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BlackBerry Bold 9900 expert review

RIM have upped their game with the BlackBerry Bold 9900 smartphone. It offers you more options by integrating a touchscreen into the body of the phone while still providing a smooth (if cramped) QWERTY keyboard.

I found the trackpad, which is nicely responsive, to be too close to the touchscreen for comfort - it's easy to knock the bottom of the touchscreen while trying to manoeuvre the trackpad with your thumb. I also question the decision to give what is essentially a flagship phone a mere 8GB of internal memory, but you can add a microSD card to bolster your storage space if you're planning to take full advantage of BlackBerry App World and BlackBerry Music services. Overall I was impressed with how slim, slick and responsive the Bold 9900 turned out to be, but disappointed by some glaring issues. Read on for more info.

Pros

Full QWERTY Keyboard, push e-mail, BBM, integration of touchscreen and actual buttons, bridging feature for BlackBerry PlayBook tablets.

Cons

The phone is larger than your average Blackberry, the camera isn’t as good quality as it could be and doesn’t auto focus on your subject.

Design

The Bold 9900 smartphone is larger than its predecessors but still fits comfortably in the hand. With its wider body texting and writing emails is easier, you can use one hand or two. I like how the keyboard buttons are shaped to be easier and quicker to press.  The headphone port on the left side weirdly creates a comfortable place for your finger to sit and with the sleep button perfectly in the middle it isn’t only symmetrically pleasing but also effortless to press.  The metal finish around the edge gives this device a premium feel you’d expect from a high performance smartphone.

Hardware

With a 1.2 GHz processor and 768mb of RAM, the Bold 9900 smartphone isn’t the quickest mobile device on the market.  However, this phone does have the best processor that Blackberry currently offer (accurate at time of review), and it’s able to handle most things you throw at it, like playing music while you’re editing documents.

Battery-wise there’s a 1230 mAh lithium-ion cell on board, which RIM claim offers up to 6.3 hours of talk time or 12.8 days of standby time (if untouched) on one full charge. This certainly isn’t the longest lasting BlackBerry device I’ve used, however you can improve the battery performance by leaps and bounds if you disable push notifications to stop your phone from constantly checking the server for new messages. Do this for email, BBM and turn off the GPS location services when you don’t need them. You’ll still receive new messages every time you open your inboxes and let’s face it – no one wants to be accessible all the time.

The 5MP camera captures 720p HD videos, and the image stabilisation feature does help to stop shaky hands from spoiling your clips. Because of the fixed focus lens it can be pretty difficult to take very crisp photos though.  

An NFC (Near Field Communication) chip has also been integrated, for wireless payments via a digital wallet that’s stored on your phone. Although NFC isn’t a big thing at the minute, it is becoming more popular.

Software

This device comes out of the box with BlackBerry OS 7.0, and is upgradeable to newer software versions as they become available.  It also offers you access to a resonably wide, if unimpressive, range of apps from BlackBerry App World, plus the ever popular BBM for free messaging to other BlackBerry smartphones, and BlackBerry Music services. You’ll find all the necessary social apps and tools for your phone in App World, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and location based services.

Managing your mobile - top tips

  • Purchase a second battery pack to swap out when you're on the move, or a portable charger, to improve the 6.3 hour battery life
  • When you don't need to be connected (for instance if you're on the train or in a meeting), turn off your connections by going to Manage connections > turn off connections in settings, this will disable 3G and location-based services to give you more battery life
  • Download Skype for BlackBerry and use it over Wi-Fi to make free voice calls to your family and friends (this will conserve your call allowance)
  • Download What's App for BlackBerry and use it to send text-like messages to your contacts without using up your SMS allowance

You can order the BlackBerry Bold 9900 smartphone now from Carphone Warehouse.

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