Research in Motion (RIM) have been getting some pretty heavy criticism recently and it is now time for another flagship device, the Bold 9900. The previous Bold, the 9780, was just a rehash of the 9700 with a very few improved specs, so it is great to see that things have changed quite a lot with the 9900. Many users of the original Bold, the 9000, loved the device so much due to its size and it looks like RIM have listened to its customers as the new Bold 9900 is very similar with the added bonus of losing the track ball in favour of the track pad and some other great specs including a capacitive touch screen as well as a 1.2 GHz processor.
In North America, BlackBerry sales have been plummeting in with users opting for other platforms such as Android and iOS. That said, worldwide BlackBerry sales are far from doom and gloom. RIM shipped 13.2 million devices in the last quarter which is not bad at all.
There is no doubt that the 9900 will be a huge hit but the big question is will it bring back lost customers to the BlackBerry platform?
Read on to see the full review as well as my thoughts on whether the Bold 9900 can carry RIM through the next year or so as a flagship device.
What’s in the box?
- USB Cable
- Warranty/Quick Stat Guide
You may also want to have a look at my BlackBerry Bold 9900 unboxing video.
The ten second review:
Device: BlackBerry Bold 9900
Price: Around the £500 mark.
Summary: The daddy of all BlackBerry Smartphones! Powerful, well built, glorious keyboard and a super responsive capacitive touch screen.
Best of: Keyboard, touch Screen, multi-tasking, notifications
Worst of: Gaming, not as many apps as other operating systems. Only one convenience key.
Buy it soon from: Kingofgadgets
BlackBerry Bold 9900 specification:
Size: 115 x 66 x 10.5 mm
Weight: 130 g
Display: TFT capacitive touchscreen
- 640 x 480 pixels, 2.8 inches
- QWERTY keyboard
- Optical trackpad
- Proximity sensor for auto turn-off
- Accelerometer sensor for auto-rotate
- Memory: Internal – 8GB storage, 768 MB RAM. External – microSD, up to 32GB
- 3G: HSDPA 14.4Mbps, HSUPA
- WLAN: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, dual-band, Wi-Fi hotspot
- Bluetooth: Yes, v2.1 with A2DP, EDR
- USB:Yes, microUSB v2.0
- Camera: 5 MP, 2592×1944 pixels, autofocus, LED flash
- Camera Features: Geo-tagging, face detection, image stabilization
- Video: 720p HD
- OS: BlackBerry OS 7.0
- CPU: 1.2GHz processor
- Messaging: SMS, MMS, Email, Push Email, IM
- Browser: HTML
- GPS: Yes, with A-GPS support, BlackBerry Maps
- Battery: Standard battery, Li-Ion 1230 mAh
- NFC support
- BlackBerry maps
- Digital compass
- Docs To Go document editor (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), PDF viewer
- MP4/WMV/H.263/H.264 player
- MP3/eAAC+/WMA player
- Voice memo/dial
- Predictive text input- Touch-sensitive controls
The front of the device is dominated by both the capacitive touch screen as well as the QWERTY keyboard. AT the very top we have a speaker grill and the LED is located beside it. Under the screen we get our normal call send/end keys as well as the options and back buttons. Centred between the buttons is the optical track pad.
Over on the back you will find the camera lens and flash. Between these is the ‘Bold’ logo. As normal, situated on the battery cover is the all so familiar BlackBerry logo looking as shiny as ever.
On the left side of the 9900 we have the headset jack as well as the MicroUSB port. Note no convenience key.
On the right side we do get a convenience key as well as three media controls.
The top houses just one button and this is the power/screen lock key.
Charging connections are all that is found on the bottom. These are used in conjunction with a desktop charging dock.
