You often hear people say they like their smartphones because they’re fun and cool, but busy government workers will often add that they find these devices indispensable for keeping in touch with the office.
In keeping with that on-the-go view, Research in Motion has introduced the BlackBerry Bold. RIM’s latest 3G device is chock-full of design, performance and productivity improvements.
The first thing you’ll notice is the sharp new look: a deep-black casing wrapped in silver metal trim (with a leatherette backing that makes the 5-ounce device easier to grip).
Although the Bold serves as proof that touch screens aren’t close to replacing fixed, tactile, full QWERTY keypads, I found that I could type on the backlit keypad without lifting my thumbs, and the thin metal bands separating each row make it easy to keep my place. Four buttons provide quick access to the phone and menus, and you can assign other features to the two additional “convenience keys.”
The Bold sports a 480x320 pixel half-VGA display — twice the resolution of earlier models. The resolution bump means more information packed into a super-crisp display that adjusts well to ambient light.
The ear buds, which replaced a RIM earphone, better direct stereo-quality sound. RIM also moved the microphone from the center to the side, which improves voice transmission quality, and makes it less susceptible to wind and better able to filter out background noise.
RIM also has reduced display clutter by creating a single row of icons for commonly used applications. Pressing the menu button fills the screen with other available applications.
The processing power of the Bold and the speed of the 3G network translate into quick wireless enterprise activation, synchronization and application installation.
The Bold features a 624-megahertz processor, 128 megabytes of application memory and 1 gigabyte of secured built-in memory. To add storage, a Micro-SD slot can be accessed easily on the side of the device.
To provide fast network access for times when 3G is unavailable, the Bold supports Wi-Fi Protected Access capability. I didn’t notice much performance difference between Wi-Fi and a good 3G signal.
Also notable? Word-, PowerPoint- and Excel-compatible apps allow viewing and editing of Microsoft Office files.
A common complaint about 3G phones generally is short battery life. The Bold needs a full charge at the end of a typical 10-hour workday.
Unlike batteries in most smartphones, the Bold battery is removable. For the diehard road warrior, you might want to consider purchasing RIM’s Mini Extra Battery Charger, a mini USB-compatible device to charge the phone and a spare battery. It’s a simple matter to swap out the battery.
The switch of third-party apps from one BlackBerry to another can create a minor headache. RIM’s activation procedure will retain all data from previous devices, and it is possible to provision back-end software for automatic software installations. But you will have to reinstall all third-party apps.
The BlackBerry Bold has a built-in Global Positioning System chip that works with several GPS navigation applications.
It works like a charm with wireless carriers’ navigation applications and Google Maps. Other apps can provide voice directions and traffic alerts, extending full GPS functionality to the Bold.
Beyond the usual advantages for directionally challenged travelers, organizations can utilize GPS tracking to locate missing or stolen devices. But this feature can also be used to keep pace with multiple staff members working on a remote project and could be particularly handy as a continuity of operations tool.