BlackBerry’s new Bold smartphone is up against some stiff competition, but we have decided it might just have what it takes to rise above the fray.
When RIM initially launched its BlackBerry devices they were one of kind, primarily bringing e-mail to a highly mobile platform and later combining this with other data services and telephony. But now the market is awash with smartphones that do all of the above, from the popular Nokia E71 to the sexy iPhone and Google’s disruptive entrance to the market. BlackBerry’s sales are not a given anymore, but it still has elements that make it one of a kind. And now the Bold is here – RIM’s most feature-packed offering to date.
One of the big differentiators for the BlackBerry platform is its data offering; pay one, low fee for your BlackBerry service and it includes unlimited data to the device, along with the e-mail service that put RIM on the map. And while it is possible to get the iPhone with unlimited data plans abroad, in South Africa the BlackBerry data bundle makes it one of a kind. I took to this immediately, abusing the bandwidth for all it was worth, and enjoying being able to surf, check my e-mail, chat and get the job done without constantly worrying about how much data I was consuming.
And burning up bandwidth is an awesome experience on the Bold. The phone has every feature imaginable from WiFi and HSDPA Internet connectivity to built-in GPS, two megapixel camera with flash, and Bluetooth. It also has some welcome functionality – like using a standard USB cable for both data transfer and battery charging, unlike the E71 which frustratingly has a USB port for data transfer, but does not allow for charging via it.
So socially on-the-go Email on the BlackBerry is what you would expect from the people who invented on-the-go mail. But I replaced it with Google’s Gmail app for BlackBerry, since all my mail is routed via the Google service and without running a BlackBerry server there can be some frustrations in the way it handles IMAP mail – like not being able to mark your messages as read on your computer and having the same status set for them on the device. Google has a range of applications for the BlackBerry, including Google Search, Reader and others – all excellent.
RIM has also developed Google Talk, Windows Live Messenger, Facebook and other clients for the BlackBerry platform that are all super handy, barring the Facebook application that requires e-mail notifications from Facebook to work. That is the downside – the up side is that you can upload photos and videos to Facebook straight from the Bold.
The Bold’s keyboard is one of my favourite mobile qwerty pads on the market and brings some stiff competition to the likes of the Nokia E71. Typing on the Bold is a dream and even instant messaging is painless. But the most striking thing about the Bold is its gorgeous transmissive TFT LCD screen that blows just about any other mobile monitor out of the water.
The only problem I had with the Bold was the included BlackBerry Maps software. Perhaps I am spoiled by my Tomtom, but GPS navigation is not something the mobile guys get right at the software level. BlackBerry Maps is no exception. Getting navigation from the software is confusing and frustrating. The one good thing about it, however, is that it streams map data from a server and saves you having to download it elsewhere before navigating. A big plus, especially when combined with the unlimited data plan, although the latter unfortunately does not roam with you internationally.
The Bold also has a seemingly limitless granularity in its configurations. You can modify notification setting for every single application on the device and control where, when and how it rings, vibrates, flashes its LED notification light and gets your attention.
There is very little to fault the BlackBerry Bold on, it truly is one of the best smartphones on the market and will keep you happy whether working on the road or taking and uploading pictures of the kids. If you are an experienced BlackBerry user you will feel right a home on the Bold – and for new users the BlackBerry platform is now beefed up with the more consumer-focused and high-speed connectivity features included with other leading smartphones.