Review: Blackberry Bold is Beautiful

When Apple released the iPhone in July 2007, it changed the wireless game forever. But while some have been frozen by the iPhone assault, others have responded with a slew of new devices. The latest come from BlackBerry maker RIM in the form of the BlackBerry Storm and the BlackBerry Bold.

Today I got my hands on the much-delayed BlackBerry Bold that was launched on the AT&T network in the U.S. After less than an hour it was clear to me that this might just be the best BlackBerry on the market — and a must-buy for folks who can’t live without a physical QWERTY keyboard.

Here are my impressions of this device:

It’s got the look: Despite its thicker dimensions, this is much better-looking device when compared to older BlackBerrys, and makes you overlook the weight of the device. However, if you looked closely you see that there is a certain chintz-like quality, but overall the good bits mask some of the shortcomings. For instance, you can access the memory card by opening a slot on the right hand side of the device. In the past, you would have to open back and take out the battery before you got to the memory card.

Overall, it has a certain European aesthetic to it — it’s shiny in an understated sort of a way. For many of our readers, especially those who run their own companies or those who finance them, my advice: Upgrade to this device today – it is a much better fit with your station in life. (If you don’t already have an iPhone, that is.)

Built strong: It retains the heft of the BlackBerry 8800, but has a keyboard that’s more comfortable to use than the BlackBerry Curve. A powerful 624 MHz processor and a half-VGA 480 x 320 display makes using this device a joy. The screen quality will completely change the way you view BlackBerry devices.

Ultimate networker: I love the connectivity options on this device — 3G (HSDPA), EDGE, GPRS and GSM networks, as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. From a consumer’s standpoint, it has a 2-megapixel camera with flash and zoom that can take great photos, and you can save them on 1GB on-board memory (expandable to 32 GB via microSD/SDHC media cards); it also has GPS and full multimedia options. (I have left the connections on and will update the post after getting a better grip on the battery life of this device. After 9 hours the device had used up one fifth of its total capacity.)

Play it again: I was thoroughly impressed by the jitter-free video and also the quality of the audio playback. There is a way to sync your non-DRM tunes with iTunes on a PC using BlackBerry Media Sync but since I don’t keep my music on a Windows machine, it is hard to test this feature out. (Maybe later this weekend I will try it out.)

Again, it’s got the look: What really blows me away about the Bold is its interface, which is a vast improvement over previous generations of BlackBerrys (though its miles behind the iPhone). There are a lot of subtle improvements, from icons to folders (both hi-res) to the ability to sift through a lot of applications with a smooth rollerball.

Texter’s delight: There are five applications I use on my mobiles: Google Talk, Google Mail, Facebook, Twitter and Truphone. Even though I have become very, very proficient with the iPhone’s touch screen, they all are easier to use with the BlackBerry keyboard, including this one.

Weak browser, weaker friends: One of the main reasons why I put up with the iPhone is its excellent browser and big screen size. Unfortunately, this is where the Bold fails me: The browser is weak. Why?

The phone is married to what is quickly becoming the worst wireless network in the U.S. – AT&T. The high number of dropped calls and slow 3G speeds have dampened the joy of using Bold in the brief time I have tested device, which is a shame, because it is the Audi A8 of smartphones: good-looking, durable, easy to use and a texter’s delight. It would be perfect on Verizon’s EVDO network.


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