RIM BlackBerry Bold Comes Up a Little Short

By Andrew Garcia  |  Posted 2008-12-08 Print this article Print

RIM's BlackBerry Bold smartphone is a powerful device with a lot of storage, rich multimedia capabilities and excellent audio. But the BlackBerry Bold disappoints in several areas and, in a highly competitive smartphone space, falls behind other devices, such as the Apple iPhone and the Android-based T1 smartphone from T-Mobile and Google.

When I first got my hands on an early demo unit of Research In Motion's BlackBerry 9000 smartphone-also known as the Bold-for a few minutes back in May, my immediate reaction was that I had an award winner in my hands. With its impressively vibrant screen, excellent sound quality for music and videos, new 3G data connectivity, and BlackBerry's ongoing mastery of mobile e-mail capabilities, it seemed a foregone conclusion that RIM and the Bold would find great success-whenever they got around to releasing it.

However, in the intervening five months between that time and the Bold's November release, while the Bold underwent extensive and seemingly interminable testing on AT&T's 3G network, the smartphone market saw a series of dramatic shifts that undercut much of the Bold's appeal.

The second-generation iPhone from Apple brought with it a new application marketplace that redefined expectations of what people could do with a cell phone, and T-Mobile and Google reaffirmed this movement with the Android-based T1 with Google device and the accompanying Android Market. In addition, rival Nokia released several phones with loads of features for business users and consumers alike, and even Microsoft's Windows Mobile delivered a few attractive and interesting devices, such as Sony's Xperia and the HTC Touch Pro.

Check out eWEEK Labs' walk-through of the BlackBerry Bold.

None of this is to say that the Bold is a bad device. While the Bold definitely has a handful of problems that can be pretty irritating, when I used the device during my month of testing, I mostly felt underwhelmed-the device doesn't deliver up to its full promise. Unfortunately, this feeling probably won't change until RIM's forthcoming BlackBerry application market goes online sometime next year.

The Bold seems underwhelming because the device should be capable of so much more. The Bold is powerful for a smartphone, featuring a 624MHz processor, 1GB of on-board storage and 128MB of flash ROM. Via the MicroSD slot, the device can be further expanded with up to 32GB of removable storage.

All that storage will be handy to take advantage of the device's rich multimedia capabilities. First of all, the screen is stunning, albeit a tad small by today's standards. With its 480-by-320-pixel resolution, the 2.75-inch, backlit TFT screen crisply delivers smooth, good-looking video from H.264, and some DIVX and XVID encoded media files.

eWEEK Labs reviews the BlackBerry Storm.

The Bold's sound capabilities match the video, as the device produces excellent audio using either the twin, built-in speakers or a headset. Thankfully, the Bold-with a headset jack that is a separate 3.5mm connector-bucks the trend of integrating the headset jack with the Mini USB connector that I've seen a lot lately (like with the Palm Treo Pro or the G1 with Google). The Bold also supports Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP for stereo sound.

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 agarcia@eweek.com.

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