Round Robin: Blackberry Bold Review & Final Thoughts

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.

Questioning Blackberry

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Casey Chan
  • Looks great, makes my curve look old and shoddy in comparison.
  • While the G1 is full of potential, the Bold is a fully working tool of business with some fun thrown in. You can operate a Bold with one hand a stop light. Try that with your G1. I also have to say that the G1 looks more like a prototype than a real phone. The Bold is way sexier and more refined. Thanks for the review.
  • nice review, interesting points. when my contract ends i (think i) am going BOLD, but these little Round Robin reviews help to educate everybody. peace.
  • @ JDMaker1- What do you mean you get the Bold in the United States? I bought one from AT&T on November 4th (the date it was made available for purchase in the U.S.)
  • Hope you all enjoy your G1's
  • The Bold is a fine device . . . too bad you can't get it here in the US of A
  • go bold.
  • All I can say is, its a great time to be a consumer of Smart Phones. It's almost as if you can't go wrong now a days. The Bold is very impressive to me, even though I see where Casey is coming from about the OS. But in the end get the job done....and super fast at that, which is enough for me.
  • A great review, I must say! I am personally a bold user and would really love to try the G1 on the Rogers network as my daily driver. I really love the interface of the Android OS! Keep up the good work Round Robin folks, and maybe I'll get lucky and win myself a beautiful new toy. (G1, wink wink)
  • i want one! verizon probably won't get one for almost a year either. :-(
  • [...] The guys over at Android Central have posted a nice blog entry reviewing the BlackBerry Bold from an Android perspective. [...]
  • Nice review!
  • Great review, I agree the bb is needs updated in order to compete in the smartphone world of today.
  • I just migrated from a T-Mobile MDA to a BB Flip. So far I'm a happy camper. The MDA was a brick - big, heavy, and the screen was a scratch magnet. The G1 was too "MDA-like" in form factor for me. For now I'm happy with a "cell phone that can message really really well". :)
  • g1 pleasse.
  • g1
  • plz
  • i say, it is pretty, but it's still a blackberyy, never been a fan
  • I disagree with best screen ever. I'll throw my T-Pro up against it any day of the week ;-). You comments TOTALLY nailed how I feel about BB. It's totally solid. Software and hardware are top notch. Services are second to none. It's a clean and intuitive experience from beginning to end. Yet I can't shake the feeling that I had using a Palm OS Treo back in the day. It does it's job tremendously well, but it's just not exciting to use. My wife's 8330 is a great little phone, the Bold looks solid, but I just can't seem to get all that stoked about them.
  • I felt it would do me justice to walk over here and make a post on the review.. I will be the last person to really nock the android idea and what it will eventually turn into. While I think the G1 is nice it still doesn't serve my exact needs but I will never tell a person that purchased a G1 that it was a bad move and if I win won I would more then likely run a plan on it for personal use.. As far as the bold go's and the comment about it not really being up to date.. now I agree I am a complete blackberry nut.. however the storm is my first personal berry. I have been supporting them for a while in the IT field. The iPhone was my first personal smartphone and storm being the second. just to get that out of the way. The bold is actually a really solid device and I agree that the theme is kind of just a small face lift to what bb's have always been and could have been a little more creative. For new users a trackball isn't always the best option if you don't have a touch screen. However for those that have been using trackballs for a while some of them weren't even interested in ever having a touch screen. The one thing about the bold that you don't see in other blackberry devices is JUST how zippy that processor is. its extremely fast compared to other models. I find that the limitation on application memory is also a issue which drops into the part about not many third party apps. Also third party apps seem to be so high priced on blackberrys for some reason which can be a turn off to many users. This is were things like the iPhone and g1 will accel and control the market with third party until its changed on bb's I am actually happy that you seemed to enjoy the device and give the credit were credit was do. If you get a chance check out the storm. Current os isn't as well rounded as the bolds but it gives you your screen with touch ;) Obviously your a android guy so it probably wont pull you away but at least check it out. as far as the brickbreaker comment this may much depend on how old you are or what you had as a kid. Brickbreaker is a hyped up version of breakout on the atari as I remember it. this was VIDEO games in my time.. I am not really old but atari isn't really that old ;) I love a ton of current games on ps3 xbox 360 and have played pc games for years.. but nothing like going back for a while.. Anyway I am happy you enjoyed your experience and LONG LIVE ANDROID and Blackberry.. few others too.. competition is good and I will never say that I wont try something new ;) thanks for the review.
