The design of the new BlackBerry Bold 9900 sees it pick up pieces from previous Bold handsets. It’s larger than the previous 9700 family returning more to the form of the original 9000. It’s broader in the hand and neatly bordered by a classy metal band. It measures 115 x 66 x 10.5mm; it’s only the thickness that really differs from the original, RIM shaving an impressive 4mm off previous handsets.
The Bold 9900, its readily apparent that RIM succeeded in their design goals. The Bold 9900 oozes luxury and feels more like a quality product than an electronic gadget. At 10.5mm, it’s the thinnest BlackBerry to date, and also the most solid. A big part of the reason for this solid feeling is the brushed stainless steel band that surrounds the perimeter of the phone, adding a touch of class (and no, I didn’t see an iPhone 4 on RIM’s design inspiration board!). In the hand, the Bold 9900 feels great. At 4.59oz (130g), it weighs less than you expect it to, and the width is perfect for a phone with a full physical keyboard. With its “PopTart” like shape, the overall footprint of the phone is fairly large, even when compared to the Bold 9780, but thanks to its thinness I’ve found the 9900 to still be easily pocketable in the front of my jeans.
The usual buttons and ports surround the perimeter of the BlackBerry Bold 9900. The right side of the phone has the standard volume up and down keys, with the mute key relocated from the top of the phone to be in between the volume keys. They serve double duty as media keys when playing music as well, for skipping tracks and play/pause. At the bottom right is the programmable convenience key.
The left side of the Bold 9900 features two ports. At the top is the 3.5mm headset jack, and below that is the microUSB port for syncing and/or charging. Because the port is cut into the stainless housing, it makes for a nice snug fit on the connector, eliminating the sloppiness we’ve noticed in the past on some models.
Centered at the top of the phone is a single button for locking and/or unlocking the screen. At the bottom are two contact points for the BlackBerry Charging Pod, which are mounted on a thin plastic strip which spans across the bottom.
In addition to touch functionality, the display itself received a nice bump in physical size, color and resolution, from the previous generation of Bold. The BlackBerry Bold 9900′s 2.8-inch (diagonal) 24-bit display runs VGA at 640 x 480 pixels, for 287ppi. By comparison, the Bold 9780′s 2.44-inch display delivers half VGA at 480 x 360. The BlackBerry Bold 9900′s display really is nice. Colors are crisp and vivid, and the display is bright – even at the default 70 percent setting. RIM tells us the display is made of “extra hardened glass,” so there’s no plastic here.
Much of device performance is governed by software optimisation, which leads us neatly into BB7. If you’re expecting a revolution then BlackBerry OS7 isn’t really it. In operation is feels very much like the Torch did, offering a slideable tray of apps on the screen, with the ability to scroll left or right to access favourites or downloads, or head into media.
Like previous versions of BB OS, assigning your most commonly used apps to the top row of the menu sits them conveniently across the bottom of the screen for easy access, although as you can slide-up the menu at any time on the screen, it’s less important than previously as getting to apps is overall much easier.
Setup and syncing is mostly straightforward, although for Google fans it isn’t quite as elegant as you’ll get from Android, with the BlackBerry failing to sync multiple calendars associated with one of our Google accounts. The universal inbox failed to incorporate one of our email accounts (despite being selected in the options), but otherwise, we like having Twitter, Facebook, BlackBerry service notifications and messages all pile into the same place.
What we’re given is a 5MP snapper – the same as we had on the 9900′s predecessor, the Bold 9780. It’s not too shabby but also
not very adventurous, considering that various phones (including the iPhone 4, which is more than a year old) come with that spec.
Thankfully, it comes with an LED light too, which makes things a little bit better in darker conditions.
Having said that, pictures taken on the Bold 9900 at max resolution are actually slightly smaller than those taken on the 9780 (2560 x 1920 versus 2592 x 1944).
Whereas before users could only shoot in a maximum VGA resolution (640 x 480), now, by default, the Bold 9780 will happily film away in glorious 1280 x 720.
