RIM kicked off the whole push email thing, when only pin-striped business types owned its oversized handsets. Now that everyone is muscling in on its territory, though, it’s having to put a lot more effort into its hardware.
And with the BlackBerry Bold, RIM lives up to the name. The phone isn’t what you’d call classically good-looking; its leatherette rear panel is an acquired taste. And although its 320 x 480 display is good, it isn’t a touchscreen, so browsing the web isn’t as slick as it is on the iPhone or the HTC Touch HD.
But what it has got, for heavy users of email, will overshadow all of that: the best keyboard on a phone we’ve ever used. Its predecessor, the 8820, was good to type on, but this is an order of magnitude better – rows are separated and the keys are shaped, so it’s difficult for your thumbs to slip off and hit the one next door.
It isn’t all about the keyboard, though. That screen is bright, and useful touches abound. A light sensor turns the brightness of the screen up and down automatically, saving battery life as well as making it easier to read outdoors and, as with other BlackBerry handsets, there’s a sensor in the phone that puts it into standby whenever you slot it into its bundled holster. The phone also has a 3.5mm headphone socket, so you can use decent headphones to listen to music on it. And the swish BlackBerry OS is very fetching.
Then there’s the battery life. Even though we were running the phone with push email turned on (you can’t switch it off), it still lasted more than 90 hours in our real-world tests.
There are no core features missing, either – there’s HSDPA, Wi-Fi, and even assisted GPS.
Overall, the RIM BlackBerry Bold 9000 is a great value phone and worth its gong for the keyboard alone. However, it misses out on the outright award, since web-browsing abilities aren’t as good as some others here.