Research In Motion introduces the BlackBerry Bold (aka BlackBerry 9000) smartphone, the company's first HSDPA device, with availability starting this summer.
Bonnie ChaFormer Editor
Bonnie Cha was a former chief correspondent for CNET Crave, covering every kind of tech toy imaginable (with a special obsession for robots and Star Wars-related stuff). When she's not scoping out stories, you can find her checking out live music or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California.
World: Say hello to the RIM BlackBerry Bold. *Cue dramatic music.*
You may know it as the RIM BlackBerry 9000, but on Sunday, Research In Motion officially took the wraps off the highly anticipated smartphone, complete with a new name. The "Bold" is in reference to the smartphone's gorgeous display, but it's also bold in that it represents a number of new moves for the company. Oh, BlackBerry Bold, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways.
The bold and the beautiful
As we just mentioned, the device gets its name from its screen. The BlackBerry Bold features a half-VGA (480x320 pixel resolution) and a 65,000-color display. During some initial product testing, research group participants repeatedly called the screen "bold" and "brilliant." The Brilliant moniker didn't really jibe with the company, thus the BlackBerry Bold was born.
So just how bold is it? Well, RIM stopped by our office late last week to show us the device, and let me just tell you, I was absolutely blown away. I can pretty much say I've never seen a better-looking display on a smartphone. Colors pop off the screen, and it's really amazing how sharp and crisp everything looks on the display.
We watched a couple of videos, and for the first time, we didn't notice any of the pixelation or blurriness that you typically get with phones. In addition, the menu interface has been revamped with a much more modern look and icons. Also, as you can see from the images, the BlackBerry Bold boasts a new design. It's more elegant than models past, with curvier edges and a silver trim that complements the black casing.
If you turn it over, you'll also notice that the back has a leatherette texture. No more slick plastic. RIM will sell replaceable backplates in different colors, including blue, gray, and red, if you want to individualize your phone a bit. The BlackBerry Bold measures 4.5 inches tall by 2.6 inches wide by half an inch deep, and it weighs 4.7 ounces.
Kevin Michaluk at Crackberry.com took a gamble, buying one on eBay, and posted a hands-on review. He made a good comparison of the device to the Motorola Q9h.
Finally, the BlackBerry Bold has a QWERTY keyboard that RIM likened to a modernized Curve keyboard, but I'm not really seeing it. Instead, it reminded me more of the BlackBerry 8830.
Now, I know some of you 8800 series users had issues with the keyboard, but I tried it out, and it's pretty easy to use--relatively large buttons with some spacing between the keys.
There's a heaping of wireless options on the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) BlackBerry Bold, but the most appetizing and notable item is the HSDPA/UMTS (850/1900/2100) support.
It's the first such equipped BlackBerry, and we all know that it's been a long time coming. RIM says the delay for bringing such a device to the market is that it wanted to make sure that battery life wouldn't be sacrificed at the expense of including the 3.5G technology. Hey, whatever the reason, we're just finally happy to have it.
You also get integrated Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g), Bluetooth 2.0 with full A2DP support, and built-in GPS (enhanced and assisted).
The RIM BlackBerry Bold is equipped with a 624MHz Intel PXA270 processor, whereas previous BlackBerrys had 312MHz processors, so technically, you should enjoy smoother and faster performance.
During our briefing, there were a few hiccups in performance, but we're going to keep our fingers crossed and chalk it up to the fact that it wasn't a final unit. There's also 128MB of flash memory and 1GB of onboard memory, which is all supplemented by the microSD/SDHC expansion slot (supports up to 16GB cards).
Multimedia, Web, and other good stuff
You still with me? I know this post is getting a bit lengthy, but there are just a few more highlights to note. First, the Bold includes an improved Web browser (thank goodness), with the option to view pages in a full desktop HTML style or a mobile version, and you can now more easily navigate pages with the trackball, which acts like a mouse cursor, and zoom in and out.
As for multimedia, the smartphone is equipped with a 2-megapixel camera with video-recording capabilities and up to 5x zoom. The media player also continues to support numerous audio and video formats, including MP3, WMA, AAC, DivX4, and WMV3 files, and the phone is equipped with a 3.5mm headphone jack. By the way, the Bold has some pretty powerful speakers--none of that weak, tinny junk.
Oh, and hey, what's this? It's makes calls, and sends and receives e-mails, you say? Yes, you'll still get all of the voice and messaging features of previous BlackBerrys, and the handset will also come preloaded with Dataviz's Documents to Go suite, for document viewing and editing.
"When and where can I get one?"
Now that we've totally built up the device, and you're ready to run out and buy one, here's the letdown: the BlackBerry Bold isn't available quite yet. It's currently going through carrier certification, and although RIM wouldn't officially name the service provider, based on the 3G bands, you can pretty much guess who it will be (hint: starts with an A and ends with T&T). And while pricing will also depend on the carrier, RIM is guessing that it will be in the $300 to $400 range, and expected worldwide availability is "this summer."
OK, that's it! My fingers are tired from all the typing, so now it's your turn. Clearly, I'm pretty amped about the smartphone. Of course, the true test will come when we finally get it in for real-world testing, but from everything I've seen so far, the RIM BlackBerry Bold has huge potential. But what do you think? Hot or not? The commenting floodgates are open, so have at it.
Update:AT&T confirmed this morning that it will be the official carrier of the BlackBerry Bold but didn't provide any details on availability other than "later this year."