Because the Blackberry Bold 9700 has been called the “best Blackberry ever” by some, the excitement and expectations around this phone is high. It is true that the bold 9700 represents the apogee of successive refinements that Research In Motion (RIM) has done on its phones since the release of the original Bold. The Blackberry 9700 inherits from improvements made to the Blackberry Curve 8900 and the Blackberry Tour, among others. There are small changes in design, and important changes (for the better) in terms of performance, but overall, the Blackberry Bold 9700 feels similar to the Tour or the 8900. So, where does this phone stand? Let’s find out.
Before you read this Blackberry 9700 review, let me provide some context: I used the Bold 9700 as my main phone for a couple of months. During that time, I had an hosted Exchange account and connected via a T-Mobile Blackberry Enterprise plan. My work email, calendar and contacts were synchronized over the air. I stay connected with my friends via the Facebook apps, and I read emails continuously on the go. I browse the web several times a day to check on news and the stock market. I don’t call much: only 10mn or so per day. Usage pattern is the single most important thing that affects battery life. It also shapes how we perceive, like or dislike features on a phone, so now you know.
Here’s some information about this particular phone
I still prefer the metal-ish cover from the 8900
My initial reaction when I opened the box was: “hum, it looks cheaper than the Curve 8900″. I think that it is mainly due to the plastic battery cover, and seems to be a slight change in the plastic used to build the phone. However, it does not look “cheap” like the MyTouch 3G for exemple. The Bold 9700 is a nice phone that is relatively light, and feels good in the hand (and the pocket). The design is in my opinion much better than the original Bold.
The Blackberry Bold 9700 keyboard from up-close
I like the Blackberry 8900 keys better (on the right), it’s very personal of course
Keyboard (very good) : for me, good keyboards are largely what makes Blackberry devices so great to use for work. The Bold 9700 keyboard is nice. It has the same design than the original Bold and feels like the Blackberry Tour’s. However, my personal preference goes to the 8900 Curve’s keyboard, which has what I think is the best keyboard of all phones. Obviously, this is a very personal view, and I can only recommend that you try typing (a long text) with one of these in a store before forming an opinion. Outside of Blackberry, I really like the design of the Palm Pixi’s keyboard.
Display (very good) : The Bold 9700 inherits from the Curve 8900 screen resolution (480×360), which is slightly higher than the original Bold (480×320). some have reported that the screen quality is better, but looking at the 9700 and 8900 side by side, I’m hard-pressed to see a difference. They are both very good and sharp. Note that because the Bold 9700 packs a bit more pixels than the iPhone in virtually half the screen surface, the image is in fact much sharper. I usually keep the screen brightness at 40 (100 is the maximum). That’s good enough in most situations and that saves power.
The trackpad is a little weird at first, but I like it now
Trackpad (good) : the absence of a trackball is noticeable. So, how does the trackpad compare to the trackball? At first I thought that the trackball was better, but not by much. It just seemed more accurate. However, after a few days, I had adapted to the trackpad. Now, it doesn’t really matter to me, and when I switched back to my Curve 8900, I wasn’t particularely glad to use the trackball again. The trackpad has the benefit of being much more resistant to dust andit might even be cheaper for Blackberry to make, so it’s a win-win.
The buttons seem more sturdy and shock-resistant (8900 top, 9700 bottom)
Misc: the side buttons (volume…) are much more integrated to the body. The overall design seems more sturdy, and less prone to get dirty from dust in the pockets. The buttons are a little harder to find in the dark because they are more recessed, but overall, I consider this new design to be an improvement.
Basic phone functions
Finding and calling a contact is very easy as you just need to type the first few letters of a name. Dialing is also as easy, even if the numeric keys are grouped tightly, which makes it harder to use when not looking at the keyboard (driving). There’s no favorite or “most called” list, but you can access the call log. There is a voice dialing function that doesn’t work as well as Android’s, but it’s there and it might be friendlier with your voice than mine.
The audio quality is very good and the volume level is relatively loud, for a smartphone. The speaker is quite loud as well, and is one of the best that I have tested recently.
Finally, the 9700 has visual voicemail with T-Mobile. The application is quite basic and not sexy at all, but it is certainly good enough for its purpose and much better that the dumb sequential voicemail.
Call via WiFi with UMA
T-Mobile had to do this to compensate for its inferior network UMA is the best feature from T-Mobile in my opinon
The T-Mobile Blackberry Bold 9700 supports T-Mobile’s UMA access. If you are not familiar with the idea, this means that the phone can use an internet WiFi connection to communicate with T-Mobiles network. Think of your WiFi router as your personal cell tower. When calling via UMA, the voice data is transported via internet to the T-Mobile network, that then uses its normal cellular network to transport it to the final destination (the person that you are calling). Not only UMA gets you a very good connection, it can also let you call for free: for an additional $9.99/mo T-Mobile lets you call as much as you want via UMA (that’s T-Mobile Hotspot@home). If you don’t pay $9.99 UMA still works, but the minutes are taken from your monthly pool. The best of all is that UMA works from outside the USA as well. As long as you can connect via UMA anywhere in the world, T-Mobile bills you as if you were in the U.S , and that means no roaming charges or international pricing (that’s was true for me at the time of writing, but remember that T-Mobile USA can change this policy in the future).
UMA is truly awesome. Other carriers sometime have their own version of WiFi calling, but it’s clumsy and requires a special router, which means that you can’t do it from someone else’s house, or a public hotspot. It’s funny, because T-Mobile has adopted UMA to compensate for their inferior network coverage. Now, it turns out to be their most formidable feature (in my view), but yet, one that very few consumers know about. T-Mobile did an increadibly poor job of communicating it.No tags for this post.