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Blackberry Bold 9900/9930 Ц The First Impression

At Blackberry World 2011 the company presented the new Bold 9900 smartphone (9930 is its modifications with the difference only lying in the network compatibility Ц 9900 Ц TriBand HSPA+, QuadBand GSM; 9930 Ц DualBand CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A, DualBand HSPA+, QuadBand GSM). Many were expecting a whole family of new smartphones but the company presented just one device which was the subject of the presentation for a whole hour. During the next hour I have had an opportunity to get acquainted with the smartphone and make my first impression. Getting ahead of myself I will tell you that I liked this phone thanks to its key pad which is as good as in the first Bold. A regular reader might remember that I complained a lot about the keys in Bold 2 Ц I certainly missed the level of comfort of the first phone of the series. I suppose my whining has not gone to waste.

So here are my first impressions about this phone Ц this is not a full review but just the things that caught my eye and I liked. The full review will be coming a bit later.


  1. Design. Materials
  2. Display
  3. Processor
  4. NFC
  5. Augmented reality
  6. Battery
  7. Key Pad
  8. Camera
  9. Software Changes and Blackberry OS 7.0
  10. General Impressions

Design. Materials

The phone looks very much like the first Bold only thinner. The company made a big stress on the fact that it is the first Blackberry only 10.5 mm (0.4 in) thick. The phone dimensions are 115х66х10.5 mm, weight 130 g/4.5x2.6x0.4 in, 4.6 oz. The phone feels good in hand and just as all Blackberries are designed to be easily operated single-handedly this one is also up to the job. I liked the assembly quality and the metal rim on the sides. The back side is covered with soft-touch plastic and I think it is pretty scratch resistant. There is no leather or its imitation here Ц the panel is now made of carbon fiber. Phones rarely feature carbon fiber parts Ц Nokia became the pioneer of it in Nokia 8800 Carbon Arte, there also have been a bunch of other phones but it is definitely not mainstream. Blackberry tried to preserve the heritage and make the phone look unique in the same time. I think they have succeeded this phone immediately catches your eye and feels great in hand.

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The screen size is 2.8" with the resolution of VGA Ц 640x480 and the matrix can display up to 16 million colors. The view angles are very good, the picture is sharp (287 dpi). The screen uses a TFT matrix, it is capacitive and supports multitouch.

In the settings you can adjust the sensitivity of the screen in case you find the screen responsiveness inappropriate. My impressions of the screen are very positive Ц light strokes and immediate response. There is no vibration response of the strokes and there is no need for it in this phone. The quality of the image is partly the work of the integrated graphical accelerator that provides 60 frames per second presentation in the interface. This screen even has a special name Ц Liquid Graphics Ц the combination of the accelerator and the screen that produce the picture. I had an opportunity to compare Nokia E6 and Blackberry 9930. The phones feel similar only in the first instant then you realize how much slower the Nokia is and how different the interface are. Liquid Graphics is comparable to screens of top Androids and Apple iPhone 4.

I must make a note here Ц Liquid Graphics is both a hardware and software solution Ц you cannot upgrade your old Blackberry to OS 7.0 and get better performance.

The performance and the screen are big advantages of this phone. I doubt anyone will be using this screen to watch movies Ц the screen's size and aspect ratio are not appropriate for this, but it is still possible.

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Blackberry explained the use of a single core 1.2 GHz processor by saying that they wanted to get the best performance to battery life time ratio. That is why there is no dual core processor models Ц they will be released later but they are not a Blackberry's priority for 2011-2012 but rather an option for those who is willing to sacrifice the battery life for better performance. The phone is speedy and is on the same level as other new smartphones. The system memory equals 768 MB.

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This is the first Blackberry with NFC. It supports tag reading Ц you can watch the demo video to see how it works.

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Augmented reality

The phone features magnetometer and API for geo tags processing. It will be shipped with Wikitude Ц an application that allows you to read tags of objects by means of the phone camera. It was not installed in the demo handset so I could not try it.

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The Capacity of the battery is 1230mAh which is lower than in the previous models. But the company reps told us that thanks to OS 7.0 the battery works just as long. Well, you have to test that one Ц I cannot comment on these numbers.

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Key Pad

The same optical trackpad as in other Blackberries and it is still handy. There is no shake control while the key pad is even better than on the first Bold Ц rapture and ecstasy. I loved it: big keys, well set apart soft easy strokes Ц even typing big texts is easy. I think I will not be exaggerating when I say that this is by far the best QWERTY key pad on the market.

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I did not have an opportunity to copy the pictures from the phone but on the phone screen they look very decent. The flash is rather regular Ц no improvements here. You can now record video up to 720p. I have got an impression that the camera was improved but don't be expecting a breakthrough. The camera module also features autofocus.

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Software Changes and Blackberry OS 7.0

The interface has been slightly changed though only superficially. The phone has a preinstalled copy of Docs to Go and an updated Facebook client. The difference from other social networks clients is that Blackberry made push messages available Ц now these messages are grouped together with other messages in a common mailbox Ц a nice touch for those who is frequent on Facebook.

The search function has now been supplemented with voice search and it works just fine.

The browser now features hardware acceleration in the form of JIT Ц one of the fastest compilers on the market. It felt like the phone I tested was optimized to work with certain websites Ц at your first visit of a website the browser analysis the page which takes some time. But the next time you hit this page it opens almost momentarily. The browser supports certain HTML5 specification elements Ц HTML5 Video for example.

The Blackberry OS now has the Balance feature Ц it is a security policy: you can prohibit the use of data from office applications (mail, IM etc.) in other applications. For example, you won't be able to Twitter anything toy have received by mail, or forward a message you have received on your corporate account by regular email. This policy is managed by the administrators of your corporate network. Your phone becomes two-faceted Ц you will no longer mix your personal and business life.

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General Impressions

This phone will be released in summer, I suppose in mid July Ц the company reps kept silence about the terms and the price. But apparently the price will be similar to that of Bold 2 by the time of its release which means that we will see a very attractive phone that combines a nice touchscreen and the best QWERTY key pad Ц there are no analogues of this phone on the market. The Nokia's attempt to create something similar is Nokia E6 and at the same price the Nokia has a twice slower processor and poorer body materials, but the latter is a matter of preferences. As for the interface and the specs the Blackberry is definitely far ahead.

This phone is targeted both at the corporate environment and the consumer market. It looks great, has decent specs and leaves a good impression. I have not been using a Blackberry since my first Bold died but now I have a reason to consider a replacement and I think this phone might be perfect for those who appreciate QWERTY key pads.

Do you want to talk about this? Please, go to our Forum and let your opinion be known to the author and everybody else.

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Related links

Review of BlackBerry 8520 Curve

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Twitter    Livejournal
Translated by Robert Mugattarov (mugattarov@gmail.com)

Published — 03 May 2011

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com



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