BlackBerry Bold 9900 Review
Thanks to @rhabayeb, the guys over at Edelman Dubai were nice to seed me a BlackBerry 9900 to test and review for a couple of weeks. Let’s just say that by the end of the second week, it was quite painful returning the phone. I’ve fallen in love with the device! I can safely summarize by telling you that this is one of the best phones launched by BlackBerry to date. If you want to skip the entire review below, just go out and buy one!
To start off, the 9900 packs an excellent processor, the new superb OS 7, a beautiful screen with fantastic touchscreen options, HD Video and one hell of a keyboard while keeping it light at 130g. The size of the phone is perfect and it means business with the fastest load time amongst any BlackBerry. It’s one of those phones that fits smoothly into any pocket size and you can safely get it out of your jeans without crashing while driving. The 9900 is probably the slimmest phone to date from BlackBerry. It packs 4 buttons on the right with one on the top which is placed very conveniently for locking the phone. I miss the button on the left which I used as an SMS shortcut but that’s a personal preference. The left side only includes a micro-USB port for data transfer/charging and a 3.5mm audio slot. I did not like the battery cover and I believe RIM could have ran with a better mechanism. I feared snapping the cover the first time around when using it.
The 9900’s screen is probably one of the smoothest interfaces I’ve seen to date. Very responsive and on par, if not better, than the fluidity of the iPad. I’ve gotten so used to the screen that I got genuinely disappointed when I picked up an old bold and got nothing when I touched the screen.
OS7 is definitely a step in the right direction. I wouldn’t go to lengths of claiming it can rival an Android or iOS device, but it definitely feel more in line with what the smartphone market is steering towards. If you’ve tried the PlayBook, you will see that RIM has inherited a lot of its look and feel from there. I’m personally loving the new icon set that OS7 has adopted and everything looks really crisp. The floating icons really make the experience of using the phone a joy. You also won’t feel that much of a difference if you’ve used OS6. The search function has definitely been improved and is very quick.
One of my beefs with the 9900 is that while the browser has been upgraded, it’s still very weak compared to web browsers from other options (Android, Apple, etc.). The rendering can be very slow, flash isn’t directly supported and the dual finger zoom in/out is sometimes unresponsive. This is definitely one of the weaker points in the phone. YouTube on the other hand is excellent and loads really quickly over wireless. My data plan doesn’t allow YouTube so I couldn’t review this mechanic over 3G.
Another major issue I faced with the phone when I first got it was its battery life. I was torn at first and was wondering if battery life was compromised for the phone’s size or it might have been because of the new processor’s power (@1.2GHz). Over time though, the battery seems to have adjusted after charging the phone multiple times. Seems it needed to broken in. After the first couple of days, the phone would last anywhere between 12 and 18 hours. No complaints!
In terms of Media, I probably wouldn’t recommend this phone for someone who wants to hear music or watch videos. While the format support is excellent (I tried loading multiple file formats and all worked), the sound quality isn’t something to behold via speakers. It’s not too shabby via a headset either.
Camera quality is not too bad but I wouldn’t replace a vacation camera with the 9900 just yet. I’ve managed to pick up some minor grain in images where a lot of light was available. Also in some cases, the white balance was a little off making all images look like they were taken under a yellow bulb. We’re also missing cool apps like Instagram.
If you’re into Apps, this is where you will realize that while the App Market is finally available to us in the Middle East, it’s still lacking when compared to other markets (Android Market and App Store). My good 1 hour search resulted in me finding a QR code scanner and a FlashLight application. I also think it’s about time RIM adopts Google Maps to replace the BB Maps application. That things needs an update pronto!
Social Media applications work like a charm. Twitter/Facebook seem to integrate into everything on the phone. FourSquare and LinkedIn both run smoothly without any issues. I’ve only managed to crash the phone once when I used WhatsApp heavily. Yet again, that application is awful.
Overall, my experience with the phone was excellent. It’s a big move ahead of the earlier Bold models (9700 and 9780). Priced currently anywhere between AED 2250 and AED 2500, its in the usual range of a BlackBerry handset. I highly recommend you get one if you’re looking to upgrade your phone. I know I’ll be grabbing one soon.