[ note from Kevin: No CrackBerry Podcast this week, but at least we've got Podcast co-host and BlackBerry Expert Craig Johnston coming at you on the blogs! Thanks Craig!! ]
There have been a lot of BlackBerry Bold reviews done over the last few months. All have been great reviews that show off the features of the BlackBerry Bold. All of these reviews are excellent in their own way and very useful, however I wanted to concentrate on what a business user would gain by purchasing a BlackBerry Bold over another BlackBerry model.
What specifically would the business person gain and how would that benefit them.
The phone seems like an unlikely candidate for a review like this but the Bold has two significant advantages over all current BlackBerry models on sale now. These two advantages do provide a business person the upper hand while on the road.
Because the BlackBerry Bold now has a 3G radio, when you are in 3G coverage and make a phone call, that phone call travels over the 3G network. This allows the call to have a higher quality over a typical GSM call. While not much information is available explaining why the call quality is better, I would make an educated guess that it has to do with more available bandwidth (higher speed network) which leads to less compression of the actual audio. Less compression always means better quality.
Think of audio compressed into an MP3 at different rates. The higher the bit rate, the better the audio sounds.
The Bold also seems to have better internal acoustics which help the pickup of speech. In a business world, sounding more professional on the phone is a big advantage, and with more and more business people making calls from their mobile devices, having that speech sound more like a landline is key.
Talk and Work at the Same Time
The technology that empowers the GSM 3G networks allow for simultaneous voice and data. This means that you can be on the phone, but continue to send and receive emails, or view web pages in the browser. This is very beneficial in a business environment when someone may be asking you to read an email they just sent, while they speak to you on the phone.
While Verizon and Sprint (and other CDMA carriers) have had a 3G network in place, and 3G capable BlackBerry smartphones, the EVDO 3G network cannot support simultaneous voice and data. The original name for EVDO was Evolution Data Only, but it was later changed to Evolution Data Optimized to de-emphasis the fact that EVDO did data only.
In a business world, having the edge to be able to read that last minute email while on a call is key.
We all know that the screen on the BlackBerry Bold is far larger than the current crop of BlackBerry smartphones. Not much larger physically, but much larger pixel-wise. The current full QWERTY BlackBerry models have screens that are 320x240 pixels in size. The BlackBerry Bold's screen is 480x320 pixels in size.
This allows for more information to be displayed and therefore is beneficial in a number of ways.
For now we will ignore the DocumentsToGo feature (which I will cover later) and concentrate on the regular attachment viewing.
As a business person you want to be able to view attachments on your mobile device with the highest clarity, and be able to fit the most text and graphics in as possible.
When you open a document on a BlackBerry Bold, you are normally able to fit more of the document onto the screen than on current models. This is in part due to the extra pixels available which allow for a higher clarity of text rendering.
Take a look at Figure 1 and Figure 2 below. Figure 1 shows an Excel file viewed on a BlackBerry Curve, while Figure 2 shows that same file viewed on a Bold.
Figure 1: MS Excel on a Curve
Figure 2: MS Excel on a Bold
In both of these examples the same font and font size was used, and the same cell size was selected. You notice that the Bold shows more characters per cell which is obvious in column A where the Curve cannot complete the name "Alice Mutton". Even though both devices were set exactly the same, the Curve still tries to fit more columns in and so further compresses the display.
Viewing a Word document shows off more of the extra space available to the Bold as seen in Figure 3 and 4 below.
Figure 3: MS Word on a Curve
Figure 4: MS Word on a Bold
Here we also see the crispness of the font rendered on the Bold compared to the Curve. While the Bold's screen is larger, we see that the Bold's rendering of the document has about a one word advantage horizontally compared to the Curve.
Finally in Figure 5 below we can see the Curve's screen of 320x240 overplayed on the Bold's screen at 480x320.
Figure 5: Screen size overlay
This extra screen real estate and extra screen clarity goes beyond attachment viewing. It is evident in third party application design. Vendors can now fit more on one screen than ever before. Imagine financial applications where as much data is squeezed onto each screen as possible. Potentially every third party BlackBerry application can take advantage of this extra space and clarity and over time this will translate into saved time and more productivity.
The BlackBerry Bold is running BlackBerry software 4.6. This software includes a large browser enhancement over the current models. This browser renders web pages in a way that makes them appear much closer to the way they would appear on a desktop computer. This ability in conjunction with the extra screen size greatly enhances the mobile web browsing experience.
