Research in Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry Bold 9900 was first announced at BlackBerry's annual BlackBerry World, which was held in May. During which, the Bold 9900 was revealed with a capacitive touch screen on top of its integrated physical QWERTY keyboard, and also the first of the Bold portfolio to sport a processor clocked at 1.2GHz. Within, the Bold 9900 will have the new BlackBerry 7 OS running the show. With all that in mind, here's our initial impressions of this new and updated BlackBerry device in the Bold lineup.
When we held the Bold 9900, what really struck us was how similar it felt to BlackBerry's very first Bold, the Bold 9000. A quick check at the dimensions of the first Bold and its 2011 variant showed that both devices share a similar width at 66mm. According to RIM, the Bold 9900's keyboard has an increased width at 6% compared to its earlier Bold series. In our opinion, we think RIM revisited its roots.
We've also noticed how the Bold 9900 uses a brushed stainless steel frame, which is evident from its borders. This is a departure from the Bold 9700 and Bold 9780, which focused heavily on a plastic build. Its rear is now covered by a glass-weave backplate. Though it lacks the firm grip from the leather finish spotted on the earlier Bolds, it does give the Bold 9900 a much more appealing look to its aesthetics.
The Bold 9900, as mentioned earlier, takes a step further and incorporates new elements into its form factor. Firstly, its display gets a bump up to 2.8-inches, with a higher display resolution at 640 x 480 pixels. To be more detailed, the Bold 9900's display delivers 287 dpi, and it's not surprising given the modest screen size accompanied by a higher display resolution. More importantly, this is the first of its Bold series that sports a capacitive touch screen display, giving you two ways to interact with the Bold 9900. The traditional trackpad is still viable as a navigation tool, and it could take some getting used to due to its sensitivity. The alternative, its capacitive touch screen, does offer up a new perspective towards how we approach the QWERTY-based smartphone. Based on our early hands-on, the 2.8-inch display is relatively responsive, though its restrictive size could pose a challenge to larger fingers.
This leads us to the next item on our list - the BlackBerry 7 OS. Looking at it on an external level, you won't see a major change in its user interface. Deep down, a few features have been introduced to enhance its overall usability. For one, its universal search function now supports voice activation, but we believe it's less likely for anyone to rely on their voice to initiate a search on the smartphone. Its web browser is now even more ready for HTML5, with support provided for new elements such as HTML5 video. The real draw comes from its BlackBerry Balance function, separating personal and corporate content from each other on the device. In essence, your corporate data can be segmented away from your personal data, and should a remote wipe be required, it will only affect your corporate data. Furthermore, such corporate data will be prevented from being copied or forwarded to your personal profile, keeping your corporate data safe from further dissemination.
Other features that have been highlighted on the Bold 9900 are the support of near field communication (NFC) and augmented reality. The latter is more pertinent for location-based services, and has been in practice on most other mobile operating systems. NFC, however, is still highly reliant on the market infrastructure and its support across the country. As such, should the market fall short on NFC support, this particular feature on the Bold 9900 will be underutilized.
As for availability, RIM has stated that the Bold 9900 will be available globally beginning this summer. While RIM couldn't provide us with a firmer time frame for this, we should be looking at a Q3 2011 availability, which ranges anytime from July to the end of September. Pricing is still not available, but we will keep a close eye on the Bold 9900 once it becomes available in the region.
Key highlights of the BlackBerry Bold 9900