Hands on: BlackBerry Bold 9700

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on November 16, 2009

BlackBerry Bold 9700After a big run of flashy smartphone announcements, including the Motorola Droid/Milestone and even the BlackBerry Storm2, it was easy for the BlackBerry Bold 9700 to slip in under the radar. But this very solid, if unflashy, handset shows why Research In Motion continues to thrive even in a very difficult market.

The original Bold 9000, which hit the market in May, 2008, has been the flagship of the BlackBerry line. The Bold 9700, available today from T-Mobile for $200 on a two-year contract and on Nov. 22 from AT&T, offers everything the Bold did—sometimes better and sometimes smaller.

Physically, the Bold strongly resembles assorted Curve models, though it retains the Bold’s premium look and feel with a metal bezel around the top of the handset and a leatherette back. Like recent curves, it replaces the fidgety track ball with an optical sensor that tracks finger movement on a pad below the screen—a big improvement. It weighs about half an ounce (14 g) less than then original Bold.

One reason that the Bold 9700 lost so little weight in the process of shrinking is one vital component it shares with its predecessor--a huge battery. In fact, the innards of the Bold 9700 seem to consist almost entirely of battery and the result is exceptional battery life. The specs claim 6 hours of talk time or 6 hours of 3G network time; the more important reality is that I found I could generally make the battery last through two working days of moderate to heavy data and light voice use.

The keyboard is a bit smaller than the Bold 9000, mainly because the handset is a quarter-inch (6 mm) narrower. I found the shrinkage did little damage to my typing once I got used to it--and the narrower keyboard offered a surprise benefit. Holding the Bold in my left hand, as I usually do, it was much easier to stretch my thumb across to reach the delete key when scrolling through the inbox.

The Bold shares the new BlackBerry 5.0 operating system with the Storm2. The browser is improved from the original Bold, though the smaller display makes it less satisfactory than the Storm. BlackBerry is working oin a new WebKit-based browser that it badly needs, since even this newest version is far inferior to what is offered on the iPhone, Adroid phones, and the Palm Pre.

Otherwise, what you get on the Bold 9700 is pretty much what you would expect from a top-of-the-line BlackBerry: Outstanding messaging, a very good phone, and OK everything else. Like other BlackBerrys, the Bold 9700 was seamless at switching between the phone network and Wi-Fi, and using UMA technology, it is able to make ordinary voice calls over a Wi-Fi network. This is especially important on the T-Mobile version, since T-Mo's U.S. coverage leaves a lot to be desired.

Network consideration aside, the choice between the Bold 9700 and the Verizon Storm2 presents a fundamental tradeoff: The Storm gives you a big display, but you have to sacrifice the physical keyboard. So far, at least, RIM has resisted slider designs and personally I have yet to find a slider that isn't awkward to hold and type on when the keyboard is open. Until someone finds a magic solution, this will be a fundamental compromise required in all smartphones.

Reader Comments

anthony

November 16, 2009 2:44 PM

How can i get a phone free.

chesire

November 16, 2009 2:55 PM

Keep the smart phones coming. I hope blackberry cracks the iphone monopoly and really starts kicking ass. Then the mobile web can really get going.
http://m.seego.com/search/web+apps

NV

November 17, 2009 5:22 AM

$200 is a neat price - considering that this will be sold out in India within days, despite charging $600.

If RIM assembles phones in India, their business can multiply 5-10x in a short time.

Ratnok

November 17, 2009 9:00 AM

Only stiff corporate types with no imagination care about Blackberry anymore. It's all about the iPhone and Android. There will always be a market for Blackberry as long as there are cubicles, middle management, and Dilbert.

Steve Wildstrom

November 17, 2009 9:53 AM

Just for the record, Ratnok, while BlackBerrys may be profoundly uncool, they outsell iPhones and Android combined.

