The style and design of the Bold 9650 is exactly the same at the Tour 9630. Cosmetically you will notice very little has changed. Internally is where the majority of the changes have occurred. The Bold 9650 has replaced the troubled trackball on the Tour with the new stylish trackpad. From using a Bold 9700 for the past 6 months, I can tell you that this is one of the best things BlackBerry has done to help with navigation on the device. I'm sure when the trackwheel first came out, many users thought it was the best thing since sliced bread, and the same with the trackball -- however, I can tell you the trackpad is better than all of them.
Next in the line of changes is the addition of Wifi. I have stated in many of my previous BlackBerry reviews that my house is in that dreaded cell phone dead zone. Having Wifi on my BlackBerry helps to ease that problem at home. While the Wifi won't do anything to improve my call reception at home, it will fix any issues I may have with data reception. The Bold 9650 has no trouble hooking up to my wireless-g network, and within minutes I'm cruising the information superhighway at Wifi speeds. I only wonder why RIM didn't include the Wireless-N protocol with the Bold 9650 like they did with the Pearl 3G.
Lastly, the biggest addition to this device (which makes it hands down better than any other BlackBerry on the market) is the inclusion of 512MB of flash memory. I'm sure there are reasons behind it, but I've never understood why RIM doesn't include at least 1GB of flash memory with all devices. Memory is relatively cheap now days, and it seems like it would be something easy to do. However, getting off my soapbox I am happy to see that RIM has been working to boost flash memory on devices each year. I can't even imagine going back to a device that had 64MB of flash memory. This boost of flash memory will be a welcome addition to all app hungry BlackBerry users, and it may very well be a necessity for devices to run on the upcoming BlackBerry 6.
One of the great things to note here as well is that the Bold 9650 from Sprint comes factory unlocked. This means its not locked down to just Sprint service, and unlike other devices, doesn't require an unlock code to open it up for other networks. You can just pop in a SIM card from any GSM carrier (for the most part) and be up and running on a different network. Service obviously depends on the provider, so you will get EDGE or 3G service depending on what carrier you are using. Very cool.
Now that we've covered the major new additions to the hardware, let's go over the basic form factor of the device. It still has the same feel and look as the original Tour 9630. It weighs just a few ounces more than the Tour, but has the exact same dimensions otherwise. The micro USB charging port has been moved about 1/8 inch from where it sat on the Tour (why? I have no idea). Basically this is the cosmetically enhanced version of the Tour that has be rebranded into the Bold family.
The Bold 9650 comes pre-loaded with OS 188.8.131.521. I know we were all wishing for Blackberry 6 to be loaded, but we'll just have to settle with 5.0 for a little bit longer. The Bold has 309MB of free memory out of the box, leaving plenty of room for you to load tons of your favorite applications. BlackBerry Messenger version 5.0.0 is also pre-loaded.
The device seems to be pretty snappy and responsive, and I'm sure that has to do with the extra memory added to this device. All the standard games you have come to know and love are still included also. One change in the software lineup for Sprint is the loss of the NFL Network to Verizon. It has now been replaced with Sprint Football Live. I guess time will tell when the season starts back up if this new app with offer the same value to Sprint customers as the NFL Network did. Other included Sprint specific applications are NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile, Sprint TV, and Sprint Navigation.
As some of you have noticed from my unboxing video, Sprint signal in my house is not that great. Actually, it's not that great will all 4 major U.S. carriers. I just live in some kind of cell phone Bermuda Triangle I guess. To cure that issue at home, I can simply get a Sprint Airave and I'll be in business with full signal. Without an Airave, I'm limited to making/receiving calls pretty much only on the 2nd story of my house. (Note to self, get Airave soon). However, leaving my house, i have found that signal is not an issue. I live in Austin, TX, and drove around for 10 hours last night with the Bold 9650 keeping an eye on the signal strength. I never once found a place where I didn't have good coverage, and I even went inside a cinder block building and was still able to get 2 bars of signal, when my AT&T phone had no service. That's pretty good is you ask me.
