Dare to be BOLD: T-Mobile Blackberry Bold 9700 Review

Over the last few years, terabytes of tech buzz all over the net have hailed the iPhone as the "Porsche" of all mobile computing devices. More recently, smartphone manufacturers whose units feature the open-source Android OS have hit the ground running with some pretty aggressive marketing campaigns -- online and off.

Well, it might sound a little "stick-in-the-mud" or just "oh-so-20th-Century" of me, but I still believe that solid performance in a device is the only calling card a company ever needs. If pressed to compare the Bold 9700 to a car, I would choose Volkswagen, hands-down: Solid. Reliable. Affordable. Ferocious power artfully sealed beneath a pleasant, modest façade--less concerned with selling itself on pure sex appeal and more intent on winning over true love.

The Blackberry Bold 9700 doesn't come with a bar-code scanning program; it won't make you a latte and it isn't going to replace your best friend. But it does work. And it works damn well. Let's not forget that the Little Engine That Could really could, in the end, and the tortoise, slow and steady, ended up clinching the gold.

The Pretty:

  • The bite-sized wedged keys on the Blackberry Bold are a texter's dream. Your thumbs will assimilate instantly. Under-the-table texting? No problem (and a lifesaver). Plus the design lends itself to quiet, incognito txting, even with long or fake nails, sans the "click-click" which betrayed us all on The Curve...
  • The touchpad, the sensitive successor to the trackball, is highly intuitive and fluid. Sensitivity can be adjusted for faster or slower tracking to match how you like to cruise. There's no "Swipe" bullsh*t or anything gimmicky, so you won't yearn for a more "touchy" device.
  • Processing speed is up and amount of time spent with the spinning hourglass is down. Blazing response times. No hassle. No waiting.
  • Hidden talent: The Blackberry Voice Notes Recorder. How many times has that million-dollar idea smacked you clear upside the head and melted right back into the ethos just seconds later? Hang onto that bright bulb with the Voice Notes Recorder, great for entrepreneurs, writers (or students with abhorrently early classes...). E-mail the files to yourself right from the user interface--in Quicktime-friendly formats. Recording capacity is predetermined by the device memory.
  • The T-Mobile Bold comes preloaded with a 2GB SD card for extended memory; easily upgradeable for added multimedia juice.
  • Phone quality is crisp; hands-free speakerphone and standard Bluetooth, both solid performers.
  • A Facebook application comes pre-installed (not sure this is really a "pretty" in light of Facebook's recent privacy..."amendments," let's call them...). Twitter is a free BB download for those who can't resist sharing intimacies and GoogleTalk is a snap to set up.
  • Customized message alerts let you set "bells" for FB messages and "crickets" for e-mail. Download the "Halloween" theme for whenever your mother-in-law calls...

The Ugly:

  • The browser still sucks, frankly. The old browser would strip web pages down to the bare text bones (ignoring all page styling), but the newest offers a fancy zoom feature...with a serious page-width flaw. If you zoom in manually, the horizontal scroll is so awkward it almost makes you start pining for a touch-screen...
  • To take beef with the Blackberry browser even further, it still doesn't support JavaScript comfortably and completely ignores Flash. (Techie whiz Adam Weinstein suggests using OPERA (free download) for a quick-fix.  Point your mobile browser to http://m.opera.com for over-the-air download) Look--no Flash? Fine, even the Apple hasn't made peace with Adobe yet. But JS? C'mon RIM. It's 2010. It's really time.
  • It's also time for the RIM designers to find a more convenient place for users to load SD cards. Right now, you've got to pop open the back-panel (double-trouble if you carry your Berry in a hard case) to do the push-pull card swap. There must be an easier way. Maybe use all that vacant real estate on the sides...?
  • My last complaint is in regards to the hard case mentioned earlier. The sides rise so high in the front that the Enter Key becomes awkward to reach. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but it's an unnecessary roadblock which might prevent you from reaching maximum txting velocity.