Should you buy the new BlackBerry Bold 9900?

RIM's answer to falling market share is a new series of smartphones with mouth-watering specs. First out from the goody bag is the BlackBerry Bold 9900; no other BlackBerry better than this one.

Users can rant all they want, but nothing makes CEOs hear things as clearly as a dip in market share.

For years, there was no choice to Research in Motion's (RIM's) BlackBerry when it came to enterprise e-mail and smartphone capabilities, but as I write this, Gartner's latest data shows that RIM's market share in mobile phones has fallen from 3.2 percent in Q2 2010 to 3 percent in Q2 2011, while Apple's has nearly doubled. Of course once mighty mobile phone leader Nokia has crashed in far more spectacular fashion, and that plus its own crashing stock price must be making once smartphone leader RIM wary indeed.

RIM's answer is a whole new series of smartphones with mouth-watering specs that are being launched in the next few days and weeks. This is the biggest launch in RIM's history - never before has the smartphone maker launched so many devices in so short a time, but tough times demand drastic, out-of-comfort-zone responses. And first out from RIM's all new goody bag is the BlackBerry Bold 9900.

The 9900 is the first BlackBerry with Near Field Communication (NFC) capability.Sajjad Hussain/AFP Photo

Here's my take on this new hope from RIM.At first glance, the Bold 9900 reminded me of the old Bold 9000. But mere resemblance apart, everything else is vastly different. This is the thinnest BlackBerry yet and looks great. I don't like bling and the brushed metal rim with a thin polished edge is the very opposite of bling, and gently whispers class.

At 130 gms, the Bold 9900 is heavier and bigger than its immediate predecessor, the Bold 9780 - RIM is swimming against the usual gadget release flow here - but I think it's a great decision; I loved the feel of the 9900 in my hands. Incidentally, some informal dipstick surveys I did revealed that the fairer sex may find it a tad too large.

The 9900 boasts of an 2.8-inch, 640 x 480 pixel capacitive touchscreen that is incredibly sharp thanks to BlackBerry 7 OS' Liquid Graphics technology. The touchscreen is very precise and responsive and the trackpad plus touchscreen combo works great. Even though I prefer QWERTY over touchscreens any day, I found myself intuitively using the touchscreen often.

And the QWERTY keyboard on the Bold 9900 is the best on any smartphone. Period. This one's silky soft and is all-in-all, jaw-dropping amazing. Not one wrong keystroke from the word go--it's that good.

Coming to the heart of the device, RIM for years together used a processor clocked at 624MHz across 3 generations of Bold devices and this new Bold 9900 is finally powered by something more respectable - a swift 1.2 GHz processor backed by 768 MB RAM and 8 GB of onboard memory. If you consider that its predecessor (the Bold 9780) had just 2 GB onboard memory, you'd realise this is drastic change for RIM.

Thanks to the snappy processor, this BlackBerry was a dream to use. Quick and responsive, and even reboots were no longer a pain in you know where.Some thanks for the boost in performance must also go to the new BlackBerry OS 7, but only some. While a definite and welcome improvement over OS 6 thanks to some new features, it has still some way to go before the iOS and Android fan boys will be amazed, and that way is the QNX way, which is now on the BlackBerry PlayBook and which is expected to be the next big thing from RIM.
However, OS 7 seems to have some minor issues when it comes to backward compatibility of apps. I faced this problem with 4-5 of the 25-plus apps on my BlackBerry. But, disclosure must be made that I used a pre-release device-commercially available devices may not face this problem.

On the media side of things, audio quality on the Bold 9900 is awesome. You'll notice some layers you never thought existed in your favourite music. And in standard BlackBerry style, the device plays a variety of video formats easily.
The camera is the same old 5 MP used on the 9780 - the only new feature is that OS 7 now supports up to 1280 x 720 HD video recording. As for photographs, the results are decent. Nothing to write home. I feel RIM should have provided a camera with a higher rating on its top-of-the-line smartphone rather than use an old one.

On the browsing front there are definite performance gains in terms of web page rendering and pinch and zoom thanks to Liquid Graphics. But there's still no Flash support and that's why I'm not so gaga over some of RIM's improved browsing claims.

The 9900 is the first BlackBerry with Near Field Communication (NFC) capability. RIM is the first major vendor to actually go beyond talking to deploying NFC capability on devices and must be commended for that. NFC or makes possible transactions, data exchange, and connections with a mere touch. So, you can purchase products and transfer secure information by simply touching devices. For instance, if you're in Mumbai and the Mumbai Metro finally becomes reality before the world comes to an end, you could simply take your BlackBerry close to a reader to pay for the ticket from your mobile wallet. Besides electronic money, other possibilities include file sharing, mobile gaming and much more.

With BlackBerry devices, specs are not everything - there's the legendary messaging capabilities, the fearsome security that has governments across the world trying to arm-twist RIM to give them access to the otherwise unbreakable encryption, the unmatched data optimisation and compression strengths (which is why if you receive the same e-mail messages and surf the same websites, your data bill will be still be lower on a BlackBerry as compared to other devices).

So, when you put together the looks, the specs, the performance and the price of Rs 32,490, you have a delectable combination. Yes, there are niggles like the dated camera, but when compared with the whole package, they're not so important.

The Bold 9900 is the top-of-the-line BlackBerry and overall, it lives up to the iconic Bold brand. I expect to see this smartphone flying off store shelves. If you're in the market for a top-end smartphone, do give this one a good look and if you're a BlackBerry fan, well, you'd go buy it anyway because there's no other BlackBerry better than this one.

You can read the complete review with far more details, complete specs and more on Tech2.com.

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