After many months of waiting impatiently for the BlackBerry Bold to even just be announced officially, we finally have reached launch day in Canada for it. Rogers wireless was the first to get it out the door here in Canada. Launch went fairly well with the exception of in store availablity. Most stores are still getting their shipments in but customer service will gladly process an order for you with 2-5 days for shipping. I ordered mine the day of release and had it delivered the very next day. Good on Rogers for that, but I'd have much preferred to go to a local dealer and have it the day it showed up on the Rogers website.
We've had a look at the BlackBerry Bold 9700 a few times now and not much has changed from the pre release devices pending on how far back you want to go. We have seen the device go from showing up pre-release with a trackball to now sporting a very responsive trackpad. Follow along and let's have a look at the officially released Rogers version of the new BlackBerry Bold 9700
My Introduction To The BlackBerry Bold 9700
The BlackBerry Bold 9700 started life off code named Onyx, and after many revisions later it quickly became know as simply the BlackBerry 9700. Later on, we learned it was to become an iteration of the Bold series of devices where it became known as the Bold2, despite never having been marketed as such.
While waiting for the BlackBerry Bold 9700 to come to market many users have been stated that they really cannot justify the changes within the device over the BlackBerry Bold 9000 to purchase one. A quick look at the specifications of the BlackBerry 9700 make statements like that reasonable in my opinion, as most adjustments are purely cosmetic. But that takes nothing away from the device itself, those choices are simply user depcisions.
Personally, I can't really say I think of the BlackBerry 9700 as a Bold myself either. The size difference between the 9700 and the 9000 makes this the reason for me. It just feels more like a Curve series device more so then a Bold.
My First Impressions And Hardware
Having been excited for BlackBerry Bold 9700 for a while now, I was pleased to see the final revision roll in as I had expected.The device is in top form and feeling solid. The 9700 is light in the hands without leaving the impression you are holding a cheap BlackBerry. As much as I love my 8520, the device simply and truly does feel cheap. None of that here. Having used my BlackBerry 8900 for the past little while, the size felt familiar to me and easy to jump into and use as per normal with no need to really "feel out" my way around it or the OS in general.
Form Factor- Being a fan of both the BlackBerry Bold 9000 and the BlackBerry Curve 8900 series, to pick up a 9700 makes you feel at home. Looking at the device it's easy to tell that its thickness is just ever so slightly more than that of the 8900 but even though it is, it's barely noticeable in your hands. The BlackBerry 9700 simply feels thinner due to it's rounded edges and beveled and flush screen. Dedicated lock and silence buttons at the top remain intact from other devices that we have seen in the past, while it does lack the dedicated media keys found on the 8520. It would have been a nice touch in thought, not sure how well it would have been if placed into production though so I'm glad RIM didn't go that route.
Over all, it's the rounded corners, the flush screen and tight look of the 9700 that appeals to me and I'm sure many others. As I mentioned, Bold owners who are also 8900 lovers will feel comfortable here, as opposed to say a person who loves a Bold but hates the form factor of an 8900.
Keyboard- This is an area where I am currently perplexed. I do love my Bold's keyboard and while I don't love the 8900's, I do enjoy it and find it usable. The BlackBerry 9700 takes them both and mashes them together squeezing a Bold feeling keyboard into the size of an 8900 much as the Tour did. While the feeling of the Bold keyboard is there, the tightness of it may lead some previous Bold owners away from it as it's not as fluid to type on. The only words I can use to describe it would be to say it feels slightly cramped to me, but in doing so I know that's not right - it's just that no other words can be used to describe it. I don't see this hurting the device in any way, it's still awesome to type on but so far I have found myself "misfiring" on letters and having to correct myself.
Trackpad- BIG fan of the trackpad - huge in fact. I loved the trackpad ever since having used it on my 8520. The odd thing in this area though to me, is that the 9700's trackpad feels more responsive over the 8520's. Not sure as to why that would be and it sure as heck isn't a bad thing that's for sure. A lot of people have concerns with the trackpad not working in direct sunlight, I myself have never had an issue with this previously, not even in Arizona with the sun blazing a sick 110 degrees on me.
Battery Cover- We've all seen the pictures of the 9700's battery cover. To look at the pics some would call it ugly, while others would say it looks great. I say, hold your reservations on it until you see it in person. I thought it was rather ugly from the beginning but now seeing it finalized and on the device it looks pretty sharp. Anyone had a wobbly or lose battery door on their BlackBerry? Sure ya did. Well, not here folks. In all honesty, it felt like BlackBerry abuse trying to slide this thing off the back and even found myself questioning if I was doing it wrong. Battery door is on there nice and tight and just in case you ever have to do battery pulls, get you a copy of QuickPull because you just might need it.
