RIM’s BOLD-est Phone Yet – Blackberry Bold 9900 Review

Written by Eric Tipan. Posted in News, Reviews

Tagged: , , , , , ,

Published on January 30, 2012 with No Comments

I’ve always liked Research in Motion (RIM) devices though they maybe a bit like my grandpa; got a lot of tricks but they’re all the same old ones you knew since you were 2.  Blackberrys are cellphones for people who want to subtly say, “been there, done that…now off to something better.”  If you feel like multi-tap is so done and dusted and SMS is so 90’s, well, we see eye-to-eye.

The latest model of the Bold series combines the best of both worlds, and RIM jumped on that bandwagon and tagged the 9900, Touch.  Type.  Together.

There is a “crush” factor that comes from the looks of the Bold 9900.  It is a mixture of sophistication and practicality.  The demo unit is the white version (also comes in black) and running along the entire side is a metallic band giving it that premium look and feel.  The front face is unmistakably Blackberry from top to bottom, never veering away from what makes them unique and a standout from other smartphones that suffer through look-a-like dilemmas.  The keypad is very impressive for a QWERTY smartphone.  Each button, which glows white in dim and extremely bright situations, is given just the right space and is just the right size making typing such a pleasure.  The backside fits into your palms like Kim Kardashian fits into those 32 DDs.  Perfect.  The slight curves on the backside panel were a genius touch because they give the holder a more tactile feel on the Bold 9900.

The 2.8-inch capacitive touch screen display is dubbed “Liquid Graphics” and it sports a 640 x 480, 287 ppi resolution. The screen handles colors and light very well. I haven’t had an issue with glare at midday and it is always appealing to view wallpapers or pictures because of the vibrant and striking color display. I actually find myself just staring at the display until it sleeps, out of fascination. Touch. Type. Together rookies may catch themselves using the optical trackpad much too much out of habit but once you get used to the “touch” factor, it becomes familiar real quick. Pinch and zoom to view works like a charm and very refreshing to see on a Blackberry. As en vogue as the Bold 9900 is because of the integrated “touch” capability, response and reliability is compromised on certain occasions and with certain apps. There are times when 2 or more taps are needed to get it going or to get an app to respond. I’m still trying to figure out if this is a calibration or a speed (processing) issue. Precision is not as spot-on when altering certain letters along the sentence and the small screen doesn’t do you any favors. When the letter is on the edge of the screen, you’d be better off just backspacing everything and retyping it than needling through each letter until you get there.

The different home screens (All, Favorites, Media, Downloads, Frequent) of RIM’s Blackberry OS 7 provide you with a variety of panes that handle the apps and data that are used regularly. The home screen slides down with the flick of a finger allowing an unobstructed view of your wallpaper. Picking up from an Android feature, there is a notification bar that lets you know if you’ve got mail, SMS, or messages from apps like Facebook.

Speaking of FB, Blackberry app developers need to code in a fresh, new look to this because what’s there right now just doesn’t do justice to the magnificent graphics that the screen can produce. Using FB on Blackberry for some weird reason actually makes me feel younger and that’s not a good thing for RIM.   While we’re on the topic of apps from the Blackberry App World, this is where RIM is losing big to other portable device operating systems. There are just but hundreds compared to the millions you can find on other online app markets. The essentials for social networking are there, Facebook, Twitter, chat apps, etc. but not nearly enough for flavor and variety.

On the inside the Bold 9900 hums to the beat of its Qualcomm Scorpion 8655 1.2 GHz processor with 768 MB RAM and an 8 GB on-board memory (plus microSD slot supporting up to 32 GB cards). In the era of dual cores, this is another aspect of the mobile computing game where RIM is clearly playing catch-up.  The difference in speed is negligible but what is stark is, it is there and when there are several apps running simultaneously with app updates (rare but when it happens, you’ll feel it) it makes all the difference in performance and you’ll constantly find yourself staring at the watch icon (BB’s hourglass equivalent).

It has an Orientation and Proximity sensor, NFC (Near Field Communication), and a Digital Compass. The Maps app would have been awesome if it was accurate. Several consecutive times I ran the app while at the office in Ortigas and it put me somewhere along Buendia in Makati.

The Bold 9900 is suited up with the dizzyingly fast OS 7. Calling it responsive isn’t even fair. Browsing through the menu and opening native apps are a cinch and are, in fact, very snappy. Can’t say the same for the browser though. It is stone age slow and the lack of third party options is just downright depressing.  Also, every app install/uninstall requires a reboot which, as BB faithful know, is like watching the grass grow.

What sets it apart from other OS’s though is its Push power. Emails and other similarly important data are received much faster on the Bold 9900 than other smartphones. The handling and transmission of push data via BIS is second to none.

The 5 MP camera, with a built-in flash, is decent and can capture 720p HD videos. Obviously, that wouldn’t be labeled state of the art these days but the built-in shooting modes make seizing priceless moments easy and fun. Not having a front-facing camera though is another que horror moment by RIM. WHY? is the only word I can emotionally come up with.

Sample Photo, Click Photo to get Full Resolution

Sample Photo, Click Photo to get Full Resolution

Sample Photo, Click Photo to get Full Resolution

Sample Photo, Click Photo to get Full Resolution

The battery is a lot smaller than the previous Bold, with this being the thinnest Blackberry to date. It will last a couple of days max or a little over a day with heavy use. Still better at managing juice than other smartphones handling 3G cellular data 24/7.

If you’re new in the smartphone market, there are some higher spec’d smartphones out there, in the same price range that might make you think twice. It will have to boil down to ease of use and appeal, something that the Bold, I assure you, has absolutely no shortage of. The QWERTY keypad and the touch factor alone combines the two easiest ways to input data. For looks, call it a smartphone supermodel for sure or as Snoop would say “fo’ shizzle”.

For the Berry-heads, it would be a no-brainer. And for the rest who just can’t seem to make up their mind, I can sum it up by saying “the best Blackberry, period.”

Plus: Display, Looks, and Keypad

Minus: Single Core Processor, Unresponsive Touch interface at times, No Front-facing Camera

Rating: 6/10