RIM has been under constant criticism missing the Touchscreen upheaval of the mobile market and has been trying to play catch up with the iPhone since the time it was launched. In the meanwhile, Apple has been beefing up its enterprise credibility and has been taking over RIM’s market share quarter on quarter. The launch of the Torch was a smart application of the touchscreen and keypad form factor meshed up together, but the BlackBerry OS 6 was not a very refined OS for touchscreen phones as a result it was not widely adopted. Since then RIM has been hard at work on OS 7 to give some serious competition. In many ways, the OS 7 with the flagship Bold 4 9900 are the last stand for the company and will very well be what decides the future of the company itself. Join us to find out if this device is just another BlackBerry or if it is going to give the iPhone a run for its money.
For many years technology has been a sore point with BlackBerry devices. RIM’s devices have even lagged behind competitors’ mid-low end products when it comes to the adoption of high-end technology. This time around, its the first time that new BlackBerry devices are on par with other mid-range devices in their price segment. The Bold 9900 offers some cutting-edge features in an fairly decent hardware package.
Under the hood is a 1.2GHz processor, a TFT capacitive touchscreen with 16M colors and a physical size of 2.8 inches and 640 x 480 pixels resolution. It packs the brand new OS7 and HD video camera. As always the device has a fantastic keyboard as well. At 130g it is no a very light device but is not too heavy either when compared to other competitors in its class. It feels slightly smalled than the original Bold. It has a trackpad instead of a trackball. At 115 x 66 x 10.5 mm it is the slimmest BlackBerry ever launched by RIM.
The high-gloss screen is surrounded by a brushed metal border, while the rear is made of a combination of matte plastic and glass. The back cover is very easy to remove revealing a battery, SIM and microSD slot. Amazingly enough, you still can’t hotswap your SD card into the device. The internal storage amounts to 8GB.
The touchscreen is capacitive and highly sensitive. Using it was a breeze, and we found ourself increasingly using the features using the screen rather than the trackpad. Although it is not certain that most traditional BlackBerry users will migrate to the touchscreen, they can always take comfort in knowing that at least now they have a choice. The touchscreen specially proves its worth when browsing the internet.
The new OS 7 takes some design ques over from the PlayBook which is not a bad idea since the tablet is a touch only device. The OS7 is more of an upgrade of the OS6 rather than a revolutionary new OS. The interface is divided into numerous app drawers. For us, there were just too many drawers, so we were glad to find an option to choose which ones we wanted.
BlackBerry fanatics would be glad to know that the introduction of cutting edge hardware has done really well for the device. The interface zips past in blazing speeds without any signs of lag. The contacts section is the same as the older OS which is a good thing as far as we are concerned. In a contact’s card you can add lots of relevant information including date of birth, anniversaries, address, phone, email details and even notes about the last time you met the person.
Calling is easy, enabled by smart dialing where you just type the name in the homescreen and place your call. Notably a very similar feature in now available in Nokia’s E5 and E6 as well. Messaging on the device is a breeze and all familiar BB users will be pleased with the options available.
You can find a rundown on the software in the video below.
The camera in the BlackBerry is a 5MP sensor with average quality. Five minutes with the camera will tell yo that the camera wasn’t the main selling point in the device for RIM. The sensor is a decent one and takes decent pictures in good light conditions. It is equipped with an LED flash which gives a yellowish hue to the pictures when taken in low light. In the end, you can clearly compare it with other 5MP sensors in mid-range phones and come to the conclusion that BlackBerry has bound good hardware with old software due to which this device can never serve as your primary camera. Then again, the target audience for this phone is not supposed to be using it as the sole camera either. As a regular phone camera, it is pretty much up to the mark.
So lets come to the video side of things. The HD camera is capable of capturing decent quality video as you can see below. In good light conditions, it can very well be your primary camera for amateur videos. We can’t help but think that if RIM paid a little more attention in tweaking the software for low-light conditions, this could have been a great camcorder.
Here is a sample of a video taken using the 9900.
Who are we kidding? BlackBerry has has never really had any serious competition from any other manufacturer and its really not that its competitors have not tried. RIM is and for the foreseeable future will remain the master of corporate email and security. So in the end the biggest competition will come from within the company’s portfolio. Namely the Bold 9770/9780. Other manufacturers are starting to put up a fight as well. Nokia’s E6 comes to mind as a fairly credible competitor. If you want you can bunch in other portrait QWERTY Android devices into the lot as well, although they are not targeting the same audience.
The Bold 9900 only comes with a 1230mAh battery which is surprising given the fact that it is supposed to power a large 1.2GHz CPU. Even the original Bold came with a 1500mAh battery. It will last you one full day of moderate use which is below what people have come to expect from RIM.
The handset comes bundled with NFC technology which is a great plus for corporate users who would probably be first to adopt the technology to make transactions. So lets talk about the bad aspects of the device. The operating system can use further improvement. The battery could have been better even if that compromised on the thickness of the device. The browser on the device leaves much to be desired especially when compared to today’s Android and iOS devices.
When all is said and done, we have to say that we can’t really complain much about this device. What its supposed to do, it does better than anyone else. So for corporate users and others who are used to BlackBerry, this is certainly a worthwhile upgrade.