We tested the dual-mode (CDMA 800/1900; GSM 850/900/1800/1900) RIM BlackBerry Bold 9650 in New York using Verizon service and call quality was excellent. Calls were crisp and clear on our side of the conversation with very rich-sounding audio and no voice distortion. We didn't detect any background noise, which made it that much easier to deal with an airline's voice-automated response system. Friends also reported good results. A majority didn't have any complaints at all, but one did say that the end of our sentences got cut off a bit.
Speakerphone quality was good. There was a slight hollowness but overall, we were happy with the performance and volume was loud enough to hold conversations in louder environments. We had no problems pairing the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset or the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
Verizon's 3G network provided reliable coverage throughout Manhattan with decent speeds. CNET's full site loaded in 50 seconds, while CNN's and ESPN's mobile sites loaded in 11 seconds and 13 seconds, respectively. Unfortunately, with BlackBerry OS 6 and the new WebKit browser not due till Q3, you'll have to get by with BlackBerry's current browser, which is difficult to navigate and limited in functionality when compared with the competition.
We also streamed clips via V Cast Video and as expected, it was choppy and murky during action sequences, but the quality wasn't so bad that clips were unwatchable. We must say it came in quite handy since it allowed us to watch some World Cup games when we were away from a TV. Our own MP4 clips played back beautifully with synchronized picture and sound, and audio quality was quite rich. The handset's 3.5mm jack also allowed us listen to music comfortably with our own headphones.
The Bold 9650 was able to keep up with our day-to-day demands with very little lag. The BlackBerry Bold 9650 ships with a 1,400mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 5 hours and up to 13 days of standby time. In our battery drain tests, we were able to get 6.5 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the Bold 9650 has a digital SAR rating of 1.43 watts per kilogram and a Hearing Aid Compatibility rating of M3.