Research in Motion (RIM) has come a long way since the introduction of the first member of the Bold family, the BlackBerry Bold 9000 in 2008. The Bold 9000 was a massive hit in both the enterprise and mainstream markets due to its excellent QWERTY keyboard, 2.6-inch screen and a more appealing look. A year later, RIM released the successor, the BlackBerry Bold 9700. The Bold 9700 brings about several changes to the design, which include replacing the trackball traditionally found in BlackBerry devices. It also has a smaller QWERTY keyboard and comes in a more portable form factor. However, the incentive to upgrade wasn't appealing as the changes were mostly aesthetic. Late last year, the BlackBerry Bold 9780 was revealed, with most changes under the hood. The key highlight of the Bold 9780 is the BlackBerry 6 OS, which makes the user interface more usable and modernized.
Fast forward to 2011, we are eager to know how the next member of the Bold family will fare, especially in recent times when RIM is struggling against the onslaught of Apple's iPhones and Google Android's smartphones. The BlackBerry Bold 9900 was first unveiled at the BlackBerry World in May. We regard the Bold 9900 as the gallant warrior sent by RIM to stem their declining smartphone market share while buying time to transit to the new QNX OS it acquired in April 2010. How can the new Bold member help RIM? Let's begin with its design aspects:
In terms of looks, the BlackBerry Bold 9900 looks no different from the previous Bold models - a candybar form factor with a physical QWERTY keyboard. The Bold 9900 ups the ante on its predecessors' 2.44-inch screen with a 2.8-inch capacitive touch screen. It is not only the largest screen size ever featured on a Bold, it is also the first of the series to incorporate a touch screen. Besides having a larger screen, the BlackBerry Bold 9900 sports a roomier QWERTY keyboard compared to the Bold 9780. According to RIM, the keyboard found on the Bold 9900 is six percent wider.
Despite equipping it with a larger display and roomier keyboard, RIM has managed to shave off unnecessary thickness for the Bold 9900, making it the thinnest BlackBerry smartphone today at 10.5mm.
You would have noticed by now, the metallic frame surrounding the body of the Bold 9900. It is a stark contrast to the Bold 9780, which is mainly made up of plastic. We praise RIM's decision to have a design overhaul for the flagship model. The metal used is stainless steel and we really like how the Bold 9900 looks. It is simply stunning and looks even better than the silver chrome border on the old BlackBerry Bold 9000.
We are glad to find that the buttons also match the brushed stainless steel frame of the Bold 9900. It would have been a terrible design mismatch if RIM places plastic buttons along the metallic frame.
The last physical change to the design of the phone is found at the back of the BlackBerry Bold 9900. RIM replaces the leather back of the Bold 9780 with a glass-weave backplate. We have mixed feelings about this change. While the new backplate blends in with the body of the Bold 9900, we miss the firm grip provided by the leather backing found on previous Bold models including the Bold 9780.