It looks extremely smart, the display is knock-em-dead bright and sharp.
It feels very solidly constructed, giving an instant impression of high quality.
It does it all. 3G, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, autofocus camera - this is the first Blackberry with everything. Add in the most famous and best established mobile email service and there is nothing else to come close.
It sets up very easily. WiFi connection is brilliantly simple, and when you've done that the phone will always access the internet by WiFi whenever your defined network is within range. You can define many networks, I don't know the limit, and when the phone sees one you've defined it connects to it.
Setting up the Blackberry push email service is a doddle, and you can do it on the phone itself or on your mobile provider's web site. You just have to supply the phone's IMEI and Blackberry pin to create the account, and then you tell it which email accounts to access. All it needs for each account is the email address and password, that's it, no more to do. After that the Blackberry service scoops up all your emails and zapps them out to the phone. This is not just a case of copying emails to the phone, that's easy, this is a fully synched service, so if you delete an email on the phone it is also deleted from the email account. You can set up a default address from which all your replies appear to come, or you can choose with each reply you send. Blackberry have been doing this for many years, and it all works very well indeed.
Please note that subscription to Blackberry Internet Service (BIS)is required for full email functionality, all the major UK networks offer plans inclusive of BIS.
The GPS function works the best I have seen in a phone, enabling me to get fixes to within 3 metres even when indoors, if close to a window. The supplied Blackberry Maps software is effective but looks crude, Google Maps is a much better package and integrates perfectly. When (if?) Google's free turn-by-turn voice navigation is launched in the UK the 9700 will be a perfect platform because the speaker can easily be heard above road noise. Edit: Since I wrote this review it has become clear that Google's free turn-by-turn voice navigation is restricted to Android devices.
The speaker is easily, far and away, by a country mile, the best I have come across in a phone, making hands-free calls very convenient. It is entirely feasible to listen to a few groovy tunes on it; sing out Mama, but give that sandwich a miss.
I have mentioned the excellent integration with email, and I have set it up on accounts with Virgin, TalkTalk, and Google. When you sync it with Google you also a get a brilliant link with Google Calendar, and that really is a gold-plated feature. Make entries on your calendar using a PC, and your phone calendar is automatically updated, the reverse is also true. Sure, an Android phone will do the Google synch thing, but it won't match the 9700 on other features and sheer class, and it will always look a teenager's phone.
As our phones have become the cameras in our pockets, it may be worth mentioning that the 9700 has a good one, producing excellent images. The LED flash is inevitably weak, but daylight shots compare very well with those from my previous phone, an SE CyberShot. It is only a 3.2MP unit, but anyone who has much experience of digital cameras knows that pixel count is not the sole measure of picture quality. As a phone camera, it is more than good enough.
Did I say you can make phone calls with it? How boring, but I feel I should mention it syncs very nicely with your Google contacts list, and editing contacts is so much easier on a computer screen. If, over many years and many generations of phones, your contacts list has become a hideous mess of triplicated entries, each with a different number, that is highly resolvable. From whatever old phones you have, copy all contacts to a sim. Now insert that sim in your Berry, and copy contacts from sim to phone. Of course, you will now have a contacts list that is an abomination in the sight of the holy, but hold fast, and shortly thereafter the list will be reflected on Google. On your Google contacts page, make a check against all entries with the same name, click to merge, edit out the disused numbers, and a little miracle happens. Your phone will be updated with a contacts list with all your info for a person as one entry; numbers, email and postal addresses. Sweet as a nut.
It has all the expected smart phone functions, there's no point me trolling through them. Suffice it say that everything on the 9700 has worked perfectly for me, and it all works fast. There's no delay in opening applications, I've had no hang-ups, no crashes, no unfortunate occurences.
The price. Does a phone really cost more to make than a laptop computer?
The keypad can feel a little cramped to start with, especially if you have podgy fingers and bite your nails, so stop being a cannibal. Like I can talk! I have found that the more I concentrate on typing correctly the more mistakes I make. The best way is to do it Star Wars style; just go at it and let the force guide you. It will feel like you're hitting two or three keys at once, but will actually be very accurate, and the (good) spell checker will soon sort out any errors.
You will instantly want to protect it the best way possible, so you will be right back on Amazon looking for the perfect case. A leather Blackberry wallet is included, but it does not offer any protection to the top of the phone, and the phone has to be withdrawn from it to be used, necessitating the use of both hands. The good thing about all Blackberry OEM cases is that they have a little magnet built-in that puts the phone into a power-saving mode, but it can still receive calls and data. Obviously the best way to protect your phone it to leave it in a drawer at home, after that you're in the land of compromise between protection and utility. I think I've settled on an OtterBox Commuter Case for Blackberry Bold 9700
as possibly the best compromise. It looks cool and has a fine Leninist-industrial feel to it, but as for drop-testing it onto concrete, I'll wait for someone else's results.
SMS conversations are presented in a thread format, and there is no option to change that. Traditionally, when you sent a text message it was gone from your sight forever, unless you wanted to delve around in the Sent folder. With this phone, the text you typed remains, and replies appear underneath in a Twitter-like way until you delete the whole thread. If you like that style it's probably great, but I wish I could go back to just having a text inbox.
The charging connection is micro-USB, and it is tight, very tight. Sooner or later that socket is going to pull away from the circuit board, I'm sure of that. To avert that hazard, on each bottom corner of the phone there is a contact such that the phone can be dropped into a BlackBerry 9700 Bold Charging Pod (Silver)
. This is a quality item, but you will have to take your Berry out of its case to use it.
The supplied browser is sub-standard. It works, just, and there are a number of free alternatives such as Bolt and Opera Mini, but if web browsing is your main use for a smart phone then the 9700 Bold may disappoint.
Every feature of the Blackberry 9700 appears to have been thought through by intelligent people, I cannot say how pleased I am with it.
As in all things, personal taste applies. If a touch-screen does it for you, then the Bold 9700 will not be a good friend in your pocket. But if you want a very functional phone delivering unrivalled communications facilities this could be the one for you.