BlackBerry Bold 9700 Review

Hands-On Review of Research in Motion's BlackBerry Bold 9700 Smartphone

BlackBerry Bold 9700 Review
By Kevin Michaluk on 5 Nov 2009 12:01 am EST
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Whenever I write a review for a new BlackBerry Smartphone, it tends to turn into a 6,000+ word novel. Not this time. For one, Chris, Adam and Craig are all writing their impressions of the BlackBerry Bold 9700 too, each coming at it from a slightly different user perspective. Between us there will be no shortage of Bold 9700 coverage on the blogs. Also, I did a pretty thorough job of covering the BlackBerry "onyx" back in May when we showed everybody what the new BlackBerry Bold 9700 would look like. But most importantly and to the point, this is just an easy BlackBerry to write about. It's a straight forward story about an all-around stellar device.

The BlackBerry Bold 9700 is simply the best of everything that Research in Motion currently offers in a smartphone, wrapped into a tight package. I'm sure there will be some Bold 9000 owners out there who may prefer the styling and bigger keyboard/screen size of the original Bold over the smaller and arguably more conservative 9700, but the 9700 meets or exceeds the 9000 on the features and specs sheet in areas that count: more memory, bettery camera and gone is the trackball in favor of the ohhh sooo slickkk optical trackpad. The BlackBerry Bold 9700 really is the pinnacle of the "traditional" BlackBerry Smartphone experience. 

An Intro and Overview of the BlackBerry Bold 9700

Just like the BlackBerry Bold 9000, the BlackBerry Bold 9700 is rolling out on GSM carriers around the world. This time around though, T-Mobile USA is joining in on the fun with their own version of the device which features the HSPA bands required for their new 3G network. The T-Mobile version also allows for WiFi phone calls (awesome!). AT&T has never really been one to embrace UMA calling so it's no surprise for AT&T's 9700 not to include it, but it is unfortunate that Rogers in Canada (who offers WiFi calling on devices including the Curve 8320, 8900 and 8520) chose to not give WiFi calling support to the Bold 9700. WiFi calling discussion aside, the BlackBery Bold 9700 is an all-in-one smartphone that offers 3G, GPS and WiFi in a form factor that's small - it's more like a Curve in terms of dimensions than a Bold. 

BlackBerry Bold 9700 Unboxing Video

Below are the key specifications for the BlackBerry Bold 9700. For the full breakdown, visit our BlackBerry Bold 9700 Features and Specifications page.

BlackBerry Bold 9700 Specifications

Size (LxWxD) Approximately 109 mm x 60 mm x14.1
Weight (battery included) 122 g / 4.28 oz
Memory 256 MB internal flash memory
Expandable Memory Supports up to 32GB microSD card
Battery 1500 mAhr removable/rechargeable cryptographic lithium cell
Battery Life GSM Talk Time: 6 hours; GSM Standby Time: 19 days
UMTS Talk Time: 6 hours; UMTS Standby Time: 15 days
Display High-resolution 480 X 360 pixel color display
Transmissive TFT LCD supports over 65,000 colors
2.44" (diagonally measured)
Camera 3.2 MP camera with auto focus, image stabilization, flash and 2X digital zoom
Video Camera Normal Mode: 480 x 352 pixels
MMS Mode: 176 x 144 pixels
GPS Integrated GPS with A-GPS (assisted GPS) ready
Media Player Video format support: DivX 4, DivX 5/6 partially supported, XviD partially supported, H.263, H.264, WMV3, MPEG4, Sorenson Spark and On2 VP6 (Flash support)
Audio format support: 3GP, MP3, WMA9 (.wma/.asf), WMA9 Pro/WMA 10, MIDI, AMR-NB, Professional AAC/AAC+/eAAC+
Bluetooth Bluetooth v2.1; Mono/Stereo Headset, Hands-free, Serial Port Profile, Bluetooth Stereo Audio (A2DP/AVCRP) and Bluetooth SIM Access Profile supported
Headset 3.5mm stereo headset capable
Network UMTS:
2100/1900/850/800 MHz (Bands 1, 2, 5/6),
2100/1700/900 MHz (Bands 1, 4, 8)
GSM:
1900/1800/900/850 MHz
Trackpad Based on optical technology, the track pad helps you easily scroll through the information you need, with an experience similar to the track pad on a laptop computer.
Wi-Fi Support (UMA/GAN) Added Wi-Fi connectivity makes accessing to your BlackBerry® data services in Wi-Fi hotspots or other areas with Wi-Fi connectivity
convenient and easy.