BlackBerry games are always disappointing
No native YouTube application
Only one convenience key
To say I have been looking forward to getting my hands on the BlackBerry Bold 9900 would be an understatement. Although I love my Bold 9780 the new 9900 really takes a big step up when it comes to hardware in comparison. With the recent release of the BlackBerry PlayBook we now know how great QNX works and this operating system will come to BlackBerry Smartphones, but not just yet. The 9900 runs BlackBerry 7 which is essentially BlackBerry 6.1 but RIM chose so skip to 7. The OS on BlackBerry Smartphones is the main critism and reason that some users jump ship. In comparison to the likes of Android and iOS they are most definitely like chalk and cheese but from my point of view this doesn’t really matter. You either love it or hate it and using a BlackBerry for the first time can often end up with an addiction. I myself suffer badly from this addiction but it is not something I am wishing to cure myself of!
So on a serious note, I will first give you my opinions of the hardware found on the 9900 and then follow that up with a run through of the OS and the features/apps found on the device.
I actually first got hands on with the BlackBerry Bold 9900 a couple of months ago although this was a brief encounter. I was gob smacked then and when I recently received this review device I was gob smacked again. It really it a beautiful handset. Holding the 9900 in the hand for the first time my first thoughts were that this is a big BlackBerry. Fear not though as that is a good thing. A keyboard that is a bit bigger than on the 9870/9700 is great news as it not only feels amazing but makes typing easier and more luxurious.
The form factor of the keyboard is the same as on previous Bolds so the keys have that same soft feel, unlike on the BlackBerry Curves which have a harder feel to them. In terms of the keyboard layout it is identical to the 9780/9700 just with the added bonus of each key being a little larger. This size difference really does make typing feel easier and I sure can type a bit quicker on the 9900 compared to previous models.
Over on the back of the 9900 we now get a newly designed battery cover. On recent models we have had the faux leather battery doors but this has now been replaced by plastic. Initially I thought that was a shame but after spending time with the 9900 I have decided that it gives the device a premium feel. Why do I think this you may ask? It is a combination of two things really. As well as being a BlackBerry owner I also own and use daily an iPhone 4. Now although the iPhone 4 and the BlackBerry Bold 9900 are very different in terms of size they do feel to me very similar in the hand. Both devices have the wonderful metal bezel running around the shell and the new battery cover on the 9900 feels very similar to the back of the iPhone 4. Sure, it is not glass like on the iPhone but being as smooth and shiny as it is I find them feeling like long lost brothers. (I’m sure Apple wouldn’t agree with me!)
There is a kind of downside to this though. This new battery door makes the 9900 a little more slippery. Well not exactly slippery but there is less friction between the hand and the phone. Some will see this as a negative but I see it as the opposite. It makes the phone feel top quality and that I like. I have never used a case or skin on my iPhone and it has not slipped from my hands once. I am more careful when handling my iPhone and this level of care has automatically been transferred when holding the BlackBerry Bold 9900. You have to also consider that most BlackBerry users will be using the device with two hands when typing so you can use this as an extra bit of insurance. Many people use a case or skin on their device anyway. This battery cover is really not an issue but I am here to highlight all features on the new handset.
Weight wise the BlackBerry Bold 9900 feels just right. At 130g it is only 8g heavier than the 9780. Although a larger phone it is thinner than previous Bolds which clearly minimizes extra weight. I like having a phone that is not too light weight. It makes the phone feel of better quality. Well, that’s what I think anyway.
On to the screen. This is not the first touch screen BlackBerry we have had. The Torch gets that award. The 9900 however is the first touch screen Bold and definitely the most popular form factor BlackBerry. I liked the Torch but personally got a little fed up of having to slide the screen up and down to allow me to use the keyboard. That is not an issue now with the 9900. You have the best of both worlds. A wonderful keyboard partnered with a great touch screen right at your finger tips. Because we still get the optical track pad on the 9900 you still have the option of not using the touch screen if you don’t want to. On most features/apps I have found myself naturally using the screen but there are a couple of apps when I prefer to scroll using the track pad just so my thumb is not blocking my vision on screen.
The screen not only looks great but it performs wonderfully too. Thanks to the 1.2GHz processor and liquid graphics there is now no lag between screen taps or swipes. It is all instant and a real joy to use. If you are currently a BlackBerry Bold or Curve user then the transition to a touch screen BlackBerry will be an easy one. Within hours of use you will naturally go for the screen instead of just the track pad like you have been used to. Since I have had the 9900 I have constantly found myself touching the screen on my 9780 when I have had to use it and on each occasion have felt slight disappointment, just for a split second.
