The Bold comes with a new version of the BlackBerry operating system, Version 4.6. The new software brings with it an updated new look to the user interface-a look that I never got comfortable with in the few weeks I used the device. From the program menu, all available applications are displayed only as icons, with descriptive text only displayed for the application the user has highlighted using the trackball.
This wouldn't be much of a problem if the icons were quite distinct from one another, but several are similar (Media Player and AT&T Music, for instance), and others somewhat indistinct. Undoubtedly, users will grow accustomed to this quirk after awhile.
My biggest complaint with the Bold is with the Web browser. The Bold was the first BlackBerry to employ a fully capable Web browser (the BlackBerry Storm quickly became the second) that was designed to deliver a rich, immersive Web experience to mobile users. Users can actually select which mobile view they want to use: Page view delivers the full Web experience (minus Flash and Java support, of course) while Column view utilizes a column-based display more typical for mobile browsing. Unfortunately, I found both modes aggravating, although for different reasons.
Because the Bold (when in Page mode) is capable of rendering full, content-laden sites designed with much larger screen resolutions in mind, a helpful zoom feature is a must for proper navigation. Simply put, the Bold's zoom controls stink when compared with the iPhone's touch-screen-based pinch and spread motions or the G1 with Google's on-screen action buttons.
In Page view, when first visiting a page, the cursor becomes the zoom control. When I clicked on the screen, the view zoomed down in the general area of where I clicked, and a second click returned the view to the original perspective. Unfortunately, the zoom does not always occur precisely on the spot clicked, meaning the browser often magnified something other than what was wanted. In addition, because the cursor is the zoom key, this means that in the original view I could not click directly onto links without having to zoom first.
On the other hand, in Column view the cursor does not control zoom. Users instead need to toggle the access menu and scroll to the commands. Thankfully, in this view, zoom is not as necessary as the pages are already formatted to better accommodate a small screen.
Now the problem becomes the vertical length of the page. To scroll through the very long pages that result from Column reformatting, users need to learn the browser hot keys for Page-Up (spacebar) and Page-Down (shift-spacebar) or risk repetitive strain injury from the incessant trackball manipulation that is required.
eWEEK Labs Senior Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at email@example.com.