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The commencement of a new job saw me presented with a brick like XDA device which truth be told was useless. E-mails had to be typed using a stylus which frankly took hours to write and every time the battery died it had to be sent back to IT while they rebuilt it from scratch after it managed to wipe every last trace of my documents and e-mails. After much sighing in front of my boss and several important e-mails going unreturned late at night and at the weekend she finally gave in and with much glee presented me with a BlackBerry 7100v, a model I had previously used, a model which to put bluntly was close to obsolete by the time my sweaty paws had gotten to grips with it again. Frustrated with the inaction of my peers I went out and spent £450 of my own money on the BlackBerry Bold, the new smart phone from RIM designed to rival the Apple i-Phone.
The user interface for the Bold is very similar to the Pearl version with the icons and features being accessed using a trackball located just below the screen, however in terms of size and feel it is on a par in size with the 7100v, due to the large colour screen and the full QWERTY keyboard. With a weight of only 136g and dimensions of 11.4cm x 6.6cm x 1.5cm there is a clear move away from the theory behind the Pearl of making the smart phone as aesthetically similar to a regular mobile phone device as possible. In my opinion, this is a move for the better, making the device practical for use in a business environment. My initial reaction to the enhanced colour display was one of shock and awe, the Half VGA resolution 480 x 320 colour pixel display supports over 65,000 different colours and shades making icons, pictures and messages clear, bright, packed with colour and more than a match for the graphics and visuals of the i-Phone.
Anyone with any experience of the RIM BlackBerry series of smart phones will be aware that the main feature and draw to them from the business class is e-mail on the move, allowing truly instant access to your inbox and the Bold is no different. Once the software is uploaded onto the computer following the easy step by step guide, the BlackBerry becomes synchronised with the inbox selected. By using Outlook I have always found that the installation process much easier, due in part to
the fact that as the e-mail content from the inbox and other folders is transferred, contact details and my own personal calendar are automatically synchronised onto the device. An observation after using the device is that e-mails actually appear on the device prior to appearing on my desktop inbox, therefore when I hear the buzzing of an incoming email from the BlackBerry I can wait anything up to a minute for the email to appear in my inbox when at my desk. This has become slightly infuriating, particularly in busy periods when I can receive in excess of 250 e-mails a day.
In terms of accessing, sending and receiving e-mails there are no real problems, if anything they arrive on the device a little too quickly however after 2 weeks of using the synchronisation facility failed, therefore if reading and deleting an e-mail from the device, it would not be deleted from my desktop inbox and visa versa, this meant having to manual delete and file e-mails into sub-folders again utilising the rare time I have during the working day. To combat the problem I had to re-install the software again and go through the synchronisation process, again eating into time I just don't have when working. If I had to score the email function out of ten, the Bold would receive a 6 due to the synchronisation issues, whereas the Pearl version would receive a hearty nine for being close to flawless.
Other standard business features include as mentioned earlier an Outlook calendar, a contacts directory and mobile phone. Both the calendar and contact directory are very useful tools and the ability to increase the size of text makes finding a viewing details incredibly easy. Due to the synchronisation issues explained above however, data input via the device was not always transferred to my desktop and visa versa causing a whole host of problems with diary management. When using previous version of RIM BlackBerry products I would always give the calendar and contact features ten out of ten but again I'm limited in my assessment due to the fact that the device fell down causing me problems, especially when it came to missed meetings that could have gotten me into trouble at work. With this in mind, again out of ten the Bold only scores a six. Whilst the tone of this review may seem negative there are a host of positives to come, the mobile phone for instance scores a resounding ten out of ten due to the fantastic range of tones available from polyphonic, MIDI and MP3. With the ability to customise volume and caller display (which includes the ability to assign photographs to numbers) by far the best thing is call reception. In a poor coverage area with only one bar in terms of signal strength everything received and broadcast is crystal clear. In addition and somewhat different to previous models, SMS and MMS messages are composed and stored under a separate icon, and don't appear in the e-mail inbox. This makes the ability to differentiate between e-mails and text messages very easy, especially when assigning different tones to different types of messages.
Like the Pearl, the Bold has a fantastic built in 2 mega-pixel camera that has an image stabiliser which takes the hassle out of taking the perfect pictures. Every time I have used the camera (usually when under the influence) the pictures have been sharp, crystal clear and high in detail. Video clips can also be captured and the images and sound are second to none, in fact that are on a par with my digital video camera. With the built in 1GB memory the ability to store hundreds of photographs and video clips is welcome, however I have noticed that the more pictures and storage space used, the device becomes marginally slower when reacting to commands when typing e-mails and text messages. With 75 pictures stored to the memory, the text when typing doesn't seem capable to keep up. A firm thumbs up for the camera in terms of quality so another ten out of ten, however until I upgrade the memory (which is easy, but expensive to do) this function receives only a seven from ten.
Video, multi-media and Internet clips are viewed under the media player, that supports nearly every known current format and playback is of a fantastic quality, again earning a rating of ten out ten. Personally I would have liked this feature to have been available on the Pearl but it is a welcome addition to the Bold.
The Bold also supports the BlackBerry Maps feature introduced for the Pearl and some slight tweaks to the software have improved the layout. With the provision of a larger screen means that getting lost in an area
Pictures of BlackBerry Bold 9000
Boxed and ready to go....
with a mobile phone signal now impossible as the system allows for locations and street maps to be viewed using street names, areas and postcodes.
A plethora of other accessories are incorporated such as an alarm clock, calculator, memo pad (that allows the viewing of .pdf files as well as Word), tasks and a fast web browser. These are standard features you'd find on any mobile device. They don't set the world on fire but browsing the web is quick and easy, navigation is simple and the colour screen does justice to some very graphic heavy web pages.
The incredible battery life was something I was very used to as a regular BlackBerry user, and the Bold is no different. On average I find that it takes a good 7 days for the device battery to drain down to the point where the GPS/GPRS switches off to conserve energy and with heavy use at weekends utilising the video player, camera and e-mail very little power is used up. Charging can be done via a plug or a USB connection, both of which come as standard with the hardware package.
As a business tool the Bold has the potential to be a world beater, packed with features galore that could make mobile working a breeze but the one main flaw I have experienced relating to the synchronisation of the e-mail inbox, calendar and contacts means that I cannot hand on heart recommend it to potential consumers. Until synchronisation is guaranteed there will always be a niggling doubt in my mind as to whether I'm missing a meeting, have the most up to date contact details for journalists or have received important e-mails. I loved the BlackBerry Pearl but wanted a QWERTY keyboard to make typing easier, and now I have the QWERTY keyboard and flawed software I want my Pearl back. With hindsight I should have waited until the bugs were resolved, but forearmed is forewarned and sadly I wasn't.
Don't make the same mistake, if you like BlackBerry products wait a few months before looking to buy the Bold as there are issues that need to be resolved to make this a truly exceptional piece of kit. If you offered me an i-Phone, the Bold or the Pearl I would now take the Pearl over the other two.