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After RIM launched the BlackBerry Bold 9650 for both Sprint and Verizon earlier this year, regional carrier U.S. Cellular now has a turn at it as well. Like the other two, the U.S. Cellular version is an upgrade to the BlackBerry Tour, and features Wi-Fi, more onboard memory, and an optical trackpad. In this review, we will mostly focus on the features and performance that U.S. Cellular offers. For more information about the phone's design and core functions, please read the full review of the RIM BlackBerry Bold 9650 for Sprint. The RIM BlackBerry Bold 9650 is available from U.S. Cellular now for $159.95 after a two-year service agreement and a $70 mail-in rebate.
The RIM BlackBerry Bold 9650 is a world phone that can work with both CDMA and GSM networks. It will work with U.S. Cellular while you're within the country, and when you're abroad, you can use a SIM card to connect to a GSM network. As the Bold 9650 supports both EV-DO and UMTS/HSDPA (2,100MHz), you have the freedom to use 3G wherever you are as well. You'll get voice coverage in more than 220 countries and data coverage in more than 200, 110 with 3G.
Two of the Bold's notable additions are Wi-Fi and double the onboard memory (512MB vs. 256MB). You also get Bluetooth and GPS, which is useful when using BlackBerry Maps and navigation. If you're not satisfied with the onboard memory, the Bold 9650 also has a microSD card slot that can take up to 32GB of extra storage. Our Bold 9650 came with a few preloaded apps and games--Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, DataViz's Documents To Go, BrickBreaker, Word Mole, Texas Hold'Em King 2, Sudoku, Klondike, and U.S. Cellular's Tone Room Deluxe--but you can get more from BlackBerry App World.
The 3.2-megapixel camera on the BlackBerry Bold 9650 is similar to the one on the Sprint and Verizon versions. Despite the presence of an LED flash, we thought the picture quality left much to be desired. Images looked blurry and hazy, and colors seemed dull. Video quality was OK, but nothing spectacular.
The RIM BlackBerry Bold 9650 from U.S. Cellular comes with a travel charger, a USB cable, a case, a wired headset, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
We tested the dual-mode (CDMA 800/1900; GSM 850/900/1800/1900) RIM BlackBerry Bold 9650 in San Francisco using U.S. Cellular's roaming partners. Call quality was great for the most part. We did detect a bit of static and fuzz on our end, but the overall voice quality was loud and crisp.
On their end, callers were very pleased as well. They detected no voice distortion or environmental noise, and said that our voice was so clear and sounded so natural, it was as if we were calling from a landline. The same goes for the speakerphone; they could hardly tell we were on a speakerphone except for a bit more background sound.
We were able to test EV-DO speeds on the Bold 9650, and we were impressed. The CNET home page loaded in just 50 seconds, and the BBC mobile page loaded in around 15 seconds. Unfortunately, we were not able to test the Bold 9650 under a GSM network, and neither were we able to use BlackBerry OS 6 with the phone. The Bold 9650 had very little lag overall however.
The 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. Like its Verizon counterpart, the Bold 9650 from U.S. Cellular had a tested talk time of 6 hours and 30 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Bold 9650 has a digital SAR of 1.43 watts per kilogram and a Hearing Aid compatibility rating of M3.