In terms of existing devices, the BlackBerry Bold 9700 really is a mash-up of RIM's original BlackBerry Bold (processor, battery, 3G), the BlackBerry Curve 8900 (3.2 megapixel camera, memory upped to 256MB of flash, 480 by 360 display), the BlackBerry Tour (similar keyboard) and the BlackBerry Curve 8520 (optical trackpad). But while the individual components may be inherited from other existing devices, the overall package is unique.

As for the operating system, like the BlackBerry Storm2, the BlackBerry Bold 9700 ships with version 5.0 Handheld Software. T-Mobile's version at launch is 5.0.0.330 while Rogers is 5.0.0.321 (I'm sure we'll know AT&T's soon). Be sure to check out Adam and Craig's reviews for more on OS 5.0.

BlackBerry Bold 9700 Hardware Impressions

I was just about to start writing about the look and feel of the BlackBerry Bold 9700, but realized I said it all in our pre-release review. Check it out if you haven't. Though in our pre-release review, our early BlackBerry "onyx" hardware actually had a trackball and not the trackpad. In that article I prayed and pleaded for RIM to include the trackpad on the Bold 9700, and here it is! I'm sure it had nothing to do with what I wanted but rather simply timing on when they would rollout the trackpad on future devices, but am VERY glad to see it here. Just as the change from trackwheel to trackball was a big leap for hardcore BlackBerry users, so is the change from trackball to trackpad. It takes a little time to get used to, but if you go back to a trackball device after using the trackpad for a week the ball just feels dated. I'm also glad to see that some faux leather made it's way onto the device. Our pre-release onyx was still sporting a plastic door, which made it a little un-Bold like. The Bold 9700 is a sharp looking device, but definitely is not as blingy as the original Bold. 

The BlackBerry Bold 9700 - Smaller, More Memory and Better Camera than the original Bold 9000, plus it gets the Optical Trackpad. The BlackBerry Bold 9700's Leather Door is less blingy than its predecessor.

The BlackBerry Bold 9700 has a Sleak Side Profile. Rubberized Buttons Replace the Silver Plastic Ones.
A hands-on look at the BlackBerry Bold 9700

Diving into some of the specifics that are unique on the BlackBerry Bold 9700...

Battery Door: Another new BlackBerry, another new design for the battery door. If you watch the unboxing video above, you'll see I ran into some issues for some reason with the new friction fit/slotted groove design. Even after following the directions in the manual and pushing down from the top (vs. pulling down), I still found it very difficult on three units now (one T-Mo, 2 from Rogers) to pop that cover off without feeling like I was hurting the device. HOWEVER, I soon discovered that it wasn't the design at all... just me. Watch the video below to see just how awesome the battery door design really is:

 

MicroSD Card Slot: The location of the MicroSD Card slot on the BlackBerry Bold 9700 is new for RIM. They snuck it above the battery and under the camera assembly. When you pull the battery door cover off the device, it's amazing to see just how clean everything is under there. Top notch engineering.

Keyboard: The BlackBerry Bold 9700's keyboard is similar to the BlackBerry Tour's with the exception that the bottom row of keys is slightly less tall. Overall, it's a nice compromise in terms of size and comfort between the Curve keyboard and the original Bold's keyboard. Over the past couple of my month's I've been using my Bold's 9000 as my main device, so have come to really love it. It's funny, when the Bold 9000 first came out I was one of the people who felt it was just too big. It's funny how times change - now I appreciate the extra size in the keyboard and extra 1/4" of width on the screen. It's enough to nearly wish RIM would do a straight update of the Bold 9000 form factor, but up the memory and camera, switch to MicroUSB and put the MicroSD card slot under the battery door. But keep that keyboard and screen going in an updated device.

The BlackBerry Bold 9700 is understated and stylish. It's confidently Bold. The edge of the display slopes down into the frame. The effect is nice.

The BlackBerry Bold 9700's MicroSD Card Slot is clevrly hidden above the batter, below the camera assembly. The BlackBerry Bold 9700's battery door slides on tight and holds snug.
More BlackBerry Bold 9700 Eye Candy

Other Stuff - I haven't had much of a chance to actually put this final commercial hardware to the test, so commenting on things like battery life, voice quality, etc. I can't do until I log more hours. But it's safe to say that things ilke the Camera, GPS and WiFi will work as well as they have in recent device models. 

