PermaLink Life with the Blackberry 970002/23/2010 07:14 PM
I've now had the thing a month, so I guess it's time to talk about it...

Most of you probably know that I'd had a couple of Blackberrys, first an 8700c grudgingly handed to me by my old employer and then taken back because I wasn't sufficiently important for such advanced technology, and then an 8800 that I liked a great deal. If you read this, you also know that the 8800 finally crapped out on my way to Lotusphere, so I took the liberty of replacing it rather than farting around with trying to reflash the OS on the road without a genuine Windows machine.

Its replacement is a Blackberry Bold 9700, through my longtime wireless provider, T-Mobile USA.

This cost me $129 at the T-Mobile store. This is $40 less than I paid for my 8800.

What I noticed immediately about the 9700 compared to the 8800 was that it has a somewhat more organic, rounder feel in the hand than the 8800. By comparison, the 8800 is somewhat more blocky and in some ways reminds me of the old original Palm Pilots. Certainly not uncomfortable, but the 9700 is quite comfortable indeed. Helping this is a different material on the back of the unit. Where the 8800 is shiny plastic, the 9700 is a softer compound finished with a pebbled sort of faux-leather finish, and it stays in the hand remarkably well.

I can't say I like the 9700's holster better than the 8800's. The 8800's flip-top leatheroid holster is the best I've ever seen. It never pops off my hip, it never coughs up the phone, it doesn't impede access to the unit even when I'm in the car. The 9700's holster, while similar in design, uses a wider clip and a wider flap over the top, and I noticed it immediately. I did the sensible thing, and just stuck the 9700 into the 8800's holster and went about my business.

Now, the other big change: the 8800 had the ubiquitous "Pearl" trackball, used on millions of Blackberries. The 9700 has a small black touchpad. I wasn't initially sure how that transition might go, but realizing that at one time I had an 8700c with the jog wheel on the side, and transitioned to the Pearl interface, I gave it a try and got used to it in a matter of minutes. It's a big improvement, really. The pearls felt slightly different on every Blackberry I ever touched, even in the same model from the same provider. Worse, the trackballs got crudded up and I had just replaced the ball and retaining ring on my 8800 to overcome its grumpiness and some cracked parts. The touchpad appears to be crud-proof.

And of course, with the 9700 comes Blackberry OS 5.0 and a larger screen, 480x320. You notice the screen instantly, because it's (a) razor-sharp and (b) bright. The screen on the 8800 wasn't crap, of course, but this new one is just spectacular. I can run tiny font sizes and see everything perfectly. And OS 5.0 lets you do that, with new fonts and available 5.0-specific themes that look quite good. Alas, my favorite theme on the 8800, the Plazmic OSX-like theme, won't work on the 9700, so I said goodbye to it until such time as I was willing to pay six bucks for the OCK OSX theme with fancy transitions and stuff.

Let's see... other fun stuff: the camera. I didn't even get back to my hotel before trying out the still and video camera. It's quite clean and nice and takes actually some decent images. If you follow me on Twitter, you're probably already sick of me posting wabbit pictures from the 9700. The only thing I'll complain about with the camera is that it's actually quite difficult, even with flash, to shoot something that's moving even a little. The flash is more of a bright LED light than a strobe flash, so motion is a challenge. The light also works during video shooting, and the .3gp videos that result can be uploaded to YouTube or TwitVid immediately.

This is the first Blackberry that supports T-Mobile's 3G service. When in 3G mode, I've seen as high as 950kbps download and 300kbps upload, and these came in really handy at my hotel in Florida, which lacked WiFi in the actual rooms. When 3G isn't available, it falls back to EDGE and perhaps 150kbps, still quite acceptable.

For voice, signal quality and signal sensitivity is quite good. It's more sensitive than the 8800, meaning I no longer have to go out on my porch to make a call at home. Data stays connected nicely. Thus, I can stay in touch without freezing my ass off, which is a hazard here in Maryland this winter. A great treat is UMA mode, wherein you can turn on the internal 802.11g as well as the EDGE/3G radio, and the phone will seamlessly transition from using your house wireless for data onto the T-Mobile data network and back without you having to do anything. It remembers hotspots you attach to, so if you go back to that location you don't have to re-enter passwords and such. Pretty damn slick, and it doesn't cost anything extra.

So, overall how is it? It's a fantastic phone and an excellent digital assistant, the best all-in-one PDA device since the legendary Sony Clie UX50. Pictures, audio, video, web apps, email, all in one place with a nice interface and fast response time. The screen is slick, the keyboard is very friendly, and battery life is quite good even with everything turned on.


  • Great signal strength, good voice quality, excellent speakerphone
  • Data throughput very good on 3G or EDGE
  • Feels solid in the hand and comfortable to use
  • Terrific screen
  • Good picture and video quality
  • Wide selection of internet apps available (Twitter, FaceBook, Flickr, eBay, etc.)
  • WiFi excellent and seamless
  • Fast and responsive

  • Shitty Blackberry browser
  • Camera has a hard time with moving objects
  • No Skype client yet
  • Uses microUSB rather than mini (not a big deal unless, like me, you have one million miniUSB cables and no microUSB
  • Doesn't come with a car charger (extra cost)

Would I recommend it? Absolutely. Am I pleased with it? Just about completely.
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1. Bernd Steidele02/24/2010 02:05:28 AM

The Opera 5 mini is a good browser alternative. { Link }

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