The BlackBerry Bold, the flagship handset for Research In Motion (RIM), celebrates its fourth iteration in 2011 with a design more reminiscent of the original Bold 9900 than any of its more recent predecessors. Like the original, the Bold 9900 seems flatter, squarer despite its heavily rounded corners and has a slightly larger footprint than last year's Bold, the 9780. It is also, in our eyes, the most attractive Bold yet.
A short history of BlackBerry Bolds: from 2008 until today.
We love both the look and feel of the 9900. The front face of this phone will be extremely familiar to anyone who has handled a BlackBerry in the last five years, with the iconic combination of screen, navigation panel and full QWERTY keyboard. On the back, RIM opts for a unique twist to the formula, with an attractive carbon fibre battery cover, which gives a slightly holographic appearance when you turn the handset under light. Above the battery cover, you'll find the handset's 5-megapixel camera lens and LED flash.
The 2.8-inch display is a stunner, with rich colour reproduction and excellent contrast. Its 640x480-pixel resolution might seem lacking besides the pixels we've seen in iPhones and Androids, but in a screen this size, the VGA resolution packs in more than enough pixels to provide super sharp images and text. It is also a capacitive touchscreen, giving users the option to navigate the phone using the screen, or defer to the optical track pad and keyboard, depending on what they find faster and more comfortable.
More importantly for many BlackBerry users, the QWERTY keyboard is, again, a standout. The keys seem flat with tapered edges, but, after using the Nokia E6 only a few weeks ago, the quality of this keyboard's design is obvious to us. We wouldn't even class ourselves as experienced BlackBerry keyboard users, but, after only moments, we were confidently typing long messages with a minimum of errors.
The beauty is, as they say, only skin deep, especially with the well designed BlackBerry OS 7 lurking just below the surface here. OS 7 is the latest version of the BlackBerry smartphone system, and although the changes it brings in comparison to version six might seem invisible to the naked eye, it does feel like a more polished system overall, especially in regards to set-up and touchscreen use.
The BlackBerry OS 7 has great-looking new iconography, and a strong connection to your BlackBerry ID.
Setting up a BlackBerry in OS 7 pays particularly close attention to logging you in with a BlackBerry ID, which is essential to accessing the App World, amongst other things. It also has you sign in to as many social networking and email accounts as you use on a regular basis. Once logged in, all new notifications will pass through the unified BlackBerry messaging inbox, which we find to be extremely handy.
BlackBerry OS 7 brings a few aesthetic tweaks with its simpler design, and, overall, we've really enjoyed using it. The iconography is well designed, with lovingly shaded detail, and although this may seem like a frivolous aspect of a smartphone to praise, it definitely elevates the user experience nonetheless.