The four buttons under the screen have had a very slight design change when compared to the previous Bolds. All four buttons are now sitting on one piece of plastic like they were on the BlackBerry Torch. On the 9780/9700 each button was separate. To be honest it really doesn’t make a difference. Each design works just as well as the other and it was hardly worth mentioning, but I did anyway.
A BlackBerry would not be a BlackBerry without a LED notification light. It would appear that the LED on the 9900 is the same one used on the Torch. This is a little bit bad. Unfortunately the LED used in the 9780/9700 was better. It seemed to produce a brighter more solid light. Looking at the 9780 and the 9900 side by side it is clear to see they are different. The 9900 LED is round where as on the 9780 it appears more rectangular. Not a huge deal but it was noticeable.
Another similarity between the Bold 9900 and the Torch is convenience keys. Both devices only have one which is situated on the right side of the device as you look at it. This is a real shame if you ask me. I loved having two convenience keys on the 9780/9700 and used each daily. Now with the 9900 I need to decide which app gets priority and is worthy of using the convenience key. Not a major downside but a worthy one worth mentioning if you currently use both.
While we are on the subject of hardware keys on the side of the BlackBerry I will say that these now get the new ‘premium’ feel as like the bezel they sit in, they too are made of the same material. Each gives a soft click when pressed and they feel a little more responsive than on previous models. We also get an extra key now which sits between the up/down ones. This new addition is a play/pause button which can be used when listening to music or watching video on the device. A nice new addition.
Internal memory also gets a huge boost with the 9900. On older Bolds and Curves we have been reliant on MicroSD cards for storage as internal memory was so low. The 9900 comes with 8GB of internal storage which is sufficient in my opinion. Combined with a MicroSD card this will mean you can store up to 40GB of media on your BlackBerry. Good stuff.
Before we move onto the software I thought I would give my own opinion on why I use a BlackBerry and also cover the question that is asked so often: “Should I get a BlackBerry or an iPhone/Android device?”
When asked this question I will never tell anybody they should choose a particular operating system. If you want to know why then the answer is quite simple. We are all different and have different requirements from our Smartphones. Sure, I have an iPhone as well but if I am going out and only want to take one phone with me I always take the BlackBerry. Why I always make this choice is because the BlackBerry does best (in my opinion) what I want most from a Smartphone and that is to be able to communicate quickly and with ease. I know that all other OS’s will now push email, do instant messaging and have dedicated social networking apps but I find using the BlackBerry OS combined with a beautiful hardware QWERTY keyboard the solution that suits me best. Firing off an email or doing a quick tweet takes mere seconds on the BlackBerry and with the bonus of its notification system and the way it can be customised I don’t think you cant beat it. Sure, I may not have cool apps like Angry Birds but with the BlackBerry being able to true multitask I can have all my messaging and social networking apps running at once and can interact with them as required. As I said earlier, it is an addiction.
Overall, the software on the BlackBerry Bold 9900 has not changed that much. BlackBerry 7 does bring us a few new features but many of the changes are just aesthetic with icons now being a new colour or having a design change. BlackBerry 7 is clearly a stepping stone between BlackBerry 6 and QNX but is it enough to retain customers? That is a hard one to answer but I am hoping the great hardware on the 9900 will help.
So lets have a brief walkthrough of what you will find on the Bold 9900. The below may seem obvious to many current BlackBerry users but please bare in mind that this review is also targeted at people that maybe thinking of picking up a BlackBerry for the first time.
The home screen on the 9900 looks typical BlackBerry although you will notice that on the below screen shot that no icons are visible. The 9900 allows you to have no icons on the home screen if you so desire. This is good news for those of you that wish to be able to see your wallpaper in all its glory.
Touching the very top of the home screen will open up the application where you can manage connections. Here you have one touch access to turning on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and your mobile network. You will notice that we also get the option to activate Near Field Communication but we will come to that later. Below the on/off options are further options where you can delve deeper into the settings to set up a new Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection etc. All very simple and quickly accessible.