BlackBerry Bold 9700 vs. 9000 and Other Device Models

So far in the images and video above we've only had a chance to look at the BlackBerry Bold 9700 as it is by itself. Be sure to watch the video below to see how the new Bold stacks up to its siblings. It's almost surprising to see just how much smaller it is than the Bold 9000, considering its improved specifications. 

The BlackBerry Bold 9700 definitely has what it takes to be considered the current flagship of the BlackBerry Smartphone line. It doesn't immediately make a device like the 9000 obselete, and obviously RIM must agree with that considering they just released the Bold 9000 in white. At the same time, I'm pretty sure the Bold 9700 wil quickly become the staple device for Wall Street, business executives and professionals very quickly. But that doesn't make it a business-only phone.  

Best Selling BlackBerry Bold 9700 Accessories

BlackBerry Bold 9700 Final Thoughts For Now...

I want to keep this short so I can get off the computer and go log some real use on my new BlackBerry Bold 9700. Keep it logged to the blogs and we'll do an update in a week or two to let you know how its holding up. But I'm pretty sure the answer to that already is extremely well.

The BlackBerry Bold 9700 embodies the spirit of what made RIM dominate the enterprise market and become the HUGE player in the smartphone market that they are today. The BlackBerry Bold 9700 is the ultimate communication and productivity tool. Fast, reliable, secure. Easy to use one-handed while you're on the go (walking or stopped at a light...not while driving of course!).

It's for shakers and movers who have stuff to do and need to get it done five minutes ago. But between the incremental improvements seen as we move into OS5.0 and the growth in BlackBerry apps, RIM is also getting much better at turning the device into a fun gadget for when we all get that little downtime that we need.

What I'm really curious to see, is where RIM goes from here. The BlackBerry Bold 9700 features the best of everything RIM currently offers. But we know RIM loves to innovate. I wonder what they're cooking up next in Waterloo?! 

Related Links

Pre-Release BlackBerry Bold 9700 Review
Adam's BlackBerry Bold 9700 Review
Craig's BlackBerry Bold 9700 Business User Review
Bla1ze's Rogers Blackberry Bold 9700 Review
BlackBerry Bold 9700 Features & Specifications
BlackBerry Bold 9700 Accessories
BlackBerry Bold 9700 Apps
BlackBerry Bold 9700 Forum

24 comments

redman12

great review Kevin! I can't wait for this for T-Mobile!

ekinfob

Thanks for the review. Looks good!!!!

pmich

Man.. i really wanted to upgrade to get the new memory and trackpad but i won't compromise the screen size and keyboard ... think i'm going to pass on this one and stay with my bold 9000.

SuperTone

I feel the same way....the form factor of the Bold was perfect for me...eventhough I wish it had more memory and better camera I don't think that will make me switch....

PedroAvila

Since you have in your hands the AT&T and T-Mobile 9700, I would consult in wich bands works 3G each one? Thanks in advance

YourMobileGuru

I have to admit that all of the band numbers drive me nuts so bear with me here. If I get a T-Mobile version unlocked will it work with AT&T 3G?

That70sGAdawg

Good review. How does the one speaker compare with the great "stereo" speakers of the 9000? This is key for me as I frequently use my BB as a "pocket radio" for Pandora, Podtrapper, Flycast, etc.

dseltzer

Kevin - to be clear, you said AT&T won't support UMA calling, but does that mean that you are prohibited from making WiFi calls with a 9700 on its network?

emlyhwrd

This device looks gorgeous. much better than the Bold.
But I do believe the numbers in red are much easier to read them all in white. It is easier to focus when you only need the numbers.
http://ezinearticles.com/?Cleanse-Prox-Review---Try-a-Free-Trial-of-Clea...

Duhat_Berry

Nice review, Kevin! Just got my new bold 9700 from T-mo today at my favorite cell store. Just read the specs yesterday online, very impressed with them, and decided to get the 9700. I'm not using it yet; still using my curve 8900 at this time. Glad this came out! Been waiting for a 3G bb. Now I can access the web faster. Experienced the at&t 3G before on a different smartphone, and was very impressed as opposed to t-mo's EDGE with the 8900--quite disappointing. Hope t-mo's 3G does not let me down. Besides the EDGE as a let down, everything else about my 8900 curve I love! It will be a lot better with the bold 9700!

