BlackBerry Bold 9900

The touch-and-type Bold 9900 is the sleekest, zippiest BlackBerry to date, but there are key features missing, which business users would have loved to have had included.


8.0
CNET Rating
9.4
User Rating

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CNET Editor

Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon


Design

The BlackBerry Bold, the flagship handset for Research In Motion (RIM), celebrates its fourth iteration in 2011 with a design more reminiscent of the original Bold 9900 than any of its more recent predecessors. Like the original, the Bold 9900 seems flatter, squarer despite its heavily rounded corners and has a slightly larger footprint than last year's Bold, the 9780. It is also, in our eyes, the most attractive Bold yet.

A short history of BlackBerry Bolds: from 2008 until today.
(Credit: CBSi)

We love both the look and feel of the 9900. The front face of this phone will be extremely familiar to anyone who has handled a BlackBerry in the last five years, with the iconic combination of screen, navigation panel and full QWERTY keyboard. On the back, RIM opts for a unique twist to the formula, with an attractive carbon fibre battery cover, which gives a slightly holographic appearance when you turn the handset under light. Above the battery cover, you'll find the handset's 5-megapixel camera lens and LED flash.

The 2.8-inch display is a stunner, with rich colour reproduction and excellent contrast. Its 640x480-pixel resolution might seem lacking besides the pixels we've seen in iPhones and Androids, but in a screen this size, the VGA resolution packs in more than enough pixels to provide super sharp images and text. It is also a capacitive touchscreen, giving users the option to navigate the phone using the screen, or defer to the optical track pad and keyboard, depending on what they find faster and more comfortable.

More importantly for many BlackBerry users, the QWERTY keyboard is, again, a standout. The keys seem flat with tapered edges, but, after using the Nokia E6 only a few weeks ago, the quality of this keyboard's design is obvious to us. We wouldn't even class ourselves as experienced BlackBerry keyboard users, but, after only moments, we were confidently typing long messages with a minimum of errors.

User experience

The beauty is, as they say, only skin deep, especially with the well designed BlackBerry OS 7 lurking just below the surface here. OS 7 is the latest version of the BlackBerry smartphone system, and although the changes it brings in comparison to version six might seem invisible to the naked eye, it does feel like a more polished system overall, especially in regards to set-up and touchscreen use.

The BlackBerry OS 7 has great-looking new iconography, and a strong connection to your BlackBerry ID.
(Credit: CBSi)

Setting up a BlackBerry in OS 7 pays particularly close attention to logging you in with a BlackBerry ID, which is essential to accessing the App World, amongst other things. It also has you sign in to as many social networking and email accounts as you use on a regular basis. Once logged in, all new notifications will pass through the unified BlackBerry messaging inbox, which we find to be extremely handy.

BlackBerry OS 7 brings a few aesthetic tweaks with its simpler design, and, overall, we've really enjoyed using it. The iconography is well designed, with lovingly shaded detail, and although this may seem like a frivolous aspect of a smartphone to praise, it definitely elevates the user experience nonetheless.

Web wonder

Better than sexy icons and carbon fibre battery covers, the Bold 9900 has one killer feature: its web browser. BlackBerry browsers have also been hit and miss, plagued with latency issues and clunky navigation. The Bold 9900 has none of these problems, with the touchscreen to rip through page navigation and a powerful new rendering engine bringing up pages fast and delivering them to screen seamlessly.

With the combination of the touchscreen and physical keys, you always feel like you have multiple ways to achieve your next step in this browser. You can press and hold on the screen to bring up a full menu, or use the "BlackBerry" button to see the standard menu overlay. You can double tap on-screen, or use a pinch-to-zoom gesture to zoom in and out on content, and the browser will resize text to make it as easy to read as possible.

There's no Adobe Flash support in the browser, though, which iPhone users will know is both a blessing and a curse. It is a shame not to be able to view any interactive element on a page (although some videos will play in a separate streaming tool), but without Flash, pages load significantly faster. If Flash is a must for you, you will still have to turn to Android to get the full experience.