  • I'm wondering like many others what these killer apps are that you would like to see Casey? While it's true I have never come across a "Must Have" app for my BB, I can say the same about any platform, their has never been an app that I "Must Have" on any device I have used, be it WinMob, iPhone or some lame feature phone. Aside from that the BBOS is reaching it's peak in what it can do, I agree with that.. But, in closing I still love my BB for what it does do...not what it can't do or has the potential to do. It does what it does well and that's why I own one...Ok, Ok..many! :P
  • Personally, I'm torn: I agree with the sentiment that BB has reached its peak, and that it probably won't be as relevant in a couple of years (compared to Android and iPhone, etc) without a serious overhaul... but I don't need a phone that will be the ultimate device years from now. If this has all of the features that I want is Google friendly right now (which, supposedly the next update of BIS this summer should make Gmail just as BB friendly as contacts and calendar already are), then this may be the phone for me until I upgrade again in two years (likely to an android phone). Then again, until a device like this is released on Sprint, its probably a non-issue...
  • Good review. I think that the point about the android platform is valid. It only has to look to apple for what not to do, if you want to keep true to the users wishes, not the almighty $. -P.S. I'm still waiting for my BBStorm-
  • What constitues a platform? You don't believe the BlackBerry OS is a platform? I don't understand how you can refer to it as not a platform, you may not like it but BlackBerry is a full on platform! And maybe more-so than any other smartphone OS due to its tie ins with the NOC and BES/BIS. It has many enterprise capabilities that far outpace the competition. Is Apple a platform? cmon that stuff can't even multi-task, Andriod was uninspiring to many as well. What can it really do that BlackBerry can't?
  • The Blackberry OS has been proven in the market for some time now, and obviously there are quirks to it. The same can be said of the Android OS. To each his own.
  • let me play with it
  • I'd have to agree with the OS being nothing ground breaking from berry to berry but to be honest, for me it doesn't need to be. A Corvette is always still a Corvette whether it's a 1990 or a 2008. I still want one because it's a Vet. There are faster, sleeker cars out there but there's only one Vet. Same with my berry, it does everything I want it to do. It pushes email the best, it's a brand I can rely on based on their history and like a Vet, it provides it's own community of like-minded users (BB Messenger). This is what lured me to the device and it's what keeps me with the device. A lot can also be said for the competition in the smartphone market being neophytes, subject to rookie mistakes (no cut and paste on iphone and no ability to run a background messenger app). These things are inherent in the usability and thought process of any berry. It's easy to say the berry OS is dated but really, I feel the berry OS offers many features that are just naturally better than most devices out there. As for 3rd party apps, c'mon, how can you judge a smartphone for that? I buy my smart phone for it's hardware capabilities not for what software may be developed for it. Good review all the same and yes, that screen is dead sexy. :)
  • Android is the future and i'm looking forward to getting a chance to play around with a G1 more hopefully pretty soon. My friend has one and I absolutely love it! Only wish verizon had an android phone, instead they cripple the OS of the phone with some crappy watered down version of the same OS over and over again. makes me want to switch to t-mo for this bad boy but coverage is an issue :(
  • love the bold and the g1 :(
  • blackberry's foundation is enough to make people appreciate the bold
  • Great unbiased perspective
  • "BrickBreaker is lame. Word Mole is where it’s at. I had to say it." I was completely with you until then.
  • I think the G1 looks interesting, but I think the main reason I feel that way is because T-mobile has shit phones otherwise. I havent met anyone with a G1 that loved it. On the other hand, Ive met quite a few people with Bolds who are in love with it, and I will be leaving tmobile, and breaking contract to do it, just so I can get me a Bold. Its the Smart phone to have right now. I do agree with Casey though, this phone should have a freaking touchscreen and a keyboard. That would make it a no-brainer easily.
  • I would luv a g1
  • I have used the Pearl, the 8820 and now I have the BOLD. Bold kicks ass MAJOR TIME against Windows Mobile (which SUCKS MAJOR TIME). Quirks? Find me ONE phone that hasn't a quirk or two... Design= gorgeous Speed=awesome Typing=way cool I love my Bold and the only other phone (in terms of design/OS strenght) that I can compare against is the iPhone (which I have and I love). The Bold is simple an awesome Blackberry product and probably the best so far (haven't tried the Storm yet). It's just like for someone's else: either you like it, either you don't. Me, you will NEVER get me with a G1 in my hands because I believe the G1 is UGLY. But hey, it's just me, I don't like it. The Bold will be a companion for a long while... :-)
  • You know how BlackBerry's latest OSes are still on some version of 4.x? Perhaps RIM is saving the good stuff for a version 5.x? Just speculation that RIM knows their new current year OSes aren't drastic changes (and numbered the OS accordingly), but just enough to tie us over until a completely new OS comes out in the (hopefully) near future, and that the Bold, Storm, and new 8900 Curve will likely get this update. Hopefully this is the case and RIM will reward its early adopters of new hardware on a stale OS, otherwise, the iPhone and Android OSes will definitely get more appealing.
