So my week with the Blackberry Bold has ended and well, it's not quite a tearful goodbye, but let's just say I thought about the implications of ignoring Crackbery Kevin's e-mails on where his Bold was. (Lost in shipping? I would have responded) I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Bold and though I still run into a few quirks, it's really quite easy to get used to.
But did my time go without complaints? Far from it. I'm still a bit dissatisfied with a few things, of which we'll get into in this review, but make no mistake, as it stands now, the Blackberry Bold is a fine device that can handle pretty much anything you throw at it.
Read on to read the rest of Android Central's take on the Blackberry Bold of!
Also, this is an Official Round Robin Contest Post, Comment to Win a T-Mobile G1 !— More Details Here
I covered a lot of the hardware in my Video Review of the Blackberry Bold and not a lot has changed since then. I'm still a huge fan of the absolutely gorgeous screen, still think the keyboard is solid, still think it's a wee bit wide, and still nonplussed about the leather backing.
Some new observations: the chrome rim seems to be of lesser grade than I expected, I'm not confident that it'll hold up to the stress of daily routine. I'm a really big fan of the quality of the 'clickiness' of the four main buttons, same goes for the keyboard—the buttons all have a great springiness to it. But the trackball has gotten a bit sluggish, even though I have sensitivity way up, it doesn't react as smoothly when I navigate left. Not exactly sure what to make of that.
But in the end, this much is undoubtedly true: this is the best Blackberry hardware ever and I would definitely put the Bold on the top tier of quality craftsmanship throughout all of smartphones. Blackberrys used to have a certain utilitarian look and feel to it and not until the Pearl and Curve released did RIM make a conscious effort to fight off that stigma. The Bold (and Storm and Curve 8900) is an extension of those first steps and RIM has simply hit it out of the park with their current lineup. Hardware wise at least.
I also went over a little of how the Blackberry OS responded to my usage and for the most part, everything worked out quite well. I had some trouble activating the Bold because unbeknownst to me, every Blackberry user needs to be tied to the BIS (or BES) in order to get their devices in Blackberry-functional order. Meaning if you want two Blackberry staples, BBM and push-email, you need to get on their data plan. Which isn't exactly a bad thing, just a bit odd.
Did I mention I'm absolutely in love with the gorgeous screen? I'm absolutely in love with the gorgeous screen. But why oh why couldn't it be a touch screen? I'm not knocking the trackball, in fact, I like the trackball, the G1 has a trackball. But I think the G1 has proven that a trackball AND touchscreen combination is one of the best ways to navigate.
Case in point: Web browsing. Compared to browsing with a touchscreen, browsing without a touchscreen simply pales in comparison (read: it sucks). You can't possibly convince me otherwise. With all things equal, use the G1's input method vs the Bold's. The G1's experience is 10x better because of the touchscreen and just as accurate because it also has the trackball. I guess we have to wait for the Niagra (?) to get that on a Blackberry
There are some things I absolutely love about using a Blackberry though. Like the depth of keyboard shortcuts; I thought the G1 used keyboard shortcuts well, but it doesn't even compare to the Bold. I'm also a fan of the Blackberry button, I mean, it's similar to the Menu button on the G1 and it gives a certain versatility and depth to your actions. You're almost surprised at the extent of what is capable after pressing the Blackberry button.
Overall, I find it hard to complain about how things work on the Bold because well, they work. My e-mail comes through. It's a great tool to communicate with. The browser is decent. I have my favorite weekly view in Calendar. Google Sync makes things easy. Media capabilities are okay. You're probably not going to find a glaring flaw within the Blackberry OS because everything is good enough. Blackberry has been around long enough to work out most of the usage kinks and have developed a way of doing things that's been proven to work.
But I guess the bigger question for me is: is good enough, good enough? I know it's being nitpicky and I might be at a loss here, but how do you get excited about the Blackberry OS? This current OS doesn't seem much different than last year's Curve (other than the facelift and better browser) and I just don't see the room for "potential" or how it can "grow". Sure, the Bold SPEEDS through tasks and is very, very efficient, but where is Blackberry headed?
From my brief use with Blackberrry, and you can flame me in the comments if I'm wrong, but I didn't encounter any killer third party apps. There was nothing that I desperately needed to try, nothing amazingly innovative, and nothing to really challenge the platform to be better. In fact, it hardly felt like a platform at all. Anything notable that didn't come from RIM seemed like an imitation of something on another device.
Run with me here. If you buy a G1, or an iPhone, or a Fuze—you're on an actual platform that can grow rather than just being stuck on a device that stays the same. Your OS is constantly improving (well, maybe not WM) and you're getting some amazing new features that push the innovation bar. You can download some amazing third party apps that make you take a step back and go whoa, are you sure this is a phone?
With the Blackberry you're left to ask, where's the innovation? Push E-Mail won't get any faster and BBM can only cover up so much. Using Blackberry, and again this isn't necessarily a bad thing, you never really step away from that "this is a phone" mindset. My phone gets emails, my phone surfs the web, my phone can BlackBerry messenger people.
I'm 70% sure that that feeling comes from being trapped by the keys and trackball, but I'm also semi-certain its because the BBOS has run its course. I don't think even the most die-hard Crackberry Addict can reasonably argue that the BBOS is the best smartphone platform. Key word: platform.
