RIM's BlackBerry Bold 9700 combines the solid horsepower and good quality that characterized the original Bold 9000 with a form factor similar to other recent BlackBerry releases. The Bold 9700--versions of which are available from T-Mobile and AT&T--works in concert with the latest enterprise back-end software to add more features for enterprise users, although some of those features are a little kludgy.
Research In Motion's new BlackBerry Bold 9700 seems
more than familiar, marrying the solid horsepower and good quality that
characterized the original Bold 9000 with a form factor increasingly similar to
other recent BlackBerry releases. A typically excellent RIM e-mail, contact and
calendaring device, the Bold 9700 works in concert with the latest enterprise
back-end software to add more features for enterprise users. That said, some of
these new features are a little kludgy.
There are two U.S. versions of the Bold 9700. I tested the T-Mobile
iteration, with UMTS/HSPA support in the 2,100/1,700/900MHz bands (making this
the first 3G BlackBerry for T-Mobile) plus quad-band EDGE/GPRS/GSM
support. T-Mobile's Bold 9700 should be available by Nov. 27 (the day after
Thanksgiving) for $199 with a two-year contract.
The other iteration is for AT&T, supporting the
2,100/1,900/850/800MHz bands for UMTS/HSPA with the same quad-band support for
legacy protocols. AT&T's version should also be available later this
It's somewhat surprising that the new Bold 9700 bears
the Bold moniker at all. Whereas the first Bold's size and textured
backplate made the device visually and tactilely distinct from other
BlackBerrys, the Bold 9700 adopts a look overly similar to recent releases
including the Curve 8900 and the Tour.
RIM representatives indicated that last year's Bold
9000 was a little too butch (one went so far as to refer to it as the
ManBerry), so the Bold 9700 was made smaller and given some cosmetic changes
designed to make the device a little more appealing to women. The Bold
9700 is significantly smaller than last year's Bold 9000, measuring in at 4.29
by 2.36 by 0.56 inches and 4.3 ounces, compared with 4.48 by 2.6 by 0.59 inches
and 4.8 ounces for the Bold 9000.
From a design perspective, the Bold 9700 makes it seem
like RIM is running out of design ideas.
While the original Bold 9000 was distinct (because of
its size, heft, screen quality and the aforementioned backplate), the Bold 9700
feels pretty derivative. Take the Curve 8900 and tone down the shiny
chrome a hair; slap the Tour's flat-keyed QWERTY keyboard and bezel design on
it; add a textured, leatherette strip on the back; move the side buttons and
connectors around a bit; and reduce the profile with a trackpad instead of a
BlackBerry's typical trackball; and voila-you've got the Bold 9700.
As uninspired as the look may be, RIM has made modest
changes to enhance the overall experience while at the same time taking away a
The optical trackpad, for instance, is much easier on
the thumb than the old trackball. Like the trackball, the trackpad can be
pressed for the action key, but cursor movement can be performed with the
lightest of touches, and users can adjust the sensitivity of the trackpad
separately for both vertical and horizontal movement. (You can also add a
clicking noise to indicate trackpad movement.) After a brief period of
acclimation, I found the trackpad accurate and easy to use.
However, the Bold 9700 doesn't take advantage of code
enhancements made to the BlackBerry 5.0 operating system that allow inertial
scrolling on the Storm2. Instead of being able to flick downward-or,
failing that, to hold down my thumb at the bottom of the trackpad to maintain a
downward scroll on a long Web page or document-I had to push and push and push,
just like with the trackball.
Andrew cut his teeth as a systems administrator at the University of California, learning the ins and outs of server migration, Windows desktop management, Unix and Novell administration. After a tour of duty as a team leader for PC Magazine's Labs, Andrew turned to system integration - providing network, server, and desktop consulting services for small businesses throughout the Bay Area. With eWEEK Labs since 2003, Andrew concentrates on wireless networking technologies while moonlighting with Microsoft Windows, mobile devices and management, and unified communications. He produces product reviews, technology analysis and opinion pieces for eWEEK.com, eWEEK magazine, and the Labs' Release Notes blog. Follow Andrew on Twitter at andrewrgarcia, or reach him by email at email@example.com.