Battery- Using the same 1550mAh battery from the BlackBerry Bold 9000, the BlackBerry 9700 has no issues with making it through the day. Having witnessed the power being sucked out of batteries in no time on pre release versions I'm quite satisfied to see the current OS (22.214.171.1241) has tamed that back a little. Also a good thing for Bold owners out there if you have every bought an extra for your 9000, congrats you now have extras for your 9700.
Hotswappable Memory- Sure is. Once (if?) you get the battery cover off right up at the top is your microSD slot, you can pop new ones in on the go. I did however find it a little tricky to get it out as you have to catch the edge of the card with your fingernail in order to pull directly out. Not perfect by no means, but not really a hinderence either that's for sure.
Camera- Packing a 3.2 megapixel camera that we have seen arrive in other devices that BlackBerry 9700 doesn't dissappoint. The camera is snappy (relative to OS) and the flash is great compared to the Bold and on par with other devices such as the 8900 and Storm2. Auto focus works well, but has that been an issue on any other BlackBerry Smartphones? Don't think so from what I can recall.
Sound Quality- Be it speaker phone, call quality or media playback. The BlackBerry Bold 9700 is a winner. However, with that said the BlackBerry Bold 9000 still rules this kingdom for media playback. Why RIM doesn't seem to be able to duplicate the 9000's sound quality on media is beyond me. Call quality is nice and smooth albeit a little soft. Speakerphone is not as loud as I would like it to be but it's the incoming audio that gave me a hassle, outgoing audio is fine to those you call as it's loud without being annoying.
Media Playback- The crisp screen has got this area covered for sure. Colors look great and vibrant and the audio as mentioned is fine. This time around we get some extra codecs placed into the OS which makes the available options for media a little more expanded. And it appears RIM has finally got their DivX codecs (ie: .avi video files) working good for video playback where as before it seemed like it was struggling to play those files on occasion.
The OS is always a point of concern for users when buying or well, even using their BlackBerry smartphones. The Rogers BlackBerry Bold 9700 comes loaded with OS 126.96.36.1991 and after having gone through it, I can say it's a good OS to launch with. That's not to say it is issue free by no means, I have had some problems with the device taking a while to wake up after having been idle for a while wherein the screen will just stay black for a few seconds then go to what ever it was I was going to access, but once going the device is snappy and screen transitions are fast.
I know this is NOT a device issue as the same concerns are seen on the 8900 and 9000 leaked versions of OS 188.8.131.524. At this time though RIM is currently into the .400's in terms of OS for devices all around. One other issue that again. seems to be an OS issue and not a device one is restarting your device.
If you power off or do a battery pull sometimes the progress bar will be solid, indicating your device should indeed be moving on to the next screen. This doesn't always happen. Sometimes it will load fast and go all the way, sometimes it will stall on the progress bar and you are waiting for it to load up. Again, a OS issue as it's seen in other builds of 5.0. In closing the OS talk though, it's a fine OS to of have launched with, no HUGE hang ups that are going to require RIM to rush an OS out as soon as possible to Rogers. *cough* Bold 9000 launch anyone? *cough* ;)
Applications And Themes
As always, applications help make any BlackBerry better and the 9700 is no exception to this for sure. I tend too run a lot of apps on my devices as you all can see from the screenshot. Most apps now have been updated to be compatible for OS 5.0 and while some still may be working out some bugs the majority is on board.
The BlackBerry Bold 9700 comes preloaded with all the usual items though, some of it you may wish to remove using desktop manager to save some space. I'm not saying it's needed, the device even loaded with all of the normal things, plus all the stuff pushed by Rogers runs perfectly fine without having deleted anything. Just a personal preference some users will want to do.
Some of my top picks for apps for my 9700 that got installed immediately, certainly not all of them as you can tell from the picture but it's a great start:
In The Box
The above is what all comes in the Rogers box, minus a SIM card but Rogers will provide that, as well as a 2GB microSD card. All together a nice package but I personally feel RIM took a nice package but cheapened it a little bit by including a cheap headset. A package like this deserved some premium BlackBerry headphones.
Thoughts And Closing-
The BlackBerry Bold 9700 has a place in the BlackBerry Smartphone lineup. It's a nice progression of devices and has a lot going for it. Nice form factor, 3G data, WiFi and finally GPS all put into one sharp and sexy looking package topped off with a 3.2 megapixel camera.
Anyone out there shopping for a new device or a first time BlackBerry owner will wanna give the BlackBerry Bold 9700 a look as it's an all in one package. And while I still don't personally feel it's deserving of the Bold moniker, maybe it should have been released as a BlackBerry Curve revision? It still has a place among the BlackBerry family and is an exceptional device all around.