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BlackBerry Bold 9650 review: BlackBerry Bold 9650

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MSRP: $449.99

The Good The RIM BlackBerry Bold 9650 adds Wi-Fi and doubles the onboard memory. The smartphone offers world-roaming capabilities, strong messaging features, and a solid keyboard.

The Bad Clunky Web browser.

The Bottom Line Though nothing revolutionary, the RIM BlackBerry Bold 9650 brings some welcome additions and offers Sprint customers a solid messaging world phone.

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7.7 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8

Promised since last summer, Sprint and RIM have finally brought a Wi-Fi-enabled BlackBerry Tour to market. Though it dropped the Tour from its name, the RIM BlackBerry Bold 9650 improves on the Tour, not only by adding Wi-Fi but also by doubling the onboard memory. It also retains some of our favorite features, such as the world-roaming capabilities and compact QWERTY design. Admittedly, in the fast-paced world of smartphones, the Bold 9650 doesn't really rank as the most exciting or cutting edge. However, not everyone needs that, either, and if it's a simple messaging smartphone you're after, the Bold 9650 is most definitely a solid choice, particularly for Sprint's globetrotting business customers. The RIM BlackBerry Bold 9650 is available now for $199.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate.

Users coming from the BlackBerry Tour won't need much time to learn their way around the RIM BlackBerry Bold 9650 since it's very similar in design and function. Though slightly heavier than the Tour (4.8 ounces vs. 4.6 ounces), the Bold is exactly the same size and features the same display, external controls, and keyboard. Being alike isn't a bad thing, since we love the QWERTY keyboard and overall design, but of course, we'd also love to see some new hardware from RIM.

The BlackBerry Bold 9650 has a similar design as the Tour.

That said, the Bold 9650 does offer one change and that's the addition of the optical trackpad. The smartphone joins RIM's latest devices in replacing the trackball with the trackpad for navigating through the phone's menus, and it's a change we don't mind at all. We found the transition from one to the other easy, and the trackpad is very responsive. You can change the control's sensitivity (both horizontal and vertical) in the Options menu, if you find it moves too fast or slow. Also, one long-term advantage of the trackpad is that you won't have some of the problems associated with the trackball where it stops working after extended use or if it gets dirty.

Sprint packages the BlackBerry Bold 9650 with a healthy number of accessories, including a travel charger, a USB cable, a 2GB microSD card, a SIM card, a wired stereo headset, a belt holster, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.

Much like the design, the RIM BlackBerry Bold 9650 retains a lot of the same features as the Tour, with a couple of exceptions. First, the Bold now has integrated Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), so you don't always have to rely on 3G for data connectivity. The phone offers a number of Wi-Fi options and tools as well, including diagnostics, DNS lookup, ping test utility, WEP encryption, and more. The other difference is that the Bold 9650 offers double the onboard memory of the Tour at 512MB, which gives you more room for apps

Now, though the Bold 9650 was announced alongside BlackBerry OS 6 at the RIM's Wireless Enterprise Symposium, we won't see the revamped OS till Q3. That means, for now, the Bold 9650 runs BlackBerry OS 5.0, so you have to deal with the same subpar Web browser.

On the bright side, the Bold 9650 continues to offer dual-mode functionality, so the phone supports both CDMA and GSM technologies for world-roaming capabilities. Domestically, the smartphone uses Sprint's CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A network for calls and data, but will then automatically detect and switch to the international GSM bands when you're traveling internationally. You'll also be able to get 3G data while overseas since the handset supports the 2,100MHz UMTS/HSDPA band. We strongly recommend checking the international roaming rates so you don't go into sticker shock when you open your phone bill. As mentioned earlier, Sprint ships the Bold with a SIM card, but if you prefer to switch it out for a SIM card you purchase while abroad, you can do so; just be sure to speak with Sprint Customer Care before you leave.

Aside from world roaming, the Bold 9650 has a speakerphone, voice-activated dialing (over Bluetooth as well), smart dialing, conference calling, speed dial, and text and multimedia messaging. GPS and Bluetooth are also onboard; supported profiles for the latter include those for mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets, hands-free kits, AV remote, serial port profile, and dial-up networking.

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