Universal search was introduced to us with BlackBerry 6 and it is still present here in BlackBerry 7 but with an added feature: voice search. If you are not familiar with universal search I will summarize. There are two ways of getting into universal search. The first way is to touch the search icon situated on the top right hand side of the home screen. Here you will be presented with a search box where you can either type or alternatively speak the item you wish to search for on your BlackBerry.
However the easiest way to search is to forget about pressing the search icon and instead just type what it is you are looking for. Universal search will automatically open and begin filtering down applications on the device that may relate to the word you are searching for. A great feature which really saves time. The addition of voice search may well come in handy in particular for drivers although of course we cannot condone operating your BlackBerry and driving at the same time.
You will see below that under the clock are three different small icons. This is where notifications will be shown. You will see that you also get a ‘star’ icon on top of the application icon. You may notice that these are present on the screen shot on the left but not on the right. This is showing that although I have been into the relevant application I have not opened and read the specific notification. So on the right I still get the little icons under the clock to remind me. I hope that makes sense.
If you give the small icons a touch it will open up the below notifications screen. Here you get a snapshot of what notifications have come in. As well as email, BBM and Twitter, your calendar entries also appear here. Handy for a quick glimpse at what you have coming up. You can also touch each notification and it will open up full screen.
I mentioned earlier you have the option to have no app icons on the home screen. As well as none you also have the option to have six or twelve as well as view all. This is achieved by simply touching the bar above the icons (note it is blue in some shots as I have touched it) and sliding it to the position you desire.
Like on BlackBerry 6 you also have the option to swipe left and right on the home screen to reveal other screens that house your favourite apps, media, downloads and most used.
Many people hated this option when it was introduced as when moving to some icons with the track pad you would overshoot and end up on the screen next door, not on the icon you wanted. The good news is that on the 9900 you can edit this feature. You have the option to have any or none of the additional screens. I turned them all off straight away. Thanks for listening to your customers RIM.
With the 9900 having a touch screen we also now get the option to access some features by using the screen instead of pressing the options button that sits next to the track pad. If you press and hold on an icon on the home screen you get the below options. This however was available on the BlackBerry Torch and Bold 9780 so not a new feature in general but new here to the Bold by using touch. One feature on the BlackBerry that many users do not use is the ‘Hide Icon’ feature. Like it suggests, if you have an app on the device you don’t really use you can hide it. It makes huge sense to me. Why do I want icons in my menu that I never use.
For a while now you have had to have a BlackBerry ID. This is simple to set up and takes two minutes if you are a new user. The ID is not only for use on your Smartphone. It can also be used on BlackBerry websites and App World. In addition, if you purchase a BlackBerry PlayBook you can log in with the same ID.
Once your BlackBerry is up an running you may want to jump into the settings to tweak a few things. If you currently use a BlackBerry you will notice in the screen shots below that the icons here have now had a bit of a re design. Not very exciting I know!
Once in the settings making changes is pretty simple. There are loads of things you can do to customise your device, from fonts and text input to different sound profiles. On my BlackBerry I have about eight different apps that I use constantly and each of them makes a different sound so I know what to expect before I even look at the device. In addition there are some great apps you can download from App World that allow you to customise your LED. My LED flashes a different colour for each of the eight apps I mentioned.
The BlackBerry Bridge App comes pre loaded on the device. This wont be of much use unless you have a BlackBerry PlayBook. The app is used to connect the PlayBook to your BlackBerry Smartphone. If you want to check out our PlayBook review you can do so here.
Another app that comes pre loaded on the 9900 is BlackBerry Protect. The only thing new with the app on the 9900 is that it now has a new colored logo. If you have not used BlackBerry Protect before it is an essential application. As well as backing up your contacts, tasks, SMS and calendar the app will also allow you to located your BlackBerry if lost. I did a video demonstrating the app some time ago. You can view it by clicking here.
Everyone knows that it is messaging that made BlackBerry famous. With all Smartphones now offering push email why is it BlackBerry users still love using a BlackBerry? Well, I believe it is ease of use. I can fire of an email in literary seconds. Or select 20 emails and delete them in even less time. Of course the hardware keyboard is still a factor but I prefer emailing on my BlackBerry over all the other phones I own.
