I first wrote about my experiences with one of RIM’s newest smartphones at the beginning of this month. At that time, I focused specifically on the deployment of the BlackBerry Bold in the enterprise. Today, I share my experiences of the BlackBerry Bold as a smartphone.

Battery life

You might have read initial reports earlier this year, lamenting that the battery life of the BlackBerry Bold is less than desired. Months of software upgrades later, I am happy to say that the battery life is now comparable to that of the BlackBerry Curve.

I did encounter an interesting problem when I tried to connect the Bold to my laptop via a cheap, retractable USB cable. Despite it having worked perfectly with my Curve, the cable simply did not work with the Bold. Switching to another cable got things working again, though not before I went through a frustrating week that saw me trying to fix the problem via various software patches. So switch to the original RIM-supplied USB cables if you encounter any problems on this front.

Going back to the battery life of the Bold, spare batteries are now available for purchase — unlike the situation at the beginning of this month. So while your mileage might vary, I don’t think it should pose much of a problem at this point.

Modem tethering

As usual, modem tethering with the Bold is relatively fuss free, with a data connection easily achieved via Bluetooth. Cable tethering is supported too, except that I never got down to using it and hence have no comments on that front. Download speeds were fast and certainly a huge improvement from GPRS and EDGE speeds.

One point to note is that the BlackBerry Bold is automatically disconnected from the data network when tethered to a laptop as a data modem. As such, push mail will temporarily cease, and surfing from the BlackBerry or trying to send PINs will not succeed until it has been untethered. This was a different experience than I had with my Curve, though I must add that normal telephony functions such as voice calls and SMS continue to work as expected.

Device stability

This is the fourth BlackBerry device that I have used to date; unfortunately, the Bold also appears to be the most unstable of the BlackBerry lineup so far. Now, let me qualify that: What I mean is that the Bold is less stable than my experiences with other RIM devices to date, and not that it is unusable in any way. I have used at least three or four Windows Mobile smartphones so far, and the Bold is still more stable than the best Windows Mobile devices that I have used.

Another factor that might have led to the much higher frequency of crashes — about once or twice a week — might be the fact that I use the Bold much more heavily than my previous Curve. Ironically, its improved usability means that I find myself on IM and sending PINs all the time, including using the improved Media Player to stream music via Bluetooth to my wireless headphones.

I am doubtlessly a very heavy user, so you should have no worries if all your CEO and senior managers do is reply to e-mails and PIN. In addition, there have also been a few updates to the operating system since the beginning of this month so far; things are looking better with each update.

Saving attachments

Assuming compatibility from the server, it is now possible for users to download file attachments onto their BlackBerry. This creates a new dimension in terms of managing security, as users are now able to download attachments and then transfer them via USB to a laptop. So be sure to enable the relevant security policies if such an action is within proscribed limits in your company’s security policy.

In addition, an area to warn your users about is that data files saved onto the memory card are not mirrored and will be lost for good should the BlackBerry be misplaced or stolen.

Memory storage

In its continual quest to be more pro-consumer, another major change that RIM made is to relocate the memory card to an easily accessible location on the side of the unit. This is excellent from the perspective of a power user, who can now remove the memory card without first having to power off the unit.

As an administrator, though, it is now more important than ever to enforce the media-card encryption option. In addition, the availability of micro SDHC memory cards of up to 16 GB means that more options might now be open to the IT department. At this point, the price of 8 GB memory cards has also fallen steeply, making them a good buy.

Other remarks

Despite a month of intensive use, the device is holding up as well as you would expect from any BlackBerry smartphone. Its faux leather is also less slippery than predecessors such as the Curve, which is excellent. Overall, I would consider the Bold to be a worthwhile upgrade. Certainly, there is no way I will trade it back for anything else at this point!

What are your thoughts on what I have covered so far?

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