Bulldogwrst

I am trading in my Sony Ericson W760a for the BlackBerry Bold 9700 I ordered Friday from the Crackberry Shop. This will be my first BB. I cannot wait to get it. And the Free Phone promotion made it even easier.

rjlong21

I hate this phone. Touch screen is terrible...needs to be recalibrated because it's not accurate and frustrating. Takes forever to send a text because selects wrong letter & also won't let you type correct word a lot. Not user friendly. Browser stinks. Too slow. Dropped calls. Battery life pitiful. Besides that, it's great.

goyoyl

I currently use the three Bold 9000 phones. Initially I didn't want to get the 9700 because I thought it might force me to sell my currently phones and upgrade to the 9700... I was right. I now don't want to use my current phones.The 9700 is lighter, smaller, and is an all-around better phone. Coupled with the new desktop software, it's now more convenient to sync data (I use Mac). I've been using it for just a few days, but am happy with it.

Aztek13

I upgraded from an 8310 Curve to the 9700 Bold in December. I love my 9700. It's so much faster and smoother running than my old BB. I love the screen too; almost "HD" quality, if that were possible. Btw, great review.

catfish1976

how do i count the ways that i love this phone, it has everything that i ever wanted or looked for in a phone. i had a Curve which i though the world of....until i got the 9700 and whoaa!!! this has to be the best phone out there, it has OS 5.0 and my favorite, the Wi-Fi connection option. i dont' know why anyone would not want the wi-fi option, it's what makes the phone so great. it's sleek and has a nice look, i have been recommending it to all my friends and family.

sumulu

nice device !!!
how about data restore from old BB to this BB bold 9700?
also heard that data service is bundled with 9700 upgrade, is there somewhere I can upgrade without purchasing the data plan?

- ML, USA

NinjaB

@sumulu, I transferred all my data and apps over from an 8900 successfully, minus AppWorld and one of my games, but just redownloaded AppWorld and the game wasn't one I played so everything else came over perfectly...

and just for the record the ATT one does come with a 2gb microSD as well, it's just not advertised on the box...

it's my 3rd keyboard BB and it really is the best of all their features in one..

jrasero

So hands down this is the best BB out there, but is that saying much? Most BB users know that RIM is pretty stingy when it comes to releases new features. For all the glory that the 9700 is, 5.0 OS still is buggy, it lacks flash-lite, the web browser is still terrible, and their are still many minor hardware issues out there.

The processor is faster compared to other Blackberries, yet it still freezes and is slow at times?

256MB memory, is this a joke? I know it's a lot compared to other BBs but, common...

I think the reviewer and I are in the minority, but I believe that the styling is killer on 9700 as well. I love the fake leather.

3G is killer, why didn't any other T-Mobile BBs have this before!? Seamless youtube and fast browsing all day!

RIM if you scan crackberry, please do something bold with the actual hardware or features next time! Giving us 3G isn't a Bold move.

ridge23pro

nice phone. hope i can get it on contract renewal at globe telecom phils this coming october. looking forward to it. i love blackberry handsets.

pembrooke88

Just got my 9700 yesterday. I had been waiting 7 months for my upgrade to get it. Had a problem figuring out the battery door when I found your review on Crackberry with a demo video. Big thank you! After struggling with the manual and directions from other on line sites, I had my "oh!" factor once I saw the video. So simple. Everything that I had hoped the phone would be was. Thanks again Crackberry for all the info you provide.

SheWolvreene

I've had my 9000 for two years now, and I'm tired of deleting apps to free up memory. My upgrade is next week; and although I was considering the Torch, I just can't get into a slider phone. Then, there is no telling when AT&T will offer the 9780 in my area, if it's being offered at all @ this time by them. I need memory; so 9700 here I come.

Tecklop

LOL!, where did you get the Original 9700 from!!! it looks so nice with that trackball!! :(!

integritydan

Please I bought the bold 3 as this is really good to look
But presently the battery keeps runing out.
But I still dont know what to do about it
I will really appreciate someones help on this and what to do to prevent the battery from runing out.
My email is
integritydan@yahoo.com