Does It Matter?
So before I get branded as a Blackberry hater, know this, I'm not sure being a smartphone platform matters right now. In 3 years, yeah it'll matter because our phones will become true platforms and more mobile computers than phones. All I'm saying is that I'm afraid Blackberry seems to have more in common with the Palms of yesteryear than the Androids of today. And again, this isn't a bad thing because there is one thing that Blackberry does better than any other smartphone that allows it to stay relevant.
What Blackberry does phenomenally well (and I never use the word phenomenal) is that it fosters a community like no other smartphone can. And I'm not saying in the way that Apple creates fanboys or WinMob has its tinkerers—users actually have a tangible reason of staying attached to Blackberry.
Think about it. For better or worse, every Blackberry user is inherently tied to another Blackberry user because of its use of NOCs and handling everything server-side. The average Blackberry user might not know it, but they're bundled up and bandied together. No other smartphone currently offers that type of communal feel and many just simply can't ever emulate that.
Blackberry Messenger is proof enough. A closed messaging system becomes a feature that not just Blackberry has but every other phone LACKS. Moving to another phone means giving up that avenue of communication. And though they handle push e-mail differently than other platforms, the fact that ALL Blackberry's push without prejudice to your e-mail client has all Blackberry users confused at why other phones don't. The crack is real. Blackberrys have features that other phones don't and Blackberry Users have certain leniencies that Blackberry has allowed them, and to ask them to give it up? Yeah. Right.
I think, and this is more hypothesis than anything, but a Blackberry user has more reason to stay a Blackberry user moreso than any other smartphone user. Some of their feature set is unique and everything else is good enough. I do think Android has the best chance in matching that "crack" per se because of its connectedness to Google. If and when Android makes better use of a more unique relationship with Google, there may be reason to jump ship.
Here's a comparison: Android is the rookie, the newest and friendliest kid on the block while Blackberry is the veteran behemoth. Android is intriguing not because it outpaces Blackberry right now, but because of its potential to. Unlike Blackberry, Android is adept and prepared for the future and ready to lead the way. If Blackberry doesn't react with a more advanced OS and an App Market, well, you guys have seen what happened to Palm.
In the end, I can offer you this much advice:
If you're a Blackberry User that uses any other Blackberry than the Bold, you'll absolutely love the Bold. You can definitively say that this is the best Blackberry ever. If it's within your budget, you won't regret buying the Bold. It's snappy, it's beautiful, and it's Blackerry.
If you're a current smartphone user, know that you'll have to give up some liberties and completely buy into a new way of doing things in order to fully enjoy your time with the Bold. And I just made it sound way harder than it is. It's not that hard. It's just not for me. And I assume it's not for a lot of people. Though the screen certainly earns brownie points.
If you're new to the smartphone world, I wouldn't go with Blackberry. I just don't think the Blackberry Way can successfully translate into the future. There just seems like a lack of growth with the Blackberry Way and the BBOS has pretty much matured. Android will outpace it soon enough.
I think I really could sum up the Bold in a few sentences. Stellar hardware. Amazing screen. Unexciting OS. RIM is good at making Blackberrys good in itself, just not necessarily good and packaged as a platform. So final tally? Bold is great. Blackberry is just, good enough.
Round Robin Must Do's
1. Use their assigned smartphone as their "main brain" and may not use any other smartphone OR music device (such as an iPod) for one full week.
This was really easy. The Bold was the device I was most excited to use when the Round Robin started. And the screen! Oh the screen!
2. Get their PIM data onto their phone. Ideally they will 'Sync with the Cloud," but a computer sync is ok too.
Thanks to Google, I used Google Sync to get all my Gmail Contacts and Calendar information over OTA. It was odd that that "trust certificate" prompt kept popping up time and time again when all I was using was Google Sync though.
3. Get up their email on the smartphone
After some activation issues, I got the push e-mail from BIS. Here's one thing you can't deny: it sure is fast. It was beating my G1 in terms of push by 5-10 seconds every time.
4. Use their smartphone to get directions at least once.
I used Blackberry Maps and uh, I'm not a fan of it. I quickly changed to Google Maps which made things A LOT easier and I felt right at home.
5. Use their smartphone with a bluetooth headset.
It's easy to pair. I again really wish I had a pair of Bluetooth Stereo headsets so I could hear what I'm missing with the G1.
6. Install at least 2 3rd-party apps (if possible) on their smartphone.
I used Gmail and Googe Maps, does that count? I actually preferred the Gmail App on Blackberry to their regular e-mail application. With the Gmail App I got better control of my inbox the way I set it up. Does anyone else feel like that? Blackberry email kind of strips away all that you've painstakingly built.
7. Play a game
BrickBreaker is lame. Word Mole is where it's at. I had to say it.
8. Browse the internet
Browser is a lot better than the Curve's. But just browsing the real web with a trackball just feels outdated. I can't wait til Blackberry adds a touchscreen to a Bold-like device.
9. Add music to their smartphone and use it as their music device.
Eh, the music player is nothing to write home about. Thank god for 3.5 mm headphone jacks though!
10. Watch a video on their device.
Best. Screen. Ever.