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A little bolder, a little better

A little bolder, a little better
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First Published: Sat, Feb 20 2010. 07 09 AM IST

Sexed-up: The BlackBerry Bold 2 gets the style quotient right.
Sexed-up: The BlackBerry Bold 2 gets the style quotient right.
Updated: Thu, Apr 29 2010. 12 05 PM IST
When the first BlackBerry Bold, or the 9000 handset, was released, I was initially impressed mightily with the phone. Then, as I used it more, quite underwhelmed.
Sexed-up: The BlackBerry Bold 2 gets the style quotient right.
The 9000 was powerful and had an outstanding display. It was perhaps the first BlackBerry handset to combine serious multimedia capabilities with its trademark messaging functions. Above all, in that model, makers Research in Motion (RIM) tried to incorporate a little oomph. The 9000 had rounded edges, shiny metal finishing and leatherette back cover.
A potent combination. At least at first glance. But then, once you actually tried using it for a while, the chinks began to show. The phone was too big, too heavy, too expensive and some of the design elements just didn’t work. There were too many curves, and the faux leather back cover was a little too...faux.
All this flawed genius for a price not that much less than the so-sexy-it-aches iPhone.
The reborn BlackBerry Bold 2, or 9700, overcomes most of these faults adequately. With the Bold 2, BlackBerry seems to have finally nailed that elusive device: a full Qwerty smartphone that looks great and has performance to match.
First of all, the phone has received a comprehensive facelift. Gone are the curved corners that made the old Bold look like a giant squashed Halls mint. Instead, we have a sleeker handset with a distinctly more stylish silhouette. RIM seems to have picked up a few design cues from the Curve range of handsets, especially with the chrome trimming around the bottom of the keyboard. This is not a handset you want to hide in a holster. This is the BlackBerry you flaunt with pride.
Sleeker and lighter, the most significant change is the new optical trackpad. BlackBerry has been using this alternative for the trackball in several new models, including the 8520 and 8900 Curves. It is a brilliant piece of interface design. The old trackball was erratic and often failed in mysterious ways (thereby generating several how-to video tutorials online).
The optical trackpad, on the other hand, has no moving parts, needs no cleaning and is intuitive to use. So much so that browsing through long Web pages and dozens of email is now almost enjoyable. For some users, the sensitivity and response of the trackpad can be quite unnerving the first few times. In a good way.
The Bold 2 uses the BlackBerry OS 5.0 operating system most users should be familiar with, but it does come with some minor but pretty changes. Drop-down menus have been redesigned, and setting clocks and alarms uses a nice new number wheel interface.
The Bold 2’s weight reduction also trimmed some screen size but the display quality is as good as it was before. The keyboard also received a little squeeze. I found the new keyboard harder to use than those of both the old Bold and the 8520 Curve. I kept hitting the wrong buttons or hitting two at a time. The guitar fret-style dividers are good to look at but add nothing to usability.
The phone also has a good 3.2 megapixel camera with auto focus, picture stabilizer and flash. As good as most good camera phones these days.
My two big grouses with the phone were not the ones I expected. First, the phone seemed sluggish with multitasking. Switching from a Twitter application to email, or the browser and then back, seemed slow and ponderous. Second, the Web browser was slower than the one on 8520 Curve (even using the downloadable Opera browser didn’t help. The phone just seemed to handle data slowly).
A final complaint was not so surprising though: The Bold 2 costs Rs31,990. That is way too much money for a phone when you can do so many of the same things on 8520 Curve that costs half as much. Or get an iPhone or Android phone for a similar price.
Still, if your employer is buying it for you...then enjoy the Bold 2. It is the best Qwerty BlackBerry yet.
sidin.v@livemint.com
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First Published: Sat, Feb 20 2010. 07 09 AM IST