  • Seems like Android folks are focused on the future - which is fine, I guess, but I need something that works well right now. I'll wait to see that the second gen of Google's phone is like - for now, it's Blackberry for me!
  • Comment~ I'd love to win a G1 to experience something new! I've had a berry curve for quite a while now. time for an upgrade (without contract... bwa-a-a-a-ahh)
  • Oh man... I totally agree with the comment about Palm. Personally, I've owned 4 Palms from PalmIII to PalmTX and know what it's like to be using a dying platform. Palm used to be where the innovation was at, and the combination of simplicity and utility was difficult to match; but the newer devices such as the TX looked amazing and had amazing specs but did not have software that's capable of using all that potential. Instead of releasing PalmOS6, Palm stuck us on OS5 and sold out to this Japanese company. Great stuff, eh? I love my Palm device, but this is precisely why I had qualms about getting a Treo. I'm hoping that an open platform like Android might fare better in the long run.
  • And yeah, back on topic: blackberries have always been very solid devices. I'm not sure what to say about the leather backing, but leather's resistant to scratches ;p The chrome'd wear off some day... and it will not be pretty.
  • As a former user of Palm and Windows Mobile based smart-phones for several years I made the switch to BB after they introduced the trackball. One thing that most non-BB users don't appreciate, and maybe this comes with age as well, is that the BB just works. It works REALLY well as a phone, it works REALLY well as a messaging device, and the integration with Exchange is not matched elsewhere. Sure, it isn't as sexy as the iPhone or Windows Mobile devices and really doesn't have the same level of potential of Andriod. A few years ago BB had a lot of potential and that potential was realized especially when they introduced BES Express and then BES Professional. The Storm is slow and clunky, it has the same drawbacks as the iPhone's touch keyboard, the screen rotation suffers from a huge delay. Maybe the Storm represents BB's future, I doubt it. For those who aren't that tuned into the BB world there is a commitment from BB for an app store. So to mis-quote another poster, "Long Live Blackberry!"
  • My wife's daughter has a G-1 and now I get nothing but nag, nag, nag how SHE has to have one too!Please releave this burden and get me a G-1 for my wife before I shoot her!(Not Really) but it may help my well-being.
  • Nice review, I'm excited to try out a Bold for myself. If the screen is as impressive as everyone is saying it is, I could be suckered into getting one.
  • Pretty fair review I thought. A couple of points though. Some of us really don't like touching our screens - I have a real dislike of folks touching any screen of mine since they end up looking filthy. Secondly, the BBOS was built from the ground with security as it's primary concern. It therefore has the advantage of being very secure - if not particularly open (most Java APIs have native methods behind them). While that may not be a consumer issue (though it ought to be), it certainly is for many corporations - hence BlackBerrys dominance in the business world and government. Finally, the push infrastructure is far and away the biggest advantage for BB. For the most part it's rock solid and from what I've seen RIM has years on its closest rival for this infrastructure. I notice Apple and Nokia are both trying to enter this space. BlackBerry devices are true network devices. Check out the latest BlackBerry Unite software for a glimpse of what that might mean in the future. BlackBerry Enterprise Server admins already know what I'm talking about. By the way, you're right about apps - though this is now an urgent priority for RIM and they're working hard to address the gap.
  • While I agree that the BB OS doesn't have that many "cool, let me show off to my friends" kind of apps, none of the current apps out for Android or the Iphone OS are very helpful for most business users. Maybe a year from now I could seriously consider getting a one of those 2 phones, cause I'm sure by then they will have made some inroads with some solid professional level software, but until then I'm sticking with a berry.
  • Well, i said it before and readking the comments of everyone after your final review I feel good knowing that I wasn't that far out since i agree with most of the comments. Bold is a well rounded phone, get points in almost any category, but I fear that they are at the end of a dead end. Where they go from here? I don't know but the Storm was a disappointment fo me.
  • Nice review, the Bold looks like a nice phone.
  • Nice review. Although I love my Curve (8320) I'm interested in checking out the G1. My only question is, what are the "killer apps" that are missing from the BBOS?
  • such a pretty phone, looks so much better than the G1 still its time for an Os change! go android
  • its very nice. its a touch choice between the g1. but i like touchscreens....:(
  • One last thought while you get started with the Treo Pro (the closest phone to the Bold out of this pack) That solid community you mentioned exist because the corporate world where they work "force" them use the BB's or even gave them to them. I'm sure it would it be a different story (community) if each phone was bought and paid by each emploee because they fell in love with it, like all the other millions and millions of phones and users of the world.
  • Best review yet. Rather than get nickpicky, this review gets to the heart of the Bold's strengths and weaknesses.
  • That screen is amazing.
  • [...] stick to what I said in my original review: the BBOS is the most limited smartphone platform and every other platform will soon lap it. But I [...]