The Bold 9700 ships with the same BlackBerry 5.0 operating system that just shipped on the Storm 9530. Functionally, it looks and feels a lot similar to the 4.5.X software running on most other models right now, with a long list of minor but appreciated upgrades, like the ability to forward calendar entries, or resize photos upon sending them.
Apple, Palm and Google have all stepped into the 21st century with flashy, updated operating systems, leaving Microsoft, Nokia and RIM as the old men of the smartphone world, clinging on to what still works. We still prefer BlackBerry OS to Symbian or Windows Mobile 6.5, and it admittedly juggles business tasks exceptionally well, but the antiquated look and relatively small app store feel like rust on an otherwise shiny new phone.
The biggest letdown may be the lack of improvements to BlackBerry’s default browser, which lags, quite literally, behind competitors. In an area with full 3G reception, it took 16 seconds to load the mobile version of CNN.com, where an iPhone on the same network with the same reception did it in 13. The same went for Yahoo, which the iPhone squared away in 10 seconds while the Bold took 14. The tiny screen also hampers browsing on pages not formatted for the Web – even if the fine resolution does make text readable right down to near-microscopic extremes.
Although dialing with BlackBerry’s miniature number keys can be a pain, the Bold 9700 exhibited excellent call quality on AT&T’s network in Portland, Oregon. Calls to a landline for reference sounded rock solid, with callers on the other end noting that we sounded as if we were on a landline as well. It distinctly lacked any warbles, blips or distortion, making it one of the most competent smartphones for voice use we’ve tested so far.
As you may recall, we fell in love with the Curve 8900, but couldn’t quite stomach a modern smartphone stuck on EDGE Internet. The Bold 9700 essentially takes that winning design and adds the crucial missing element in the form of 3G Internet access, along with a better keyboard, optical trackpad, and even longer-lasting battery. Say what you will about RIM’s glacial advancements and bland OS: Although the Bold 9700 lacks the frills of an iPhone or Palm Pre, for utilitarian business users, it’s one of the most polished smartphones on the market today.
- Optical trackpad
- Solid build quality
- Landline-like voice quality
- Tack-sharp screen
- Longest battery life of all BlackBerrys
- Keyboard potentially too small for larger fingers
- Slow browser