Figure 6: Web page on a Curve
Figure 7: Web page on a Bold
As you can see in Figure 6 and 7 above, the Curve cannot really render this web site accurately. In fact for this test, I set the Curve to use the Desktop View, which is how the Bold renders pages by default. The Curve rendered the content completely inaccurately while the Bold showed the site almost exactly how it appears on a desktop.
Figure 8: Mobile site on a Curve
Figure 9: Mobile site on a Bold
Figures 8 and 9 show a site which has detected the BlackBerry browser and redirected to a mobile version of their site. Even here you can see how much better the Bold renders this page. The experience is full of rich content and formatting compared to the bare bones plain text approach of the Curve.
Figure 10: Mobile site using Firefox emulation
The Bold can render the site even more accurately when you select the Firefox emulation in the browser as can be seen in Figure 10 above. In this case the advertisement at the top of the screen is now displayed.
The idea that displaying web sites more accurately goes beyond browsing the internet. It translates to companies internal web sites too. Now business users can make use of internal web resources a lot more efficiently than before. Imagine internal business unit portal sites, request systems, trouble ticket systems, dash board systems, or reporting systems.
In addition to web sites that users view on their own, many companies make use of the BlackBerry's ability to push web pages out to devices. Many companies push out web pages into the BlackBerry's InBox (called a Web Message) or to the home screen of the BlackBerry (called a Channel). The design of these pages can now be altered to take advantage of the extra space and clarity making them even more useful than before.
I had become quite addicted to the BlackBerry Curve keyboard and could type away quite quickly. When the Curve was released it seemed to have a much better keyboard than the slightly older BlackBerry 8800 at the time.
Now the BlackBerry Bold's keyboard has taken it to the next level. The Bold's keys are comfortable to press, very well laid out, and just the right size.
The combination of these attributes makes the Bold's keyboard the best in the business so far. When I type on a Bold I get sensation of a luxurious feel. Even the way the keys press in and out feels great. When I switch back to a Curve I can feel the extra pressure on my thumbs as I type.
The BlackBerry Bold has a 624 MHz CPU inside that speeds up the performance of the Bold compared with the 312 MHz CPU used in the current models. This translates into snappier menu actions, snappier screen changes, snappier web page rendering (especially tabled), and overall faster device operation. In a busy mobile world, this extra speed translates into a business user getting things done quicker. Over time, those little micro-second time savings per action, translate into multiple minutes of saved time.
The BlackBerry Bold is not the first 3G BlackBerry. It is not even the first 3G GSM BlackBerry. The first 3G GSM BlackBerry was the 8707 which was sold outside of the US. This BlackBerry however, is the first 3.5G BlackBerry. It uses HSDPA which allows for accelerated download speeds.
First of all, the BlackBerry Bold will now be a very welcomed upgrade to the aging 8707 model. I am quite sure that there will be an uptick in BlackBerry upgrades from the 8707 to the Bold, if this hasn't happened already.
Secondly, the data speeds that can be achieved on the GSM 3.5G network, far exceed what is possible on GPRS or EDGE speeds today. These speeds allow everything to be accelerated. Web page downloading, attachment downloading, address lookup speeds, and third party application data access.
Today EDGE's maximum download speed is 236 KB/s while HSDPA is 1.8 MB/s. Of course you won't get these maximums on daily use, but overall HSDPA is significantly faster than EDGE.
While the US's AT&T network is not a poster child for 3.5G networks, in most places around the world, the 3.5G experience is unforgettable.
This is more of a subjective benefit, but one that many business users take into account. The BlackBerry Bold's design is very up market and professional. Everything about the design of the Bold says sophistication. Many business users feel that using a device that looks sophisticated makes them appear more professional. The design of the Curve for example is a more "plasticy" and cheap. While we all know that the Curve is still a great device and not specifically cheap, it just doesn't look corporate.
The Bold fits the corporate image. It is a device that executives will want to be seen using. Some may even have the opinion that it is a bit embarrassing to be seen using a Curve because of its non-corporate image.
The BlackBerry Bold has many advantages over the current BlackBerry models. It is a sophisticated device that is also at the top of the technology game when it comes to screen, network speed, and CPU power.
However all of these benefits need to be weight against the price. Depending on how much your carrier charges for this device compared with the current models will ultimately determine if you can purchase it. The business benefits of the Bold are many, but if the carrier prices the device out of your companies reach, then it will just sit unused in their warehouses. Let's hope that the carriers price the Bold accordingly.