While every other smartphone company out there is in the process of huge innovation drives, Canada’s Research in Motion seems to be a little too content. Not that it’s a bad thing, since the Blackberry Bold 9700 smartphone proves that even subtle and unobtrusive refinements to a well-worn formula is enough to produce a very good phone.
The Bold 9700 starts off well by offering both Wi-Fi and 3G support and completing the set by also supporting GPS. It has a 3MP camera with flash but inexplicably, no front camera. It comes with 256MB of internal storage and the package includes a hot-swappable 2GB microSD card. The 9700 also has a built-in app that lets you access the brand-new Blackberry App World store that lets you buy, try or freely use apps meant for Blackberry phones. The store is simple to use but the number of apps (especially free ones) looks small as compared to Apple’s App Store or Google’s Android Market.
An excellent design addition is the new optical trackpad that replaces the old Bold’s trackball.
The Bold offers a number of productivity features, the primary of which being the Documents to Go Standard suite. This suite lets you view and edit Word documents, Excel sheets and PowerPoint presentations but for creating new documents you will have to upgrade to the Premium edition. The Bold also has a very well realized task manager that lets you arrange and keep track of multiple schedules.
Of course, the most important function that every Blackberry user considers is its e-mail and messaging functionality. RIM has wisely kept away from major changes in this department and thus keeping track of your e-mails even when on the move is an easy task, provided you have the Blackberry Service enabled on your phone by your service provider. To enjoy the full benefits of all applications and services that the Bold has to offer, signing up for the Blackberry data plan is a must. Without the plan, almost every third application I was accessing or installing refused to run.
Design & Usability
If you have seen the earlier Bold, you will be surprised by how much skinnier the new avatar is. The good is that the design looks more elegant. The bad is that the keyboard is smaller. In spite of the smaller size, the keyboard is still very good thanks to great tactile feedback and ergonomically sculpted keys. The Bold’s screen might be small but it is quite pixel packed and sharp and handles well under sunlight.
There hasn’t been much done to change the look and feel of the interface. Quite frankly, Blackberry’s continued dependence on text based menus does look a bit archaic. However, if you have used the interface, you will feel right at home. New users might take some time to get used to the flow and the arrangement.
An excellent design addition is the new optical trackpad that replaces the old Bold’s trackball. If you have any qualms of getting used to this new navigation method, have no fear. RIM has done an exceptional job in making the trackpad extremely efficient, responsive and versatile. The Bold has acceptable call quality both on its speaker and on the hands-free solution. Its battery life is also surprisingly good and kept me in good stead for two days without a charge.
Multimedia & Browsing
Apart from the non-existent Flash support, the 9700’s Hotspot browser works very well. It had no problems in rendering pages and thanks to the optical trackpad, pages can be navigated through in a breeze.
The 9700 has a decent music player that pumps out loud and clear audio. The external speaker is quite good too. The 9700 also comes out trumps by supporting both XviD and DivX videos and watching videos on the sharp screen is a good experience. The 3.15MP camera isn’t the best I have seen on a smartphone but it is certainly one of the best I have seen on a business phone and on a Blackberry. Both daylight and lowlight shots came out looking decent although there are some noise issues. The camera also manages to record passable video.
The Blackberry Bold 9700 is priced at Rs. 31,990 and that definitely takes it into the high-end segment. However, with that high price-tag comes excellent performance and features, a well-executed navigation system and nothing that is less than satisfying. Blackberry fans should immediately pick it up and if you are looking to try out a Blackberry, you can’t go wrong with this Bold.