Straight up, I'm drinking the Kool-Aid here. I went into my review of the new BlackBerry Bold fully expecting it to knock my socks off. Why lie about it - I am and will continue to be objective as I review the device, but I also was and still am very, very excited about it. Why? As I've said before, on paper the Bold is everything I want a smartphone to be: It features a big, vivid display, 3G and WiFi connectivity, a true HTML Web browser, Email/IM/MMS capabilities backed by a full QWERTY thumbboard, and a fully-featured media player with 3.5mm headphone jack and a camera with flash.
My first 24 hours with Bold have been a mix of great and wincingly painful. The great? Bold's display and keyboard are excellent, and despite its somewhat large size, the phone feels great in hand. BlackBerry's push Email system makes Apple's attempts at wireless sync look and feel like a bad joke. And so far so good when it comes to AT&T's 3G network: I've experienced no dropped calls or signal strength problems, and Web data speeds have been acceptable if not quite stellar.
The painful? Bold's browser crashed HARD on me last night. Hard to the point of my needing to pull the battery out of the phone and wait a good five minutes while it rebooted. Literally. Speaking of the browser, while the new OS 4.6 browser renders HTML pages with far greater success than previous BlackBerries did, it's still much slower than Apple's Mobile Safari, Google's Android Browser or the Opera Mobile browser that comes pre-isntalled on the HTC Touch Diamond and Pro. WAP sites load and render exceedingly fast on Bold, but more complex HTML pages take awhile.
I also was unable to transfer an mp3 file from my Mac to Bold via Bluetooth, couldn't stream or download mp3 files from the Web (I kept getting file too large errors), and was entirely unimpressed by the sound quality of the XM Radio trial I opted for after the previous two options failed. I'll sideload some music into Bold's 1GB of internal memory today and let you know how it sounds. Audio quality on the pre-installed demo videos, on the other hand, was exceptional - I honestly have never heard a phone's internal speakers sound so good.
Bold is a little larger and thicker than the iPhone I currently use, and lacks the touchscreen I've become so fond of on my Apple phone. Where other new smartphones like the T-Mobile G1 and Samsung Epix offer a combination of QWERTY, touchscreen and pointing device, Bold eschews the touch capabilities for the familiar BlackBerry trackball. I'm also not thrilled with BlackBerry's menu and application management systems, but that may just be a case of my needing to get up to speed on shortcuts and tricks that hardcore BlackBerry users have hardwired into their brains.
Still, I'm really digging Bold thus far. Why? I think it's mainly the seductive combination of that keyboard and that display. Bold is far, far easier to use for messaging than iPhone, and while it lacks some of Apple's flash and polish, I'm also thinking that a little research and practice on my end should bring me up to speed on some insider info to help me get around my particular issues with the browser and media player (a good Podcatcher app would be sweet).
Will I switch to Bold? It's too soon to tell. Am I looking forward to reaching a decision by way of putting it through its paces - and a head-on comparison with iPhone, G1, and the new Touch Pro for Sprint? You betcha.