The messaging application is no different on the 9900 compared to the 9780 or 9800. Your messages are listed as seen below and you can jump into an email either by selecting it with the track pad or now on the 9900 using the touch screen. With keyboard shortcuts on the BlackBerry OS replying is one click away. Just press the ‘R’ key and off you go. The same applies to forwarding an email. Just press the ‘F’ key. There are loads of shortcuts so if you get a BlackBerry it is worth learning them. It really does make life easier.
One thing that you cannot see in my screen shot is the fact that it is not just emails that will be listed here. This is your messaging app so SMS, Twitter, Facebook, BBM etc can also be integrated. You do have the option to not have them in the list but why would you not.
If you prefer to keep your email accounts separate you can do so. Each email account you set up (up to ten) will have its own envelope icon within the main menu. This will allow you to jump into each account as required. I don’t use this option though and I hide those icons. I like to have all my emails in one place. When creating a new email you will see a drop down box at the top of the message where you can choose which account you are emailing from.
When starting a new message you can either use the BlackBerry options button to do so or give the screen a long hold. I say long. It is about a second as opposed to a tap. Incoming emails will be pushed to the device as they are sent. This means your BlackBerry will not have to be on a schedule to ping the server, hence it will save on battery life a wee bit.
I cant see any changes to the contacts application on the 9900 compared with previous models. As you would expect when entering a new contact you have a vast array of boxes that you have the option to fill in. You can add various phone numbers and multiple email addresses as well as having a notes section at the bottom which I find particularly useful. When looking for a contact I never go to the app any more. No need as I just use universal search. Just start typing the name you are looking for and their details will pop onto the screen. Genius.
When it comes to social networks the BlackBerry Bold 9900 does a fantastic job and that included Facebook. Because the BlackBerry is the master of notifications you will instantly be notified when you have a Facebook message, or if someone comments on your status. As you can see below, when doing the initial setup you do have various options if you don’t want notifications or if you would prefer the BlackBerry not to import your Facebook contacts etc. As you can see in the first option your Facebook notifications can also be shown in your messages feed.
The main feed is much as you would expect. You can scroll up and down your timeline and click on status updates to comment of view full screen. If you press the word Facebook which is highlighted below in a lighter shade of blue it opens up the main menu where you have the option to jump into a specific feature. If you do receive a notifications a red star will appear on the notifications icon.
The Facebook application has recently had an update and one of the most popular new features is that Facebook Chat is integrated into the app. You can have chat logged in all time if so required. Within the sound settings you have the option to choose a different sound for a Facebook chat notification as opposed to normal Facebook notifications so if it does go ‘ping’ you know what type of message you have before even looking at the BlackBerry.
Facebook places is featured in the app, although this is not new to the 9900. Checking into a place takes just a few seconds and of course you will see when your friends check in within your home feed. Overall the Facebook for BlackBerry app is amazing and I prefer using it to on any other operating system.
If you are a Twitter user then you have a selection of Twitter apps you download from App World. RIM’s own Twitter for BlackBerry app comes pre-loaded on the 9900 and it is my Twitter app of choice. The killer feature with it is push notifications. If you get a mention or direct message you do not have to wait for the app to sync. You will get the notification instantly allowing you to respond to messages in real time. Navigating around the features on screen is now made a little easier with the 9900’s touch screen. It just makes opening a particular feature on the app that little bit quicker.
On to the browser and although things do not look any different here to on the Bold 9900 the speed in which it loads pages is much quicker than on BlackBerry 6 devices. I have done a few tests with it against my iPhone 4 and it is not quite as quick but there is not much in it. A vast improvement RIM. Thank you.
Another bonus with the 9900’s browser is zooming. No longer do you need to rely on the track pad to click in and out. As the 9900 has a capacitive touch screen you can pinch to zoom like on most touch screen smart phones. Overall this makes the browsing experience much more enjoyable and with the combined extra speed it doesn’t really compare with browsing on older BlackBerry models.
