The Retrospective

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Blackberry 9700: Worthy Heir or Pretender to the Throne?

March 5th, 2010 by

BlackBerry 9700
Photo Courtsey of RIM

A significant departure from previous Blackberry devices, the Bold 9000 proved that Research In Motion could make stylish smartphones on par with those of Apple or Nokia. After three years of committed iPhone use, I bought the Bold 9000 in December 2009 and spent a month learning the intricacies, strengths and weaknesses of the Blackberry OS. After using the 9000 for a month I upgraded to the Bold 9700, a newer model designed to address lingering consumer complaints of earlier phones and become the flagship Blackberry model. While there are definitely scads of advantages to this new iteration of Blackberry device, a long run at the front of the pack is probably not in its future.

The 9700’s slimmed down physique puts it close to the 8900 in terms of size and weight. The condensed keyboard of raised keys and lots of travel space should appeal to Curve and Pearl users, but Bold fans like myself will miss the Cadillac spaciousness of previous models. The physically smaller screen features increased resolution that delivers sharper images and clearer text than other Blackberry phones. Another significant design alteration is the removal of the trackball in favor of an optical pad, which may take some longtime users a little getting used to. And with double the internal memory of other Blackberry models and a 1500mAh battery, the 9700 withstood two days of constant emailing, internet surfing, messaging and voice calling before dipping down to 20%, my threshold for charging.

Photo Courtsey of RIM

One of the most overlooked aspects of a smartphone is its telephone capabilities. In this capacity the 9700’s sound quality was much better than the mushy audio of the iPhone 3GS and favorably comparable to the Nokia E71, my AT&T voice quality champion. The 3G signal has been consistent throughout the New York City metro area. However, with an overall sluggish internet experience, I’d recommend using the Opera Mini or Bolt web browsers for faster surfing. Configuring gMail, POP3 work emails and Google apps was impressively easy and required no server maintenance, with the phone delivering emails faster than any other service.

As a microcosm of the Blackberry platform, the 9700 offers a thoroughly dependable yet rapidly aging smartphone OS, coasting on the momentum of its popularity. Over all, Research In Motion makes superbly crafted devices that incrementally improve upon themselves, but which fail to provide true innovation. Longtime Blackberry users will find a lot to love with the 9700, but to happy Bold 9000 owners I’d recommend finding one of the many leaked OS 5.0 firmware updates and avoid purchasing what I call the “Blackberry Bold Mini.”

Check out the official Bold 9700 website for more specs and information.

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