The RIM BlackBerry Bold 9930 is a dual-mode CDMA/GSM phone. It will work with the CDMA Verizon bands in the U.S., but when you're traveling abroad, it'll automatically flip over to the provided SIM card so you can use the quad-band GSM network instead. This allows for greater flexibility when globe trotting. The phone also supports 3G bands on both networks, so you're free to surf the Web as well--do keep a vigilant eye on your data usage when abroad, however, as it might cost you quite a bit of money if you're not careful.
Other phone functions of the Bold 9930 include speakerphone, voice-activated dialing, smart dialing, conference calling, speed dial, visual voice mail, and text and multimedia messaging, which has threaded conversations and group chat. You also get support for stereo Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS. Instant messaging fans will appreciate that the Bold 9930 comes bundled with Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and Google Talk applications. Walkie-talkie fans will like the fact that the Bold 9930 comes with push-to-talk capabilities.
The BlackBerry e-mail mantra remains the same with the Bold 9930: it'll support just about any corporate e-mail system you can throw at it, which includes BlackBerry Enterprise Server, Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, and Novell GroupWise. If you're just a consumer buying the phone on your own, you can always use a free but limited version of BES that lets you sync your Exchange calendar, contacts, and tasks. BlackBerry has also set up BIS (BlackBerry Internet Service) to help consumers sync up to 10 different POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail accounts in either separate or combined inboxes. You can use the setup wizard that walks you through the steps of setting up an e-mail account. If you use a Web mail service like Gmail or Yahoo, the phone has those server settings already preloaded, so you just have to enter your log-in information. We should note though that the default setting isn't IMAP--when we synced our Gmail account, for example, e-mails that were deleted on our phone didn't get removed from the online inbox. You'll have to go in and set that manually if you want IMAP.
As social networking gets more popular, e-mail alone just doesn't cut it these days. That's why the Bold 9930 comes bundled with Facebook, Twitter, and BlackBerry's own Social Feeds app that acts as a hub for RSS feeds, podcast subscriptions, BBM, Facebook, Twitter, Google Talk, and other feeds. BBM itself has been upgraded to BBM 6, which features better integration with third-party apps.
The Bold 9930 has the usual PIM tools like a calendar, clock, memo pad, tasks list, calculator, voice notes recorder, and file manager. Other preinstalled apps include a premium version of Documents To Go, BlackBerry Balance (which helps you balance your work and personal calendars), BlackBerry Protect, password keeper, and Wikitude, one of the aforementioned augmented reality applications. Wikitude in particular shows you your nearby BBM contacts just by using your phone's camera and magnetic compass. It also works with Foursquare check-ins, and it'll display local businesses too. The Bold 9930 also has Brick Breaker and Mole as preinstalled games. You can download more apps from BlackBerry App World.
In addition to the V Cast Videos and V Cast Music, the Bold 9930 does come with a decent music and video player. You can flip through albums and tracks with a nice Cover Flow-like presentation, and the phone supports a wide variety of different media formats. They include MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, FLAC, and OGG for audio, plus MPEG4, H.263, H.264, and WMV for video. You can drag and drop the files to the phone as if it were a mass storage device connected to the PC, or you can use BlackBerry's Desktop Software for syncing. The Bold has 8GB of onboard memory and is upgradable to 32GB via a microSD card. For those who want additional media options, the Bold 9930 also comes with a YouTube app, a podcast player, and the Slacker Radio app.
The 5-megapixel camera on the Bold 9930 has very good photo quality. Images are crisp and quite colorful too. Indoor shots proved to be a little dimmer than we would like, but turning on Night mode or Party mode helped to reduce that problem. In bright sunlight, photos look fantastic, with sharp and vibrant colors. The Bold 9930 can also now record 720p HD video. Video was rich and colorful, but we did notice that shaking can be an issue. We also recommend a fixed focus so that the camera doesn't keep trying to refocus each time you move it. Settings are plentiful here, with a variety of scene modes, geotagging, a self-timer, white-balance presets, and more.
We tested the RIM BlackBerry Bold 9930 in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless. Call quality was good but not great. We had no problems hearing our callers, but we did get quite a bit of static and crackle in the background. Voice quality was also noticeably robotic and strained.
Callers reported a similar issue with voice quality. They heard quite a bit of distortion, and there was the occasional pop and hiss in the background. They could still hear us clearly, but it was obvious that it was a call from a cell phone. Speakerphone calls fared similarly, except that callers said we sounded more distant and there was more of an echo effect.
RIM BlackBerry Bold 9930 call quality sample
As we weren't able to test the Bold 9930's performance on a GSM network, we could only test its EV-DO Rev. A speeds. We were mostly pleased with the data speeds, but did think it could be a little faster. We loaded the mobile CNET page in 13 seconds while the full CNET site loaded in just under 48 seconds. YouTube videos also suffered quite a bit of buffering at times, even for lower-quality videos.
The 1.2GHz processor in the Bold 9930 certainly makes it much faster than its predecessors. Navigation was very snappy, and we had no lag when launching apps and switching between multiple tasks.
The RIM BlackBerry Bold 9930 reflects top-notch craftsmanship. It is decidedly well-made with high-quality materials and it shows. The touch-screen display is stunning and the keyboard is quite simply one of the best mobile physical keyboards we've had our hands on in years. We're also impressed by its 1.2GHz processor, 720p HD video recording, great photo quality, and all the improvements of OS 7. Yet OS 7 isn't really too different from OS 6 in terms of look and feel, and we think the Bold 9930 is overpriced at $249.99 after a rebate and a two-year service agreement. At that price, the Bold 9930 is strictly for BlackBerry fans--we don't think those unfamiliar with BlackBerry would be willing to pay such a high price to take the leap.