On 7 December, BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion (RIM) CEO Mike Lazaridis gave a bizarre interview at the All Things Digital mobile conference in the US.
Not many people could figure out what exactly he was talking about (sample answer: “By focusing on the tablet market, we see it as a way of freeing where smartphones can go”), and confidence in RIM’s strategy for the future (and for their upcoming tablet, the PlayBook) seemed uncertain at best.
The firm has had a rough time. Market share has eroded and attempts to gain a foothold in the growing touch-screen segment (with the Storm and Torch) have largely been unsuccessful, and what used to be a BlackBerry’s impressive suite of advantages has dwindled to just two—that awesome keyboard and that robust security.
In that respect, the Bold 9780 is familiar territory. It looks almost identical to the Bold 9700, but has upped the ante on the software. It now features BlackBerry OS 6, which debuted on the Torch earlier this year.
The software upgrade is great. The 9780 has a much improved browser (with tabbed browsing finally), and revamped media playback and the home screen are useful. The universal search (start typing and get results across contacts, messages, apps, what have you) cuts down a lot of needless menu swiping, and that keyboard is still an utter joy to use. The social feeds app, which compiles updates from every social network in existence, is well designed and worryingly addictive. Picture quality is very good on the 5MP camera, and those speakers at the back are surprisingly loud.
While camera quality is sufficient (in comparison with the Bold 9700), the camera app is a bit dodgy. There are still no advanced options for adjusting things such as white balance, and it stopped working twice during our review, requiring a restart. Some of the OS tweaks (such as the multiple trays) seem geared towards a touch screen, making them clunky with an optical trackpad. BlackBerry’s app market is still a barren wasteland next to the bustling bazaars of iOS and Android.
The Bold 9780 retails for Rs 27,990. BlackBerry users have no reason to complain—the price and performance here is top-notch for a non-touch screen phone, and this is the best BlackBerry you can buy at the moment. Those who’re already using a Bold should hold on the upgrade—the 9700s are due for a software update soon, making them pretty much identical to the 9780 except for slightly lower hardware specifications. For those who’re not in the BlackBerry cult, there’s nothing earth-shattering here to prompt a conversion. RIM needs a new direction for its phones of the future. The Bold may be “best-in-class” , but the diminishing category it belongs to does appear to be a bit of an evolutionary dead end.