BlackBerry Bold 9780
Review compliments of Shaun at PDA247
The BlackBerry Bold 9700 is one of my favourite smartphones for a number of reasons and the BlackBerry Torch managed to remove many of those reasons and give OS 6 a platform that was not as good as the theory suggested it would be.
The BlackBerry Bold 9700 has, don’t hold your breath, seriously impressive battery life, a great screen that is viewable in all conditions, the best keyboard of any smartphone on the market, phenomenal speed, lots of power and a form factor that is unrivalled in its durability and practicality. The BlackBerry Torch has some of the above traits such as a decent screen and serious speed, but the battery isn’t quite at Bold levels and the keyboard took a serious turn for the worse once it was morphed into a slider.
The BlackBerry Bold 9780 could be seen as a mixture of the 9700 and Torch; it retains the glorious form factor of the 9700 and OS 6 from the Torch, but loses almost every other Torch trait in favour of squeezing OS 6 into a more up to date 9700- a good move.
RIM often gets criticised for making phones that are too similar to the previous model, and that argument could certainly be aired with the Bold 9780, but some things do not need to change. The design, as I said earlier, is ultra practical and stylish in the most understated of ways. I have reviewed and tested many, many smartphones, but to date the Bold 9700 / 9780 design is still the smartphone I look at and consider to be the pinnacle of design for a busy person in 2010.
It’s a BlackBerry Bold. I knew it would look and feel good and everything is exactly as I expected. From the fancy leather back cover to the glorious keyboard all of the good stuff remains and there are few disappointments so far. There is something special about a well made BlackBerry ‘without’ a touch screen and from a hardware point of view I simply cannot complain at all.
You may be thinking that this is just a slightly upgraded Bold 9700, but there are numerous improvements-
The camera is 5 Megapixels compared to 3.2 Megapixels in the 9700 and now includes continuous autofocus.
Internal RAM has been pushed up to 512MB which is much more than the OS could ever need- nice to see an overuse of RAM rather than the bare minimum.
A2DP is included and that is it from a hardware point of view apart from a slight increase in size and weight which is not really noticeable in day to day use-
Bold 9700: 122 grams, 109×60×14.1mm
Bold 9780: 136 grams, 114×66×15mm
Of course the main addition is BlackBerry OS6 which didn’t turn out so well in my BlackBerry Torch review, but is it any better on the 9780? Has the new OS ruined a near perfect piece of phone hardware or has the 9780 proved that OS 6 is a very capable mobile OS?
I am not going to do my usual and break down each feature of the Bold 9780 this time because many of them are so similar to the Bold 9700 (review here), particular in terms of hardware. I will, however, look at the main differences and try to work out if this is a worthy upgrade from the original.
As I said in part one, RIM has not tinkered with the best bits of the 9700, but tried to enhance where possible and make a smartphone that can carry off OS6 to a whole new audience. The Torch didn’t quite handle the new OS as I would have hoped, but the 9780 has proved that it is a much better upgrade than I originally thought. Given that it is as fast as you can hope for there are no performance issues at all; at no point have I suffered any slow downs or even the merest hint of the phone working hard to do what I need it to, often times multiple things at once. The generous amount of memory onboard offers more security than you could need as well and the days of worrying about your BlackBerry needing a battery pull are hopefully gone forever. You could store thousands of emails, contacts, calendar entries and whatever else you want without need to worry, but apps still need to go into internal memory as well so be careful not to overdo it.
The other main hardware improvement is the camera which is now rated at 5 Megapixels and it is a big improvement in my opinion. It is ‘very’ quick in use and the snaps, on the whole, came out much better than I expected. There are numerous scene modes built in which make a genuine difference in the right circumstances; Auto, Face Detection, Portrait, Sports, Landscape, Party, Close-Up,Snow, Beach, Night and Text. That should cover most of your needs, but the auto mode worked fine all of the time for me.
Video recording is not too bad, but not up to the level you would expect from a 5 Megapixel camera. It is improved, but personally I would like to see a little more quality in the image and sound departments here.
The other main difference is of course the inclusion of BlackBerry OS 6 which didn’t impress me immensely on the BlackBerry Torch. When I look back now I can see that the hardware was largely to blame for my negative perception. You would think that OS 6 was designed for a touch screen world, but strangely it seems to work better on a non touch device like the 9780. Besides the super smooth performance, everything started to fall into place which may or may not be a good thing.
OS 6 is very similar to OS 5 in the way it works and all OS 5 users will be immediately familiar with the way the new OS works. This demonstrates the structurally small changes that OS 6 has brought in and the realisation that the core BlackBerry OS is actually very well suited to non touch and a keyboard. The 9780 has proved to me that OS 6 is an improvement over OS 5, but it keeps all of the goodness of the original.
The browser is much improved, but sadly it still lags behind the competition in almost every way. The stock browsers in iOS, Android, Symbian and Windows Phone are easier to use and are closer to a mini desktop experience where as the BlackBerry browser still has more than a feel of mobile about it. The calendar and most of the other core apps have undergone refreshes, but Memo for example remains almost identical to the original, which is how it works best. To sum up, I see OS 6 as a small step upwards for BlackBerry and certainly nothing revolutionary is happening here. That is not a bad thing because the BlackBerry OS is still by far the best, in my opinion, for getting things done. For all of the advancements shows in competing operating systems, sometimes what works should stay as it is.
The Bold 9780 is never going to set the world alight because it builds on tried and tested hardware and software, and does not differentiate itself much at all. However, when I consider what it is improving on any improvement at all is a blessing because the Bold 9700 was just so damn good in the first place.
What we want our smartphones to do is a very different question than what we need them to do and the 9780 ticks almost every box. When I consider needs I think of the following-
Quick and accurate data entry- check.
Long battery life- check.
Viewable screen in all brightness conditions- check.
Fast performance and reliability- check.
Clear call quality and loud / clear speakerphone- check.
A range of apps that caters for all of my needs- check.
The Bold 9780 covers all of the above with ease and that cannot be said for any other competing smartphone. I understand if you think the iPhone 4 or Desire Z or whatever other phone is better, but that does not discount the fact that only a phone like the Bold 9780 is capable of succeeding for every fundamental function that busy people need.
Pound for pound, this is the best smartphone available today. It may not be exciting, it may not have all of the apps available for other smartphones, but it is as close to perfect as a ‘getting things done’ smartphone needs to be.