Hereís the Blackberry Bold 9900. It represents the biggest step forward in the Bold lineup since the original 9000.
The original Bold 9000 had a 612Mhz processor which at the time was cutting edge. The 9700 used the same processor but introduced a smaller form factor and more RAM. The same processor powered the 9780 which even more RAM and more importantly, Blackberry OS 6.0 (which was also made available for the 9700).
The 9900 ups the amount of RAM to 768MB but more importantly it also has a 1.2Ghz Qualcomm processor which represents a (much needed) huge step up in processing power.
The build quality is good. The sides of the 9900 are brushed stainless steel which makes it feel very solid. The battery cover is not integral to the 9900 rigidity so it should never shift or creek even if you remove the cover all the time.
The back has very soft rubberized paint while the cover has a beautiful nice carbon fiber look - itís much nicer looking than the Tour 9630/Bold 9650ís carbon fiber cover.
One problem I noticed is that the trackpad is at a slight angle - I hope itís just my Bold that has this. The look says itís all businesses yet at the same time itís a beautiful and very tactile phone.
Its footprint is similar to the original Bold 9000 but itís much thinner. Personally, I love that theyíve made it wider than the 9700/9780 - if you want a narrower device, buy a Curve, if you want the ultimate keyboard get a Bold.
I like how RIM includes a leather belt pouch with the 9900. It stays shut with a magnetic clasp.
On top is the lock button.
Volume buttons and 2 smartkeys.
3.5mm headset jack and a micro USB port for charging and syncing.
The back has a 5MP autofocus camera with a LED flash.
Compared to the 9700 the 9900ís keyboard is wider and not as stiff. At the same time the 9900ís keyboard has a more satisfying feel when you press a key in. Itís a phenomenal keyboard. Still, even though the 9900ís keyboard is better I still like think the 9700ís is pretty good. Itís a matter of better and best.
Itís funny, after using the 9900ís keyboard for a few seconds I realized that I hated typing on touchscreens. If I could only get the same keyboard on my iPhone and various Android phones.
The screen is quite good. Itís noticeably bigger than the 9780ís display and given its size it has a very high resolution of screen. Text is very crisp and very readable. Itís also excellent outdoors plus viewing angles are respectable. Colour is okay, black levels arenít terrible. The big thing here is that itís now a touchscreen. So in addition to using the trackpad you can also navigate by touching the screen. It supports multi-touch so you can pinch zoom. While itís not a cutting edge display itís a very nice display and more importantly itís a huge step up for Blackberry.
When I used to use a Bold 9700 I loved the form factor but I always wished the screen was touch sensitive. Especially for when Iím browsing or looking at pictures. Now that I can I realize there are some minor drawbacks. I donít know whether itís habit or not but most of the time I prefer to use the trackpad to navigate. The problem is that whenever I use the trackpad I accidentally touch the bottom of the screen. Itís a minor problem but still it annoyed me. I also found the screen a little small for pinch zooming. Iím not saying you canít but itís a little more convenient on a device with a bigger display.
While the screen is a great size for messaging itís a bit cramped for browsing. While itís not a bad browser the default view is a little too small - it makes tapping on links difficult. You can zoom in but then itís hard to see anything because the screen is too small. Still, the trackpad helps navigation a lot. So the best way to browse is to use a combination of the touchscreen and the trackpad.
The 9900 runs Blackberry OS 7.0. Calling it Blackberry OS 6.1 would probably be more appropriate since itís not THAT different from 6.0. When I use the 9900 to me biggest difference is that there is a substantial increase in processing power. The other things I really noticed are that compared to 6.0, 7.0 looks a lot better and is much more smooth.
The big problem with the 9900 is that RIMís next generation QNX powered devices are just around the corner. Presumably they will not be compatible with programs written for OS7. So if youíre a developer why would you write a program for the Bold 9900 since itís OS is wonít be around for much longer.
If you message a lot youíll love how the 9900 is built around messaging. The best thing about the 9900ís messaging is the unified inbox. Besides allowing you to view multiple email accounts in one place it handles text messages, Facebook, instant, BB messenger messages, etc. It organizes them all chronologically. If you donít want to view everything in one inbox you can also view them all individually. Itís a very efficient way to handle all your different messaging accounts.
Thereís a useful universal search. While many other devices also have this feature itís a lot more useful on the 9900 because all you need to do is go to the menu and start typing. It will search for matching contacts, program names, plus it can actually search the programs themselves like Blackberry Maps, App world, Facebook, etc.
The browser is acceptable. While I donít think itís awesome itís good enough that I wouldnít complain about it too much. I already mentioned that the screen is a little small for browsing. Thereís a small bar which you can touch to reveal the browser UI. Itís very thin so I found it difficult to touch. I found using a combination of trackpad and the touchscreen to be the most effective way of using the browser. The browser does not support Adobe Flash.
