After lots of publicity and plenty of delays, the BlackBerry Bold is here. Touted as RIM's answer to Apple's iPhone, the Bold offers 3G service, Wi-Fi support, built-in GPS, music and video players, and an absolutely gorgeous screen. Overall, the Bold is the best BlackBerry I've seen so far.
The BlackBerry Bold will be available from AT&T for $300 when you sign a new two-year contract. If you don't want to sign a contract, you can expect to pay about $650 for the phone at retailers like Best Buy. That's a steep price for a smartphone. So what do you get for your money?
You get a very handsome phone. Like most BlackBerrys (except for the Pearl Flip), the Bold is a candybar-style phone, with its LCD on top and a full QWERTY keyboard below. The phone itself is primarily black, with silver accents.
PROS: The Bold features the best display I've seen on a smartphone--ever. Video was incredibly clear, colors were vibrant, and text was sharp. The phone itself is a bit wide--it's noticeably wider than an iPhone, for example--but that extra space allows for a fairly room keyboard and easy typing. The keys themselves have slight ridges that prevent your fingers from slipping.
CONS: The Bold features BlackBerry's trademark trackball, which you can use to scroll through menus and around Web pages. I found this one a bit harder to use than it should be; it didn't always seem to resond to my scrolling. My only other complaint about the Bold's design is its "leather like" backing. It just doesn't seem to fit with the sleek, modern look of the phone's front side.
PROS: The Bold is a world phone; its supports the four GSM bands (850, 900, 1800, and 1900) that are most commonly used around the world. (Keep in mind that you'll need a compatible calling plan to make calls overseas, though.) I also found the Bold relatively light and comfortable to hold next to my ear. Voices were loud, too; I could hear my callers easily and they said the same about me.
CONS: I heard a slight hiss on many of my calls. It wasn't loud enough to distort voices, but it was noticeable.
Browsing the Web
PROS: This is where the Bold's 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity really shine. In my travels around Boston and the suburbs, I found Web access very speedy. Pages loaded quickly and files downloaded with ease. And everything looks great on the Bold's stellar screen. The Bold features the same updated BlackBerry browser that I liked on the Pearl Flip. It lets you zoom in and out, so you can more easily read small text.
CONS: Some Web pages didn't respond well to the Bold's browser. While most pages looked great, some were mangled.
PROS: Like all BlackBerry smartphones, the Bold is a messaging marvel. It will handle up to 10 e-mail accounts, and just about every account type (personal and professional) is supported. Setup is a breeze, and the Bold's 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity let you access messages and attachments quickly.
CONS: The Bold comes with BlackBerry Messenger and Google Talk installed, but it lacks any of the other popular IM clients, like AOL's AIM or Yahoo Messenger.
PROS: The Bold comes with several applications installed, include the Documents To Go suite, which allows to view and edit Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. You also get access to AT&T Navigator, which provides turn-by-turn directions, and various productivity tools, like a task manager, a sales management app, and news and weather information apps.
CONS: The Bold comes with the Standard Edition of Documents To Go, which doesn't allow you to create new Microsoft Office documents. For that capability, you'll have to upgrade to the $70 Premium Edition. And while BlackBerry is working on an application store that will offer its users an Apple App Store-like experience, it's not ready yet.
PROS: The Bold's multimedia features really show off its stellar screen. AT&T's video service (called CV) offers pre-packaged video clips from programs like ESPN's SportsCenter and Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Video looked absolutely stunning on the Bold's screen. The Bold also offers you a choice of music services: You can select music services from Napster, eMusic, or XM Satellite Radio. The Bold will also allow you to load your own digital music files to the phone for playback. The Bold also comes with a 2-megapixel camera (with a flash) that also captures video clips.
CONS: Most of the services cost extra; you'll have to pay a monthly fee for all of the music services, for example.
We waited a long time for the Bold to arrive--and it looks like the wait was worth it. Overall, the Bold is the best BlackBerry I've seen yet. Its sleek design and absolutely stunning screen will appeal to consumers, while business users will love its messaging features. It's definitely expensive, but you get a lot for your money.