.
Contacts and date organization is seamless too. At work we use Google Apps and Microsoft Exchange as our primary work email IDs. Syncing with either platform was as easy as drinking a pitcher of beer on a Friday night.
Documents To Go
If you have used a Palm in the past, this software suite will be familiar to you. DataViz, the company that makes the Documents To Go suite, has now licensed its software to RIM. The software works flawlessly as it allows you to edit documents easily and supports all major file formats, including Microsoft Office 2007. The only thing it does not support is Excel, for some odd reason. We kept getting errors while trying to open Excel files.
The edition offered with the BlackBerry bold is quite functional but very basic. For advanced operations, we recommend that you look at purchasing DataViz's professional edition that adds a host of features such as resetting the font of a document, Excel sheet management, embedding links etc. Further details can be found here.
Audio and Games
The Bold's new music player is a definite step up from the previous models. It’s equipped with plenty of EQ presets to choose from, including Bass Boost and Loudness. We would have preferred a customizable setting as well, but it’s not critical. The output is good enough with a decent set of earphones. Users can create playlists on the handset itself.
The Bold also has a built-in voice recorder and set of decently loud stereo speakers. Since it has a 3.5mm earphone socket you can use your own set of earphones if the bundled in-ear set is not your thing. Here’s the rub though; unlike some other handsets, you can’t use the handset’s microphone if you’re using your personal earphones. You’ll have to remove them and have a conversation. The absence of an FM radio is also something to think about.
There are five preloaded games that will help you pass the time. Klondike Solitaire can take a bit of getting used to, considering the navigation is a bit tricky.
The Bold 9000 is capable of DivX, XviD and WMV file playback without conversion. It’s a simple matter of copy-pasting the files on to the memory card drive. DivX files do tend to hiccup when you forward the video. The player tends to get sluggish and the voice sync goes a bit awry, so you’ll have to watch the videos from start to finish at a stretch. Playback doesn’t continue from where you stop. Nevertheless it’s still a pleasure watching videos on the large display.
This is one of the biggest issues you’ll have with the Bold. Though the handset has a built-in GPS radio with a feature for Geotagging, there are no maps preloaded. That’s not all; the company doesn’t even include any maps in the package. You will have to download the maps yourself, and that’s not easy as there weren’t any maps to be found, no OTA updates or otherwise. Considering the hefty wouldn't you think they’d make it easier for the consumer? Give it your best shot and try downloading whatever you can from here.
The Bold 9000 is equipped with a 2 megapixel camera that has an LED flash. On the whole the quality of the images is quite good. Feature-wise the camera is fairly simplistic, with settings for image size and white balance. Since the handset is GPS-enabled, the camera has a separate setting for allowing Geotagging.
Images taken in normal daylight look quite decent with most colors remaining intact but you will notice a slight smudging of colors if you look very carefully at the details. However, the reproductions on the handset’s display are very good.
The battery is unfortunately just a little above average in performance. The Bold will give users a total of about 2 hours and 50 minutes of pure talktime. You’ll get a little over a day and half of usage if you’re constantly downloading email and surfing the web frequently. It doesn’t quite make a ‘Bold’ statement in this department.
The price of the BlackBerry Bold 9000 is rather steep at around Rs 35,000. It's locked in to Vodafone, Airtel, and Reliance, so BPL users are out. Although the handset is capable of functioning really well in terms of RIM’s primary business services, it also performs quite well in the media section.
So do we think it’s worth the price? In all honesty, we feel existing users who switch to this model will gain access to a fun side to the business angle and yet retain that aura of style and exclusivity. However, it does have its share of drawbacks, so consider a switch with care in case you’re NOT an existing BlackBerry user.
BlackBerry Bold 9000
GSM 850/900/1800/1900, EDGE
|Physical||114 x 66 x 14 mm, 133g|
|Display||480 x 320, 65k colors, TFT LCD|
|Memory||1GB internal, MicroSD for external |
|Media||AAC+, MP3, 3GP, Voice Recorder, DivX, WMV, XviD|
|Camera||2 megapixel, LED flash|
|Connectivity||USB v2.0, Bluetooth with A2DP, Wi-Fi |
|Battery||300 hrs standby, 2 hrs 55 mins talktime |