Quite a lot of recent RIM’s BlackBerry phones looked quite alike (Bold and the Curve) and it could mean one of two things — either RIM doesn’t have any more design ideas left or it has almost perfected the form factor that many people loved about the qwerty smartphone that it doesn’t want to veer away from it. That is the case of the BlackBerry Bold 9700.
I haven’t formally reviewed the previous generation BB Bold 9000 but having tried it a couple of times before and basing on the specs, one can make the conclusion that there’s not much can be done on the BB Bold 9700 except for a number of tweaks and optimization.
The BlackBerry Bold 9700 sports almost the same exterior as its predecessor — glossy, black-piano finish in front, rubbery lining on the side with a streak of silver and a nice leather back panel. The leather gives the handset a touch of class but also helps secure a nice grip when using the unit.
RIM tried to cut some fat around the unit so a couple of millimeters were shaved off the dimensions to make it more compact. This move somehow sacrificed a little screen real estate (2.44″ from the previous 2.6″) but improved on the pixel resolution (480Ã—360) which explains why the display is clear, crisp, and bright.
The physical keyboard, one of RIM’s strongest features in most of its handsets, is maximized on space and layout. It might look a bit cramped at first but it’s just enough and comfortable for two-fingered typing. RIM shaped the individual keys with a chiseled edge, half of which faces the left and the other half facing the right. This is actually a clever and practical move — your thumbs get some sort of traction over the keys and helps prevent from slipping and hitting the wrong keys.
Again, RIM has fully transitioned it’s old and problematic trackball and replaced it with a touch-sensitive trackpad. This is probably the most welcomed change made on BlackBerry handhelds lately and it does seem to perform well.
The Bold 9700 is fully equipped with connectivity options you’d ever need in a smartphone — WiFi, 3G/HSDPA, Bluetooth and GPS navigation. Browsing on the unit seems fast on both 3G and WiFi and the pages rendered well but you’d wish you had more screen real estate there. And while the GPS navigation is usable, it hasn’t gone to the same level what Nokia recently did with their free turn-by-turn navigation.
The BlackBerry Bold 9700′s newest competitor would be the Nokia E72 and while they’re neck-and-neck in terms of the major features, the E72 has a few additional features up its sleeve. Battery life is impressive and lasts at least 3 days on single full charge (it’s got the same 1500mAh rating as the E71 and E72).
The BlackBerry Bold 9700 also missed a couple of things, some of it is due to geographical limitations:
- First, the BlackBerry App World is still not available in the Philippines. The Apps would have added a huge plus point on top of the BIS. Give it already to us, RIM.
- The 3MP camera is still a bit inadequate but if you compare it to another business phone like the Nokia E72, they’re just at par so no big deal there. It’s really hard to find a business phone that’s got good optics nowadays. I think it’s just positioning and they really intended it to be that way.
- No FM tuner, a feature that’s becoming a standard all mobile phones in all categories. It’s time for RIM to equip all their future handsets with one.
Admittedly, there’s not much improvements you can do on a handset which many BlackBerry users deemed almost perfect. If only they could offer it a little more affordable like the Curve 8520. Good thing though is that you can now have this unit and use a prepaid SIM from Globe or Smart and just subscribe to the prepaid BlackBerry service.