As you can see, at the top of the browser you have the address bar as you would expect. Next to that we have a kind of globe icon. Press this and you have one touch access to your bookmarks, adding a bookmark, add to home screen or send and copy the address. As I have said before the BlackBerry OS may not be the most advanced but it is so quick and easy to achieve a task. You can of course still click the BlackBerry button to get to the options.
The icon beside the globe one is where you can jump into multi tab browsing. As you would expect, you can have many pages running at the same time and switching from one to another is a mere two screen taps away. Pucker!
BlackBerry messenger, BBM, does not look any different to on previous devices. We have however just had an update to BBM 6 which now allows apps to integrate with BBM. An example of this would be the Foursquare app. When you check in to a location you now have the option for your BBM to show this too. Handy for letting your BlackBerry friends know when you are in a particular place.
I am not going to waffle on about how great BBM is as we have done this before loads of times and most people know exactly what is it. What I will confirm though that it is the best instant messaging client on the planet. It wins hands down. As well as just sending text you can also send pictures, voice notes, video and with the bonus of having BBM groups you can create your own groups with select friends or family members. You just cant beat it!
On to the music player on the BlackBerry Bold 9900. It is maybe not the most beautiful music player on a mobile but it looks ok and shows you everything you need. As you can see, you are initially shown a list where you can select to view by all songs, by artist, by album and by genres. Select the one you want and you are then shown the album artwork and the name of the album or track. You will see at the top that you also have a search option for quick access to a particular song.
Once you have a music track playing you have onscreen controls at the base of the screen. Of course now with the 9900 you can use the touch screen to skip tracks if you don’t want to use the track pad. In terms of music quality the 9900 does a reasonable job. Without headphones the volume is pretty loud but a little tinny. The speaker that is used is actually located at the very base of the battery cover, just where you insert a nail to open it. Like all phones once you connect some headphones the quality improves immensely. It sounds great on the 9900. You do not have many options when it comes to changing the style of the music output. I know on some phones you get options such as ‘live’ or ‘rock’ but these are not present with the BlackBerry. That said, it sounds great. The bass is just enough and I was more than happy with the results. If you have Bluetooth headphones those are supported too.
When viewing pictures the layout is similar to that on the music player. Once you have a picture full screen you can scroll by using an on screen swipe which is totally lag free thanks to the powerful processor in the 9900. Zooming in is once again done by on screen pinches. A press of the options button will allow you to send pictures via email, BBM, twitter, Facebook, Google Talk or any other supported application. Setting a picture as your wallpaper is only a click away. Simples.
Watching video on the Bold 9900 is not bad too. Not the best phone for it but reasonable. Things are better on the 9900 compared to the 9780/9700 due to the slightly bigger screen. As you can see below you have on-screen controls but these disappear to allow you to watch video full screen. Remember that you can also use the hardware media controls on the side of the device to play and pause.
Last of the media features is the BlackBerry podcast app. To be honest I never use this but I have done on previous devices for testing purposes and it works as well as you would expect. I don’t know what else to say about it!
When it comes to using the calendar on a BlackBerry I absolute love it. It is a feature that I use dozens of times every day and it serves me well. Entering an appointment into the diary takes seconds. You just press on the time you want and then add the text. You also have options to amend the time and date of the appointment as well as the reminder options. You can add notes to the entry as well as invite a friend who will be notified via email and once accepted the diary entry will then be shown in their calendar too. The calendar will sync with various PC and Mac applications such as Outlook so you can work on your computer and then sync the calendar entries over to your BlackBerry.
Like on previous BlackBerry Smartphones you have various views available. These are day, week, month and agenda and the one you like the most you can set as the default one for when you open the application. As you would expect on a BlackBerry once a calendar entry goes off you get a sound notification as well as an onscreen one (where you have the option to dismiss or snooze) and also the LED will flash. This ensures you wont miss an important reminder.
The clock on a phone may not be that important but it deserves a mention for the following reasons. Firstly, you have four styles of clock to choose from. Where the BlackBerry clock is great is when you either plug it in to charge or dock it. Within the options you can turn on bedtime mode. What this will do is dim the screen when on charge so that the clock will remain viewable but produces minimal brightness to ensure you going to sleep is not effected.
