BlackBerry Bold: Upgrading Your Mobile Experience

As a Canadian I have been in the fortunate position of having experienced a BlackBerry Bold since its launch on Rogers in late August.

It’s not simply a new smartphone or “replacement” for an older BlackBerry. The Bold, finally available at AT&T, is a game changer when it comes to not only exchanging information but also its role in both your personal and business life.

So what drives this new mobile life?

The BlackBerry Bold’s screen must be seen to truly appreciate how stunning it is. As I worked with emails, web pages, Google Maps, Twitter and other applications, the screen’s text fonts and photo and video renderings “grow” on you. For example, Wall Street Journal for Mobile and New York Times have a quality that extends their renowned website visual branding as a quality publication to the BlackBerry. Crisp, often small, fonts and vibrant colors make the reading experience just as good as, if not easier than, a newspaper. Google Maps satellite views distinguish buildings while showing street names in small, yet sharp, fonts.

nyt021108blur240pxThe most important game changing feature of the display is the half-VGA display resolution.

It means you can follow most web pages without horizontal scrolling. It eliminates the constant urge to boot up a laptop while on the road to keep current with not only email but also time sensitive documents, Skype chat sessions via iSkoot and Twitter message streams as well as blog activity and news.

Combining the enhanced keyboard with BlackBerry’s reputation for robust, secure and reliable email is just the start. Entries for Twitter feeds, document editing, instant messaging, website URLs and application purchases at the application store all benefit from the speed and accuracy associated with having a keyboard. The trackball pointer is a valuable assistant for precisely accessing text insertion points; a magnifier icon assists zooming.

But two way communications is more that text and media exchange. During recent neighborhood cable outages, I was able to access a daily one hour Calliflower conference call via iSkoot and its support for Skype-based calling with the only cost being local wireless minutes. I quickly realized that it was actually more convenient to have the device mobility when interrupted by activities that took me away from my desk.

The Bold’s 3G mobile connectivity is complemented by its support for WiFi when in an accessible WiFi zone. It means faster download of web pages and multimedia, eliminating or reducing buffering of streaming video, such as available on YouTube.

One example demonstrates the power of the combination of display quality, connection speed and processor performance. Previously I mentioned the quality of Google Maps satellite views; however, recently Google Maps Street View became available for the BlackBerry (for U.S. locations only). Stroll down a street or rotate about an address, the Bold’s connectivity and processor come into play for downloading and rendering the resulting images. The result is not only high quality images of the surrounding buildings and scenery but also rapid image updating with minimum pixelating as you move about.

The Bold also includes a media player supporting both stereo audio and video; its support of microSD memory cards allows easy memory upgrades as your media collection builds. Music can be synchronized from iTunes via BlackBerry MediaSync. During a recent flight I was able to transcribe an interview, recorded from a Skype call as an MP3 file via Pamela (and added to iTunes), where the Bold’s trackball pointer provided the required precision to easily access and replay segments of the interview with an accuracy no touch screen can approach.

So what’s the downside?

While the display provides the ability to keep up with much more information than via email exchanges, the browser still needs some work to come up to the quality of the iPhone browsing experience. But it never prevented me from executing time sensitive work activity. While the Bold readily switches between WiFi and 3G when entering and leaving registered WiFi access points, registering those WiFi access points is not quite the single step stress-free iPhone process.

There are many features left to try out; I am constantly downloading applications and shortcuts. But the overall experience is best summed up by a business professional aquaintance who, after six weeks with the Bold, reported that “I’m beginning to think my Bold is more powerful than my notebook.” A sentiment I started to feel during a recent trip to California where all these factors came into play and I found I was ignoring my laptop, yet keeping fully current. But BlackBerry Bold is a device you have to see to truly appreciate its full potential.

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