Mobility

Review: BlackBerry Bold 9000 smartphone

The BlackBerry Bold is marketed to smartphone and PDA users everywhere. Unfortunately, even with improved displays and redesigned shells, BlackBerry continues to best serve professional business users.

Research in Motion, in marketing the BlackBerry Bold 9000, states the PDA "embodies elegant design-without sacrificing the features or functionality you expect from a premium smartphone." While IT consultant Erik Eckel, using the Bold in the field, found the device intuitive and well built, he believes too many sacrifices were made in the handset's design.

Specifications

  • Processor: Intel PXA270 624MHz CPU
  • Memory: 128MB ROM; 1GB onboard storage; 32GB expandable memory storage
  • Screen: Half VGA 480x320 pixels; 65,000 Colors
  • Dimensions: 4.49 x 2.57 x .59 inches
  • Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Wireless: UMTS: 2100/1900/850/MHz, GSM: 1900/1800/900/850/MHz; North America: 850 MHz GSM/GPRS; North America: 1900MHz GSM/GPRS; Europe/Asia Pacific: 1800MHz GSM/GPRS; Europe/Asia Pacific: 900MHz GSM/GPRS; EDGE; HSDPA; Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth v2.0 mono/stereo headset, handsfree and Serial Port Profile; Bluetooth Stereo Audio (A2DP/AVCRP)
  • Battery: 1500 mAhr removable/rechargeable cryptographic lithium cell (13.5 days standby; 4.5 hours talk time)
  • Price: $549.99
  • More Info: BlackBerry Bold Web Page
  • TechRepublic Photo Gallery

Who's it for?

The BlackBerry Bold is marketed to smartphone and PDA users everywhere. Unfortunately, even with improved displays and redesigned shells, BlackBerry continues to best serve professional business users. Secure e-mail, enterprise support (via BlackBerry Enterprise Server) and limited browser/display functionality position the Bold chiefly as a corporate handset, which is no criticism.

What problem does it solve?

The BlackBerry Bold fuels business communications. From outstanding voice call clarity to secure, integrated e-mail and calendar functionality (thanks often to the corresponding BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which requires additional infrastructure investment), the BlackBerry is a proven handset for empowering mobile business users.

Standout features

  • Enterprise-friendly - Mated to a BlackBerry Enterprise Server, medium- and large-businesses technology professionals will find it easier to deploy, configure, administer and maintain a fleet of BlackBerry Bolds. Further, BlackBerry's e-mail communications services are more secure than standard POP3 accounts, the messaging method used frequently on other PDAs. Using BES, lost or stolen devices are easily erased, too (as can Windows Mobile devices mated to Exchange servers), thereby increasing security.
  • Versatile -The BlackBerry Bold can connect to BlackBerry enterprise servers, POP3 and IMAP accounts and Microsoft Exchange servers, too. The devices are highly versatile, as they include support for a wide range of GSM, GPRS, EDGE and HSDPA networks in North America, Europe and other countries. The handsets also work with 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi networks.
  • Outstanding keyboard - While the BlackBerry Bold's designers may have suffered a slight hiccup when specifying a leatherette backplate, they more than compensated by delivering an outstanding keypad that enables fast, accurate typing. Further, when typing e-mail addresses and Web addresses, the designers coded the space key to often intuitively insert the needed "@" or "." characters without requiring changing menus.
  • High-quality, if small, display - The BlackBerry Bold's display delivers sharp text and images on a 480x320-pixel display featuring 65,000 colors. Unfortunately, the screen is just too small to make much use of the integrated Web browser, which itself experiences difficulty displaying many Web addresses properly. While many Web sites provide BlackBerry specific applications (better enabling access to their content), these utilities must be downloaded and installed as separate programs. Due to size limitations, the small screen works best reading/drafting simple e-mail messages and navigating basic telephone (placing/receiving calls and accessing voice mail and contacts) functions.

What's wrong?

  • Battery life - The BlackBerry Bold's battery struggles, under heavy use, to provide sufficient power to complete an entire work day. Using Bluetooth (for handsfree/headset communication), e-mail and voice calls, I found the Bold sometimes had trouble matching my IT consultancy's 10-hour workdays. The device quickly sent me scrambling for a car charger. I've experienced noticeably better battery life using both Palm and Apple PDAs.
  • Screen size - The BlackBerry Bold's display works best drafting/reviewing simple e-mail messages and accessing the telephone's basic functions. While the small display enables surfing news headlines, vendor information and product specifications, Google Maps and similar Web-based information, screen space is in incredibly short supply, requiring extensive scrolling.
  • Web browser - The BlackBerry Browser tried valiantly to properly display a wide range of Web sites I use every day, but it had trouble accessing several and a few flat locked up the device. The Bold was unusable until it had completed a power down/reboot cycle as a result. All those troublesome sites, incidentally, display properly on an iPhone with no errors or crashes.
  • Third-party applications - RIM executives are making a push to tout third-party BlackBerry application popularity. But the fact remains Apple owns the market. The Wall Street Journal reported in July 2009 that more than a billion iPhone applications had been downloaded from the Apple App Store, which stocks more than 50,000 different programs. Apple simply has the momentum when it comes to third-party applications, whether those business programs involve organization software, mapping programs or other productivity tools.

Competitive Products

Bottom line for business

RIM has made great strides in creating slicker, sleeker devices. Redesigned keyboards provide wonderful tactile feedback and provide for accurate typing, which is critical. E-mail services are reliable and secure, if a bit cumbersome and complex for general users to configure. The display boasts crystal clear images, and the Bold's 2 megapixel camera captures still images, as well as video, but make no mistake; the Bold is a business device.

With limited third-party applications, a tiny display, an often unfriendly browser and unremitting reliance upon a single and sometimes tricky trackball, the Bold proves a better corporate device as opposed to a multiuse business/consumer handset, as is available in Apple's competing iPhone. That said, when it comes to business productivity, that's no complaint.

User rating

Have you used or supported a BlackBerry Bold 9000? If so, what do you think? Rate the unit and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review of the BlackBerry Bold 9000 in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review above.

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About Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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