Thursday, August 21, 2008

BlackBerry Bold Update: What Sets it Apart?

The BlackBerry Bold officially launched today through Rogers Wireless, and Canadians can be proud that we're the first North American country to have the device! The Bold features some enticing, though not earth-shattering, upgrades in comparison to previous generation models. Here's the scoop:

As previously mentioned, it has WiFi access, which can help save dough since you can surf using WiFi when available instead of using up your cellular data minutes. Of course it's also a 3G device, operating on Roger's HSPA network, which makes it the fastest BlackBerry product currently on the market. According to Rogers' John Boynton, that's "not by a little, but by a lot." In addition to the faster 3G/HSPA network, the Bold also has its own quicker internal processor at 624 MHz.

The feature most-touted by Rogers and RIM, however, is sharper screen, which boasts 480 x 320 pixel resolution: the same as the iPhone, but at a much smaller size, this results in a really clear, punchy picture. Video is striking on the display, though I'm not sure how many people watch videos on their phones. Nevertheless, because the device is 3G, it also now supports streaming video content, which will make full use of the high resolution screen. Like the Curve, the Bold lets you shoot short video clips, as well as 2 MP digital still photos.

A really useful upgrade is 1 GB of built-in memory (as well as the standard microSD/SDHC card slot) for storing documents, music, etc. In terms of the former, the Bold uses Dataviz Documents To Go to allow BlackBerry customers to actually edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents; not just read them. While making major edits will be cumbersome on such a small screen, this can come in handy for making quick notes to a file, or more likely, an Excel sheet.

A question I've had about multi-use smartphones in the past is: how can you use the phone for its primary function (voice chatting) while it's also being used as a web browser or a navigation device? With the Bold, you can continue chatting (logically with a Bluetooth headset or other device) while the hardware is being used to navigate to a location, or while you're sending an e-mail.

Aesthetically, the Bold is finished in black chrome with a leatherette backplate (thanks: no fingerprints!), and the keyboard employs a slightly revised design. During my short time using it, I didn't find it any easier, nor more difficult to use, than previous generation BlackBerries.

After having gotten used to browsing the Web on an iPhone, it was a sub-par experience with the Bold, to say the least. It's obvious that with a much larger screen and touch functionality, you're going to get a more robust browsing experience. With that said, even on the tiny Bold screen (which is not touch-sensitive), I found it easy enough to scroll through Websites (using the trackball) and zoom in/out of pages as needed.

Other features include stereo Bluetooth support, and a new application called Media Sync, which allows for syncing DRM-free iTunes songs to the device for listening on-the-go. Naturally, this model is also compatible with the multitude of third-party, downloadable apps currently on the market.

The magic question on everyone's mind is always price: how much is it? The BlackBerry Bold will cost you $399.99 on a 3-year voice and data plan that totals more than $45/mo. The limited time $30/mo. for 6 GB of data option that Rogers announced prior to the iPhone launch does in fact apply to any 3G phone from the carrier including this one. You have until August 31, 2008 to take part in this plan, which is arguably the most attractive one the carrier currently offers.

While I haven't had extensive play time with the Bold just yet, I can say that my original stance still holds true: if you spend more time browsing the Web, downloading apps, and listening to tunes, the iPhone is probably the better choice. But if you're a business user that swears by on-the-go e-mailing, the BlackBerry is still king; and the Bold is clearly leader of the pack.

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Anonymous said...

I'm sure Canada's not the first to have received Bold... I believe Germany and one of the South American country got it before we do ;)

R.Kurney said...

Nice grasp of geography "anonymous"!
I must have missed that email announcing the addition of Germany to NORTH AMERICA...