You also get a timer and stopwatch as well as an alarm and although these look very simple they work as well as you would expect.
Onto the camera which is a 5 megapixel on the Bold 9900 and we do get a flash. The camera interface is typical BlackBerry with no changes since BlackBerry 6 was launched. Jumping into the options you have a selection of scene modes if you fancy making the most of your photography skills. To be honest I always just leave it on auto and it works for me.
Also in the options you will see that you have various other things you can tweak such as turning off the digital zoom and enabling image stabilization. You can also change the size of the photos that are taken and setting the BlackBerry convenience key to enable the camera is made simple. As you can see below the BlackBerry keeps a tally of the number of photos you can fit on the device. The device will also warn you when you are getting low on space. How thoughtful!
The big question with any phone camera is always ‘does it take decent photographs?’ Well the answer is yes. I never thought that the 9900 would have the best camera on a phone and it doesn’t but it does a more than acceptable job. Close up/macro shots were not fantastic but The colours appear crisp and sharp and have plenty of contrast. The Bold 9780 and 9700 did well in the camera department so I am pleased to see the 9900 is not letting the side down.
When it comes to video recording the Bold 9900 is the first BlackBerry Smartphone to record in 720P HD. I was pleased with the results. As you would expect the interface is more or less the same as with the camera and watching video back on the device it looks crystal clear. I don’t think yet that there is a phone that can supplement the quality of a proper camcorder but the 9900 will take care of your needs and the results are more than adequate.
App World on the BlackBerry Bold 9900 is where you will download applications from. Things look just the same here compared to other BlackBerry smartphones so the 9900 brings us nothing new here. App World is a far cry from the iTunes App Store or the Android Market but us BlackBerry users have to make do with it.
There are both free and paid applications and the top 25 of each are shown within a tab at the bottom of the screen for quick access. The other tabs contain categories, search and My World where you will see a list of all applications you have downloaded. Un-installed apps will appear here too incase you want to re-install.
Once selecting a particular app you are given the option to view reviews of it and screen shots before making your purchase. This is not unique though. The same applies with other OS’s. If you do decide to download the app you will have to sign in with your BlackBerry ID. The BlackBerry will remember you but your password will need to be entered on each occasion for security purposes. Makes sense to me.
When it comes to the YouTube icon within the main menu things are a little disappointing. Pressing the icon does not open up a YouTube application I am afraid. Instead you have the option go to YouTube, which is the mobile version or upload a video. Sure, the mobile version of YouTube works just fine but I find it not very user friendly. Why we do not have a proper YouTube app for BlackBerry baffles me. Every other platform has one and it is a feature that so many people use on a mobile. Listen up RIM. I want one. Get it sorted! (please)
I mentioned earlier that the main reason I use a BlackBerry is for communication and I am pleased to say to you non BlackBerry users that the 9900 comes with three of RIM’s native instant messaging clients, Yahoo Messenger, GTalk and Windows Live Messenger. All three work seamlessly and can be left running in the background due to the BlackBerry multi tasking so well. Like with other apps you can customise each app to use a specific notification sound and also its own coloured LED flash if you download the relevant app from App World. I may as well give that app a plug as it is so cool. Search App World for BeBuzz. There is a free version as well as a paid. The paid version is £5.99 but it is money well spent!
Within the applications folder in the main menu you will discover a wide range of useful features including a couple of new ones. Like on older devices we still get a Memo Pad, Tasks, a Calculator, Password Keeper, Voice Recorder and Voice Notes. All useful applications to help manage your life.
With A-GPS built in you can use you BlackBerry for navigation. BlackBerry Maps comes pre-loaded on the 9900 or you can download Google Maps if you prefer. Now, although these maps will give you directions they are not a proper sat nav with voice guidance. You will need to buy a separate app to do that. These choices are rather slim for us UK users but they are out there. Remember though that if you are using GPS on your BlackBerry a lot it will drain the battery so an in car charger is always a safe bet.
Social Feeds is a feature we first saw on the BlackBerry Torch 9800. Essentially it combines various apps and notifications into one feed. The apps that are integrated can be seen in the screen shots below.