We love how you can not only create playlists on the phone, but also create automatic playlists based on particular criteria or algorithms. That and the fact that album art transfers perfectly and looks great on the Bold 9900′s amazing screen is a real feather in its cap.
We’re still sad to see that the Bold 9900 only comes with a 1230mAh battery. That’s less than the 1300mAh of the Torch 9800 and significantly smaller than the 1500mAh which came with the original Bold 9000.
- CDMA Talk Time: up to 6.6 hours; CDMA Standby Time: up to 12.8 days (9930 only)
- GSM Talk Time: up to 6.3 hours; Standby Time: up to 12.8 days
- UMTS Talk Time: up to 5.9 hours
- UMTS Standby Time: up to 12.8 days
- Audio Playback Time: up to 50 hours
- Video Playback Time: up to 7.4 hours
Connectivity-wise, we have the usual suspects: HSDPA 3G and HSUPA, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS. Bluetooth is not just reserved for calls but also streamed music wirelessly to our stereo via A2DP which we were very happy with.
BlackBerry Bold 9900 Specification
GENERAL 2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Network HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100 / 800
HSDPA 900 / 1700 / 2100
Announced 2011, May
Status Available. Released 2011, August
SIZE Dimensions 115 x 66 x 10.5 mm
Weight 130 g
DISPLAY Type TFT capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size 640 x 480 pixels, 2.8 inches (~286 ppi pixel density)
- QWERTY keyboard
- Touch-sensitive controls
- Optical trackpad
- Proximity sensor for auto turn-off
SOUND Alert types Vibration, MP3 ringtones
3.5mm jack Yes
MEMORY Phonebook Practically unlimited entries and fields, Photocall
Call records Yes
Internal 8GB storage, 768 MB RAM
Card slot microSD, up to 32GB, buy memory
DATA GPRS Yes
3G HSDPA 14.4Mbps, HSUPA 5.76Mbps
WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, dual-band
Bluetooth Yes, v2.1 with A2DP, EDR
Infrared port No
USB Yes, microUSB v2.0
CAMERA Primary 5 MP, 2592×1944 pixels, LED flash, check quality
Features Geo-tagging, face detection, image stabilization
Video Yes, 720p, check quality
FEATURES OS BlackBerry OS 7.0
CPU 1.2 GHz QC 8655 processor
Messaging SMS, MMS, Email, Push Email, IM
Games Yes + downloadable
GPS Yes, with A-GPS support, BlackBerry Maps
Java Yes, MIDP 2.1
- NFC support
- BlackBerry maps
- Digital compass
- Document viewer
- MP4/WMV/H.263/H.264 player
- MP3/eAAC+/WMA player
- Voice memo/dial
- Predictive text input
BATTERY Standard battery, Li-Ion 1230 mAh
Stand-by Up to 307 h (2G) / Up to 307 h (3G)
Talk time Up to 6 h 30 min (2G) / Up to 5 h 50 min (3G)
Music play Up to 50 h
RIM proves that they can still launch a solid, professional-feeling product in spite of a pretty glaring design misstep — that damn, space-eating trackpad. For BlackBerry purists it has all the stuff you’d want in a BlackBerry made better than ever, with one of the best physical keyboards around. Period.
Bottom line, the BlackBerry Bold 9900 is the best BlackBerry to date. We love the design, and the upgraded hardware platform delivers a ton of performance to the end user. It really is the best of BlackBerry as we have known it.
- 1.2 GHz processor is FAST
- Much improved web browser
- Welcome return to the “wide body” design
- Best keyboard ever!
- Touchscreen adds to the usability of the iconic BlackBerry form factor
- Luxurious use of materials
- Excellent build quality
- HD Video Recording finally here!
- NFC support is nerdy cool, even if we don’t know what to do with it right now
- Smaller battery than on previous Bolds
- No autofocus on the camera
- More RAM but less usable memory