That's likely to change with the introduction of Droid/Milestone and some other decent Android phones, but the fact is that BlackBerry has steadily increased its worldwide market share since the iPhone was released. iPhone's huge growth has come at the expense of Symbian, Windows Mobile, and, to a lesser extent, Palm.

rgppcw

November 17, 2009 10:30 AM

Interestingly enough, I am (slowly) typing this on my iPhone while I patiently wait for my new Bold 9700. I can't wait to go back to it. I think the real bottom line when comparing all these phones is this...some people want toys - they want to be "cool". But people who are seriously in business want a tool that does what they need to be as efficient as possible. I do like my toy (the iPhone) - but if anyone thinks that this "cool" phone or any other phone matches the Blackberry when it comes to business tasks, they have simply been infected by some marketer's hype.
The 'Droid's new ad (iPhone don't) is very accurate...with one little exception. When it comes to the business capability of the Blackberry, Blackberry does - everybody else don't.

Rich

November 17, 2009 4:00 PM

It's still true: The iPhone is for the consumer market, Blackberry is for the corporate market. Each one targets its own market VERY skillfully.

rh

November 18, 2009 7:15 AM

Blackberry is the Thinkpad of the smartphone market. It is classic, effective, innovative, and understated.

Griffin

November 18, 2009 7:52 AM

As a mobile addict of many forms, I carry a minimum of 2 phones at any time with me. The blackberry is always in my right pocket. I have has iphones, samsungs, sonyeric and htc. I had moto razer, but that's the worst software anyone can ever find in a mobile phone that I ebayed the phone within 3 weeks of use.

Blackberry, Bold at least, represents the optimum functionality of having a keyboard. Touch screen just will never cut it in terms of usability. iPhone is beautiful with such charming eyecandy software, but it's not a Blackberry really.

Alison Minaglia, TechnologyPR.com

November 18, 2009 12:41 PM

rgppcw, I couldn't agree with you more. A few of my clients carry around both iPhones and Blackberries (they always seem have THE newest releases), but I refuse to carry two devices in my pockets. The Blackberry is my go-to gadget for business and the Apps are quite good!

Asad Hamed

November 18, 2009 1:34 PM

I like the way blackberry functions compared to the Apple iphone, it is very simple to use, and yet it can do almost everything a normal cell phone can do and a personal computer can also do. Now when you talk about the Bold 9700, basically it means advanced technology fixed inside a small box. Just a magnificent phone.

Alex

November 20, 2009 10:55 AM

Don't forget that Blackberry just released a new SDK that allows developers to use more of the phone's features while still maintaining the highest level of data security and integrity that currently exists. The SDK also allows the developer to make apps using a visual interface which will mean more apps.. and fast!

CrackBerry_T

November 20, 2009 2:47 PM

The fact of the matter is... The Blackberry is meant for business. Which means it is more durable it can take a fall 100times greater than the IPhone (Iphone = Glass).

I am a TOY type person but toys runs second to my business and BlackBerry carries my Business!!
Now I do not have to carry a PDA and a Phone!!
I can play games on my Wii at home. I don't need that in a waiting room. What I need is to get some work out!!
I hope RIM Keeps up the good work!

David

November 23, 2009 2:06 PM

Hoping the 9700 has a lot more application memory which is a shortcoming on my Bold 9000

Doreen

November 24, 2009 9:54 AM

I am not in the corporate world and I have a blackberry phone and I have had all the latest toys but nothing compares to my blackberry and I believe as time goes on the blackberry will outsell any other phone on the market with it's easy to use features

Tae

November 25, 2009 11:30 AM

I did seek information on the fone and comparing it with other smartphones...

I am using SE P1i... very disappointing...

I am looking at Bold 9000 and 9700, can anyone tell me when it would be launched in Singapore??? And the price?

abc

November 26, 2009 1:43 PM

I am GREATLY anticipating this phone. Blackberry has never let me down, (broken trackball once) but in the end they never stop pushing for that next technological breakthrough! I hear alot of jibber-jabber about this phones' shortfall against the iPhone or droid in terms of web browsing. The truth is, I'm not going to be doing alot of in depth web browsing, just here and there. Cant wait to pick one of these babies up!

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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