Call clarity on the device was stellar, and I did not ever drop a call, or have any static or other interference. I haven't had a chance to setup my Jawbone bluetooth headset yet as I can't seem to locate it after returning from WES. If anyone knows where I put, please shoot me a message and let me know. Thanks! :)
Setting up email was a breeze, although I did run into one problem. When adding my Gmail account, I left the box checked to sync contacts. Bad move on my part. I not only had all my contacts listed in my address book from my Bold 9700 that were transferred, but now I had all Gmail contacts in there as well. Several people had numerous entries. I can easily reload that original backup and fix the issue, but I thought I had better give everyone a heads up on it so you can avoid that problem.
Several people have asked me about battery life on the 9650. I myself was concerned that it wasn't going to be as good as the Bold 9700. I took the 9650 off the charger and of course started putting it through the rigorous testing of a new device. I made numerous calls, sent lots of email, spent some time on BlackBerry Messenger and Gtalk, surfed the web, etc... after 14 hours I currently have 45% battery remaining. That's much better than I expected. Naturally each user will get varying results, but I think it's safe to say that the Bold 9650 should be able to get you through a full day's use.
Overall feel and performance of the Bold 9650 is solid. The battery door is firmly attached and not moving around like it had done on some previous Tour's. The trackpad is just slightly raised, which in my opinion, makes it just a little easier to use. My only complaint with the trackpad is that it is difficult to use with any kind of moisture on your hand. I'm not talking about you just jumped out of the pool and your dripping wet, I referring more to the sweaty hands issue. Like several parts of the country, Texas gets hot, and in Austin we get high humidity with that heat. Having any kind of perspiration on your finger will make navigation on the trackpad a little difficult.
Want to know how the Bold 9650 stacks up against the other Bold devices in the BlackBerry lineup. Look at the following links to get to the direct spec sheets from BlackBerry on the Bold models and the Tour. I have also included this link for a side by side comparision of all Bold devices and the Tour.
The great thing about this device is that there are already a ton of accessories on the market compatible with it. You can find them all in the CrackBerry Store as well. I would highly suggest using a case of somekind for your Bold 9650. Afterall, you don't want to scratch your new baby do you? One important thing to note though, the charging port on the Bold 9650 has been moved up about an 1/8th inch. Several users are reporting that some skins they had for their Tour 9630's still work just fine, but some hard cases aren't working. The charging port isn't lined up correctly, and this will obviously be a problem. Just pay attention to what you order and verify that it will work.
Now on the application side of the fence, the world is your oyster. BlackBerry App World comes preloaded on the device giving you all the access you need to several great apps. If that isn't to your liking, I would suggest you download the CrackBerry Superstore and browse though the apps we have available. I know you'll find one to your liking.
My only disappointment in the app department was the lack of OpenGL games. I really wanted to try one out for the review and see how it went. However, there doesn't seem to be any available, or at least I couldn't find one if there is. If anyone knows of an OpenGL game that will work with the Bold 9650 please leave me a comment and I'll make sure to check it out.
Now has come the time where you may be looking for me to tell you that you must upgrade your current BlackBerry to the Bold 9650 because it is so great. Well I do agree it is great, but I think the necessity for an upgrade will really depend on what device you are currently using. For users with the Tour 9630, the need to get the addition of additional memory, trackpad, and Wi-Fi may not be that great. Sure we all want the newest and greatest thing, but the Tour is already a pretty great device in it's own right. You'll just need to weigh the factors out and see if the upgrade is worth it to you. Personally, I would do it, but I know not everyone will feel the same.
However for users with a 8830, 8330, or 8130; I think the time has come for you to retire that device, and move up to the Bold 9650. Not only will you be getting a newer device with all the great features we have previously talk about, but you'll be getting the best BlackBerry on the market. No other carrier can compete with the Bold 9650 at this point. Sure Verizon and other CDMA carriers will get it at some point, but for now, you can be the cool kid with the exclusive new device.
The Bold 9650 is what the Tour should have been when it launched. End of story.
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