I noticed something interesting with the Maps. When you go to about itís copyright TomTom. But it doesnít appear to support voice guided navigation. When you choose navigation it just shows you direction on how to get somewhere.
You can use the included Documents to go to create, edit and view MS Word, Excel and Powerpoint compatible files. On my 9700 you had to pay extra if you wanted to use it to edit or create.
I have a love hate relationship with the camera. While itís not the first camera phone to have this sort of performance I love how fast the camera is. Iím talking about how long it takes from when you pressing the side mounted camera button to when it takes the picture to when itís ready to take another. What I hate is that thereís no autofocus, it means that the 9900 canít be used to take pictures of anything closer than around a foot away.
The 5 megapixel sensor is about average. Indoors itís kind of noisy and uses slow shutter speeds. I tend to take a lot of pictures of my toddler whoís always moving around. I have a lot of trouble getting usable pictures of her with camera phones. The 9900 is no different. However the fact that I can take many pictures at a time makes up for the fact that the camera isnít very good. Sometimes Iíll take 20 pictures and have 1 thatís acceptable. So I guess in this case itís a case of quantity over quality. In fact, Iíve had the 9900 for about 7 days now and I have literally taken over 700 pictures. So while most of the pictures werenít keepers - in the end I got some I was happy with and thatís whatís important to me. I like how the 9900 (and other Blackberries) add the location of where you took a picture to their file names.
Video capture is much better. Itís captured at 720p and looks decent. One thing I noticed is that video captured on the 9900 looks much smoother than it really is because of the small display. Iím not saying that the 9900 captures jerky looking video - thatís a function of how still you can hold it.
So while the camera is not as good as the iPhone 4ís camera (a phone that came out over a year ago) or Samsung Galaxy S II itís a huge step up from previous Blackberries.
Since Blackberries have always been known for their superior battery life the fact that the 9900 has a 1230mAh size battery is a major disappointment. The 9000/9700/9780 all shipped with a 1500mAh batttery. You get double the processor speed, a higher resolution screen and a more capable software yet you include a battery thatís around 20% smaller.
While I would say the 9900 gets better battery life than a similarly priced Android phone the difference is not as pronounced as it used to be. The 9900 will probably last the day (as in from when you wake up till when you get home) but thatís probably it.
The 9900 supports NFC - near field communications. The antenna is located behind the back cover. Eventually youíll be able to use it to pay for things - just place it near a receiver. You can also use it to transfer data like a website address - RIM had a demo where they placed the 9900 near a NFC stand and it received a link to their twitter feed. Other potential uses include using it to Ďcheck iní when you go to a restaurant, etc. While itís a neat feature there arenít many devices and services that support it so itís not really a must at this point in time.
Sound quality is okay. Incoming sound quality is quite natural but thereís a strange background hiss. Outgoing is also natural but slightly more slopping sounding - it also has the same hiss.
RF performance is very good.
While I enjoyed the Bold 9900 and would recommend it to anyone looking for a new Blackberry I canít help but wonder what would have happened had RIM launched it a year ago. Still, despite all the negative press Blackberries have been getting lately I think the Bold 9900 moves the bar far enough along to keep users interested until RIM releases their real next generation devices. Itís got great build quality and finishes, itís fast and has an incredible keyboard.
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Thanks for your review. Coming from a 9650 I had a little different impression of the 9900/9930. The browser while faster for sure still has the same old os-6 issues of having to scroll and constantly trying to resize the page for best viewing. Opera Mini helps with this in a big way. The screen still has the cluttered look and I don't understand why the top has to have that separate shading area. Why not a smooth flowing look overall? I know themes when they come will fix this for those who don't care for it.
I had to test 6 different bolds before I found one that actually had a proper working trackpad. This is major disappointing and made no diff if a fresh reboot was done first. the trackpads were nervous and jerky all over the place and just plain frustrating to use. The touch screen usually required a second touch to activate anything. I really am a big BB fan and was expecting something really great so maybe that's why I was disappointed. I later learned that the fix for the trackpad issues and lack of email/web browsing function was to install the latest leaked os. To me this is flat out unacceptable and I expect my $545 device to work as advertised, not need fixing out of the box before I can even use it. Also, battery life, which has always been excellent with previous BB's is really sad and understandably so due to the super thin battery needed to facilitate the thin body style.
It could have been done a whole lot better and I was fully expecting to buy one at full retail, but not now. Also, to mention the cam which is not a huge deal for me, but alot of complaints about the lack of auto focus abound around the diff forums. Thanks for your review Howard, but I can't give this turkey anything but a thumbs down. Certainly not worth full retail. I'm amazed at some of the comments I've heard like, "it feels so good in hand, I love it even tho my email and browser don't work properly". In my opinion the bold 9900/9650 were far more stable and had much fewer issues.
Passing on the new bold.