In addition to those apps Social Feeds is also a RSS reader so you can add as many RSS feeds as you so desire. If you like to keep all your notifications in one place then Social Feeds is a must.
You use the search option to find a feed and then the 9900 will ask if you wish to subscribe. Within the settings you can select how often you wish the feeds to update and when a new one arrives it will be shown in a list as seen below. Pressing a particular feed will open the article full screen to allow you to read.
We have been able to use Word and Excel on BlackBerry smartphones before but with restrictions. Those are now lifted thanks to Documents to Go. RIM purchased the company that created Docs to Go some time ago so now we get the full version pre-loaded on BlackBerry 7 handsets. This allows us to not only view but also create new documents and after testing it out I have concluded it will be potentially an invaluable feature for business users. Nice one RIM.
As you can see the documents that are already on the BlackBerry will be listed and above that you have a search box. When choosing to create a new document the device will prompt you to select either a document, spreadsheet or a presentation.
Similar to using these features on a PC you have the options to insert various things such as pictures, bookmarks as well as changing the font and using bullet points etc. Nice.
All in all a great new addition to add to the functionality of the Blackberry Smartphone.
When it comes to playing games on any BlackBerry I have to be honest and say that it is the worst mobile platform for gaming without any doubt. There are plenty of games in App World and many are excellent but they do not compare to games on the likes of iOS and Android. If you want a new phone for playing games then you don’t want to choose a BlackBerry. Sure, this is a shame but the other things the BlackBerry does so well make up for it in my opinion.
NFC or near field communications is a new feature to come to the Bold 9900. If you are not aware of NFC I will try to explain. Essentially it is a way of transferring data using touch. For example: you see a tag like the one below on a poster in a department store. As long as NFC is is enabled on the BlackBerry you simply touch the tag with your BlackBerry and the handset will ask if you wish to open the link. The link will take you to whatever web page the advertiser chooses. NFC also has the potential to transfer funds which could be a great way of making use of wireless payments. We will actually have a demo video of NFC on the site very soon so watch out for it. It is clearly early days for NFC but I can certainly see the attraction and I hope it takes off. Could come in handy.
Last on the list to mention is battery life. With all phone reviews I do judging battery life is hard as we all use our devices differently and while I may be a heavy user you may be a light user. So please be aware that my opinion on battery life is just that, my opinion and based on my day to day use with the handset. Don’t worry though, the battery life is alright. I could get through a full day with moderate use. The battery size is actually smaller than on the 9780/9700 which worried me slightly as the 9900 is clearly powering a larger touch sensitive screen. So I would say when comparing with the 9780/9700 it is not quite as good but it is far from bad. I like the 9900 being slim and I suppose that is why we lose a little in the battery department.
So, here we are at the end of another review and one I have really enjoyed doing. I have been using the Bold 9900 for three weeks upon finishing the review. If you saw our demo video of the device you would know that we were one of the first sites in the world to have the 9900 out in the wild. What this also meant was that the unit we had did not have the final ROM on it. But fear not, before finishing the review I have now got myself another BlackBerry Bold 9900 and this one does have final ROM which is carrier approved so every feature on the device has been re-tested and my overall views are from working with both devices.
The BlackBerry Bold 9900 is without doubt the best Smartphone Research in Motion has produced to date. It is powerful, quick, sleek and packed with a bunch of amazing features. Sure, it is not perfect. I would have liked to have seen a front facing camera so we could maybe video chat in the future but RIM must be saving that for QNX devices.
With RIM under strong opposition from other platforms I certainly think the 9900 will help keep current BlackBerry users on Team BlackBerry. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the 9900 also brings back some users that have moved away. As I said earlier in the review, if you are considering using a BlackBerry you need to decide what is important to you. If communication and staying connected, along with great social networking and having a superb business tool are important to you then the Bold 9900 will serve you well and you will love the 9900.
This new Bold form factor of capacitive touch screen combined with a luxurious front facing QWERTY keyboard makes the BlackBerry Bold 9900 a worthy flagship device for RIM . It has been a real pleasure using it. I’m so going to buy one when the device is available. Are you?
Posted by: James