Though it's not out just yet, I've been working with the BlackBerry Bold 9700 since RIM's media event in New York City on Monday evening, and it has quickly become my favorite QWERTY BlackBerry. As a replacement to the aging BlackBerry Bold 9000, the Bold 9700 (also referred to as "the Bold") ushers in new design cues, and adds notable improvements such as the trackpad, a 3.2-megapixel camera, and OS 188.8.131.520. As much as I loved the Bold's design, I love the Bold 9700's even more, as it fits in my hand with the smoothness of the Curve, but offers the premium features expected from the Bold product line.
Yes, it's a love or hate characteristic, but RIM is a historically conservative company when it comes to design changes, and the Bold is no exception. From a distance, it's challenging to tell the 9700, Tour, Bold 9000, Curve 8900, and Curve 8520 apart, and I don't think that's an accident. What I love about the Bold 9700 is not that it's a radically new design, but that they've improved upon the issues that plagued previous models to make a truly great device.
The Bold 9700 offers OS 184.108.40.2060, which includes threaded text messaging.
User interface, OS, and responsiveness
Though similarities can be found in the design of OS 5.0 and previous builds, OS 220.127.116.110 is a welcome improvement. Featuring threaded text messaging and a refined 'home' page, OS 5.0 boots up faster (a common frustration among BlackBerry users), and offers a list of small improvements over previous builds. The threaded text messaging was something we saw coming, but it's nice to have a second retail unit that supports it out of the box (Storm2 was the first). As with any BlackBerry, the menus are largely customizable, and can be tailored to the user's specific needs.
RIM says that the Bold 9700 sports a 624 MHz processor (same as the original Bold), but in my testing, the 9700 is significantly faster than its predecessor. Tasks all the way from moving the trackpad around to opening numerous applications performed incredibly well, whereas the original Bold struggled at times. Without a doubt, it's the best performing BlackBerry on the market to date.
With the exception of the bottom row, RIM did a great job on maintaining the size of the keyboard.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard on the Bold 9700 is the absolute best keyboard I have ever used, without question. I loved the Bold 9000's keyboard, but was frustrated at times by the size of the unit itself, particularly when sexier models such as the Tour 9630 and Curve 8900 were out on the market. The keyboard is absolutely phenomenal, and I'm pleased to say that most of it carried over to the 9700 (I'm sure there's some small size difference, but it's negligible). With the exception of the bottom row, the keys appear to be almost identical
The 9700 is the second BlackBerry to ship with a trackpad instead of a trackball, and as if it wasn't obvious, RIM executives tell me that's where they're all headed. If I can be candid, I think it's a fantastic idea, as the trackball has quite a notorious reputation. The Tour's had some issues at launch with the trackball, and most BlackBerry owners will tell you that the trackball becomes harder to use as the years go on. Though it takes a few hours to adjust to it (and consequently, to go back to the trackball afterwards), I absolutely love the trackpad. It's incredibly easy to use, and adds to the sleek profile of the phone.
The Bold 9700 offers a 3.2-megapixel camera, which takes good pictures.
Matching the Tour 9630, the Bold 9700 offers a 3.2-megapixel camera, and in my testing, pictures came out well (see above).
The Bold 9700 has been tested in both New York City and Charlotte using T-Mobile's 3G network, and I'm impressed with call quality. In areas where my other T-Mobile review units have 2-4 bars of service, the Bold has been at a consistent 5 bars, with no fluctuation between 3G and EDGE.
The battery life is impeccable on the Bold. Enough said. Of all the BlackBerry devices I've owned, the 9700's battery life is fantastic, and is probably my favorite feature of the device. To give some background, I tested the device on Tuesday with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off, followed by a span with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on. Though Wi-Fi and Bluetooth caused a bit more battery drain, it wasn't to the extent that I've seen with other devices. Most users will be able to make it 1 1/2 - 2 days without a problem. The only BlackBerry that I've seen come close is the 8900, which is impressive, given that the Bold 9700 was operating on T-Mobile's 3G network during my testing.
Stay tuned for the unboxing and full written review, coming up soon!