Blog Post

Review: Blackberry Bold is Beautiful

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

When Apple (s aapl) 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 (s rimm) 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.


33 Responses to “Review: Blackberry Bold is Beautiful”

  1. worddivah

    I have been waiting oh so impatiently for a Bold. I want one badly but NOT badly enough to switch to AT&T. Does anybody know if another carrier will ever offer it (or when)?

  2. I am still using my htc S621 through Unicel (soon to be Verizon for our area) though waiting patiently (not really) for a way to switch to the BB Bold. Not certain how the Unicel/Verizon service transition will go as far as which phones will work and which ones won’t. Does anyone know if an unlocked BB Bold will work on either/both Unicel and Verizon?

  3. Does anyone know when T-Mobile will get the Bold? I split time between the US and Europe and while I could get the Bold in Europe, I’ve held off because of the data and roaming charges I’d incur taking it to the US.

    I’ve been a subscriber to both operators and would buy the Bold via AT&T, however T-Mobile USA’s data plan and international roaming rates are far superior to AT & T’s when traveling overseas.

    I’m curious to know if T-Mobile is choosing instead to focus on the Android G1 phone if this means yet another delay in bringing the Bold to market. They’re about ready to lose me as a customer if so.

  4. Thanks for the interesting and helpful replies! It seems that there’s a lot of E71 users. For whatever reason (probably because I tend to prefer my old Treo 750), I seem to have some problems typing on the E71’s keyboard. The 750’s keyboard seems easier (probably since I’m so used to it). Will have to use it a bit more in hopes that I’ll get used to it. I do like the E71 since it offers a lot of features but it’s taking me a bit to find my way around the Symbian OS. Slippery though.

  5. I wanted to point out that with the launch of the Bold, RIM and AT&T are also showcasing a handful of BlackBerry Apps.

    Some full disclosure, I’m the product manager for one of those apps called, Viigo. Hundreds of thousands of BlackBerry users are using Viigo every day to stay up to date with their Sports Scores/Schedules, Stock Prices and Portfolios, News & RSS, Weather Updates, Flight Search/Tracking, etc. etc.

    You can download Viigo for free OTA by browsing to
    Would love to hear your feedback on the product – please email it to feedback (@)

    Jesse Sternberg
    Product Manager

  6. @May C… I purchased the Bold yesterday and am moving from a Nokia E71. My plan is to keep the E71 for evenings/weekends when my business needs (mostly messaging and file access) are less important but I might want a thin/attractive device. Simply put: the Bold is MUCH better for email purposes (to be fair, I did not utilize MS Exchange on the E71, rather I cycled through the onboard client, Nokia Email app, and System Seven app) and has far superior RF performance for calls. But be aware that the more open nature of the Symbian OS allows for more/easier customization than exists on the Bold (in my opinion).

  7. monal,

    The video camera encodes into a .3GP video package format, MP4 CODEC, 15 frames per second, 480×320 pixel resolution. SO I would say optimised for sharing over the 3G/EDGE phone network to other .3GP capable smart phones. Or when you don’t have anything else. I liken it to the usage model I have on my BlackBerry Pearl. Its not the best camera, but when it’s all you have, it’s better than nothing! Good enough to send over Facebook, email, etc but you wouldn’t take wedding pictures with it. :>. This Bold concept is the same, just for video.

  8. @May C… I would say E71 is a better device from all angles except it isn’t very good with email unless you use Exchange or Good for emailing over the air syncing. Apart from that E71 is lighter and easier to use on a daily basis.

    on the video i agree with @monal. It is to move videos from PC to device and then enjoy which makes most sense. I am not likely to download anything on the Bold.

  9. I would think video looking good on the Bold and not on the PC would have to do with compression and resolution of the source of that video. A compressed xvid converted to iPhone format for instance would look like crap when played back on your TV due to all of the compression that took place.

  10. Interesting thoughts. I have not tried an iPhone (prob one of the very few) although I did play with it a bit at a Mac store but didn’t like the virtual keyboard.

    I’m trying out the Nokia E71 and it’s great but I’m very curious about how the Bold compares. I only wished the E71 had a trackball (I came from touchscreen devices like Treo 650 and 750 so it’s harder for me to navigate on the the directional keys).

    Regarding the video, some people have commented that the video looks great on the Bold but when transferred and viewed on a computer or elsewhere, it’s not very good. Have you tried that?

  11. I got my Bold yesterday and share many of the same thoughts. After using iPhone, Android G1, BlackBerry Pearl, my impressions:

    Plusses: video capability is better than all 4 of them. Support for DiVX, Xvid and MP4 is amazing and the screen looks great. I played my native (non-DRM’d) content from iPhone Gen 5 and nano and it looked good. I played an Xvid movie and almost fell out of my chair. Voice quality seemed much better than iPhone and G1, equivalent to my Pearl. Standard mini audio jack is what the G1 needs.

    Minuses: The browsing experience seemed “slow” to me as well compared to the G1 and iPhone even when connected to WiFi, removing AT&T as the potential bottleneck. It seemed to strain with Java-script laden sides a lot more than iPhone or G1. I toggled Java on/off and saw remarkable differences in speed.

    If BlackBerry is your thing, at work or play, then I would absolutely recommend this.

  12. @marie and @Rob Adler

    You are right about the phone being shackled to the weak AT&T browser. In my edits took out a couple of paragraphs, but left the WHY in there which ruined the meaning of that post. I ended up making revisions to revert to what i really meant.

    On Poor Voice quality — well this is where it is ahead of iPhone I think, and has a better radio and is more adept at picking up signal in most places.

  13. quote: 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.

    But the iphone is also married to AT&T in the US… so this can’t be the reason why the bold browser is weaker than the iphone?

  14. All this complaining about 3G in America is making me nauseous. The 3G networks in Europe are very fine indeed because they chose the superior 3G technology instead of choosing the Qualcomm technology (Edge).

    As a result America got caught in a dead technology by choosing to support American business (and thats the summary of it). Whining about it isn’t going to solve it.

    AT&T seems to be building out and gradually fixing the problems from the reports I hear.

    • I totally agree, whining isn’t going to help. at&t is FAR from being the worst. I have found it much better than t-mobile, sprint and so on. The only other provider I have not tried has been verizon but I know it’s one of the two TOP providers in the US