Missing links

As you'd expect, the Bold 9900 comes with a number of business-focused applications and features, but there are quite a few elements that we are coming to expect in a smartphone, which RIM has overlooked in this handset's design. There's HSPA 3G data connectivity, Wi-Fi (b/g/n protocols compatible), Bluetooth and GPS. There is also some great business software installed, including Quickoffice, Adobe PDF Reader and BlackBerry Protect remote management software to lock and wipe the phone if lost or stolen.

This is a pretty standard mix of business tools, although this can, of course, be extended by downloading new apps from the BlackBerry App World. We were disappointed, though, that RIM has chosen not to include extended (but now common) connectivity features, like a micro-HDMI port for showing presentations to clients using only the handset, DLNA media sharing for streaming media content to compatible TVs and media centres or the ability to use the Bold to create a Wi-Fi hotspot and share your 3G data with a laptop or tablet. This final feature in particular is sorely missed, as it is a feature built in to Android phones and the iPhone, and an app that came free on the Nokia E6. For some people, these missing features will be noted at the point of sale, and they could very well mean the difference between someone buying a Bold or choosing an Android smartphone instead.

Performance

If there's one key difference that defines this year's Bold from previous iterations, it's the new 1.2GHz processor under the hood. RIM, like Nokia, has been under-powering its handsets over the last couple of years, whilst simultaneously enhancing its software with increasingly processor-intensive services. With this big bump in power (of nearly two times the clock speed) the Bold 9900 breezes through almost any task you can throw at it.

Battery life lives up to RIM's excellent reputation for power management, delivering well over a day of use with push delivery turned on for a business email account and several social networks. This would also be significantly extended, using the auto on and off settings unique to BlackBerry handsets.

Overall

The Bold 9900 is a worthy update in this branch of the BlackBerry brood, and although it feels leagues ahead of the other BlackBerrys out at this time, there are several key features missing when you compare it against the rest of the smartphone landscape. In other media-focused phones, features like Wi-Fi hotspot and HDMI-out are frivolous additions, which probably see limited use, but we'd argue that this wouldn't be the case in the hands of a BlackBerry business user. The power to deliver a presentation without a laptop or to share your data with colleagues is a powerful proposition, and a missed opportunity in this release. That said, the Bold 9900 is still the best BlackBerry we've seen all year, and a must-have upgrade for any self-respecting crackberry.



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Lavinia posted a comment   

how can you block number which you dont want to get calls

 

sezbez posted a comment   
Australia

no it is a piece of rubbish. I just went to pick up my 4th replacement and it didn't even make it out of the shop. Dud charging, restarting for no reason, restarting during calls, bizarre errors and faulty mics in supposedly new phones.

 

LalitM posted a comment   

blackberry bold 9900 is in top 5 business mobile

exandroid
10
Rating
 

"Awesome communication device"

exandroid posted a review   

The Good:Excellent quality build

The Bad:Can't get Skype with it

I am sick of people knocking down this amazing device. Common BlackBerry fans and support them now so that we can keep these products available to us. Only thing needed is Skype and a few more apps. I have just switched from the king of Android devices the Samsung Galaxy s2 to a Bold 9900 and the BB is much better. It has better call quality and the world's best keyboard. It is also not as annoying to use as it has well thought out actions and functions.

 

kanethomas posted a comment   

have just bought one of these and hate it!
coming from iphone 4 the web experience is horrid, my company doesnt support blackberry exchange email server as it is "dying technology".
it does not support audio books purchased from audible, also no blue tooth streaming.
map function is useless and does not work

if only optus wwould let me switch phones??

 

Jimbob posted a reply   
Australia

I think the main problem here is with Optus as I have the same phone and went from Telstra to Optus and now things like maps for example don't work when with Optus.

somedude.
9
Rating
 

"Touch screen physical keyboard = WINNING!!"

somedude. posted a review   
Australia

The Good:physical keyboard, touch screen is really responsive, battery life , screen resolution, phone looks sexy

The Bad:3G Internet speed is slow (on an optus plan), hardly any apps, no multiple alarms

The blackberry 9900 phone is a great phone, this is my fourth phone
previously had a Sony Ericsson:
- w800i
- s500
- w995

If anyone (like me) prefers a phone with a physical QWERTY keyboard then this is the phone for you, combined with a touch screen makes the phone more easier to navigate. But with a track pad makes it easier for those hard to reach places (people with big fingers) cant reach.

The Blackberry app world doesn't have much apps (but still has some essential apps that people may want ... like a back light torch app?). But that doesn't really bother me since I have an iPod Touch.

Call quality is good loudspeaker. But if you are using the loudspeaker to listening to music is a good but not great compared to other phones. (seriously why would you put the speaker on the right hand side of the phone??). Good reception as well

For me the battery life is good with moderate use, which lasted about 3 days

I'm with optus ... the 3G internet speed is **** poor (does anyone else think that the speed is poor as well?)

One thing that all my previous phones had was multiple alarms, and this phone doesn't ... but the blackberry app world can solve that problem if your willing to let loose some $$$

I don't use the camera that much but the pictures looks average for a 5 megapixel camera (during the day time)

One surprising feature is wikitude, its an augmented reality program that utilizes the phones camera and compass/gps that finds people and shopping centers, places etc ... pretty nifty

Overall a good phone, sexy design but wish the 3G internet speed can be more faster

 

Saileone posted a comment   
Australia

The Antenna Signal is so terrible, Drop out calls.

mannrj10
10
Rating
 

"INCREDIBLE!! so much for RIM dead, I hope apple brings their A game with the iPhone 5!"

mannrj10 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Screen resolution is amazing (on par if not better than the iPhone 4%u2019s); keyboard, thin chassis; build quality is second to none; cellular reception; Battery life

The Bad:The carbon battery door is prone to scratches (although this just gives you an excuse to buy some cases :-p ); It is not currently available on Telstra and is VERY expensive outright

AMAZING!!! I was a little bit hesitant purchasing this phone as I am currently a Tesltra Business customer, hence had to purchase it outright and the pricing was a little steep for my liking ($749). Although this seemed steep it is still relatively cheap to the iPhone 4 and in my opinion it is a far superior device, the keyboard alone is reason enough to switch. The build quality of the device is outstanding far superior to any previous Blackberry, the steel band removes any doubt that this is the ultimate high end device (I would put this device on par with the iPhone 4 for build quality, it has that same dense feeling). The battery life was one thing that drew me to Blackberry and it is as good as ever, I can last for around 2 days before needing more juice and that includes, 3 email accounts, constant Facebook chat, at least 1hr of web browsing, 24/7 tethering to my Playbook, around 1hr worth of phone calls and 30-40 texts. Another bonus is cellular reception, I am with Telstra purely for rural signal and I was amazed to find that the bold 9900 out performed the iPhone 4, only loosing out reception to my Dad's Nokia 6120 (which was had an external antenna). I whole heartedly recommend this device to anyone in the market for a new phone, the people who say that Blackberry are dead clearly have not try nor seen this phone... (oh and did I mention how they wrapped all this up in a gorgeous thin 10mm chassis) Oh and for people who write this review off as a "Fan Boy Review" this is my first blackberry smart phone previously I have used iPhone 4's and windows phones, I was swayed by all of the aforementioned benefits available to blackberry owners and I will never go back!

HuynhT Facebook
10
Rating
 

"I love it!"

HuynhT posted a review   

The Good:Faster, touch screen, beautiful design, keyboard.....

The Bad:Battery Life! That's suck

The battery life is that bad compare to my previous Bold 9780 with the same everyday usage! Would love to have a high-capacity battery pack so I don't have to buy another spare one!

peroxwhy2gen
10
Rating
 

"Best BlackBerry ever"

peroxwhy2gen posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Processor, OS 7, touch screen, QWERTY keyboard, email, web browser, battery life

The Bad:No Flash support

I bought it outright and unlocked from TeleChoice and I am loving it.


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