Full marks to all the three phones for their brilliant display. While the Bold boasts a “half-VGA” resolution 480x320 pixel, 65,000-colour backlit TFT LCD display, the Storm and 8900 come with high-resolution 480x360 pixel screens with 65,000 colours. The light-sensing screens on all three are impressive, with bright, vivid and sharp colours. The readability of the crisp text is enhanced further by the possibility of user-selectable font sizes.
While the Bold and Curve feature full Qwerty backlighting keyboards, the Storm has a touch-screen keypad. Dedicated Send, End, Menu and Return keys aside, the Storm gives you SureType and multi-tap (portrait) as well as Qwerty (landscape) on-screen keyboards. Its SurePress technology and tactile feedback work fine for menus and the dial pad.
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But texting on the Storm tends to become a bit too laboured (and error-prone, if you are typing fast) even on the well-spaced keypad in landscape mode. Of course, SureType predictive text is far better than T9. If you are addicted to medium-to-heavy use of the alpha pad, the Bold is by far the best with its spacious keypad. The 8900 makes you type more gingerly and pudgy fingers on it will be plagued by typos.
Also Read Clicking up a Storm
The Bold and 8900 employ those efficient “Pearly” trackballs for onscreen navigation and scrolling. While the Bold trackball lights up, the one on the 8900 doesn’t, and that doesn’t look very appealing.
Voice clarity over the integrated earpiece and microphone is very good in all three phones. There were no call drops on any of the handsets during the test period. The phones are 3.5mm stereo headset-capable and feature very coherent and loud built-in speaker phones.
Also See Head to Head (PDF)
In tonal quality, the Bold, with its twin speakers, sounds the best, with powerful and resonant output. No complaints with the Storm, but the 8900 emanates a sharper, shriller sound in comparison—still not weak or tinny.
The Bold has a fast 624MHz processor, while the 8900 uses a 512MHz CPU. By far the most lethargic of the lot is the Storm, despite a 624MHz processor. You just can’t help noticing its groggy responses. Onboard memory in both the Bold and Storm is 1GB, while the 8900 has none.
RAM-wise, the 8900 has double (256MB) of what Bold and Storm (128MB) tote. While the Bold and 8900 offer hot swappable support for SDHC/microSD cards, the Storm requires you to open the rear panel, pop the battery (thereby resetting the phone each time) to insert/remove microSD cards.
Since instant push email is any BlackBerry’s forte, all these handsets work with BlackBerry Enterprise Servers for Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, Novell GroupWise, along with providing integration with existing enterprise and personal email accounts. Setting up accounts is easy.
With average mail and voice usage, you need to charge these phones almost every day. Battery life on the Bold is the weakest in this group. The 8900 has a good 3.2-megapixel camera—a shade better than what you get on most phone cameras. The Storm’s 3.2 also delivers decent results but it’s excessive shutter lag time is obtrusive, especially with the flash.
GPS (on the Bold and 8900; A-GPS on Storm) functions well on all three but you need to download Google Maps to get anywhere as the pre-loaded maps for India are useless. Remember, Google Maps provides only locational abilities, not navigational.
In terms of security, the phones offer password protection and keyboard/screen locking and offer support for AES or Triple DES encryption when integrated with a BlackBerry Enterprise Server. While the Bold is FIPS 140-2 validated, the Storm is FIPS 140-2 compliant.
On the Wi-Fi front, the Bold offers 802.11a/b/g and the 8900 has 802.11b/g. The Storm lacks Wi-Fi. Even if you presume that most BlackBerry users use GPRS/EDGE data services, it is an odd omission for a phone that has some inherent Web browsing advantages over regular phones with smaller displays.
The Bold may not be beautiful but it is certainly bountiful in features, functions, power and performance. Most importantly, if a large part of your BlackBerry usage is going to be spent thumbing its keypad—mailing, texting, chatting—the Bold is your best bet. Apart from a good display, great audio and super-efficient keyboard, the Bold comes across as a well-rounded handset that scores on all fronts other than its battery life.
Viewing Web pages, documents, images, video and GPS is by far the best on the Storm. This phone’s USP lies in its large screen and novelty factor, not so much in its touch screen or usability. Forget speed, few mail mavens like typing on a touch screen. If brevity of words is the soul of your texting/mail and reading mail or browsing the Web is all-important, this handset may work for you. Pity it lacks Wi-Fi to speed up browsing near hotspots. Its awesome screen with a sensitive tilt-motion sensor compensates for what it lacks as a multimedia powerhouse. Overall, the phone has potential but isn’t quite ready for prime time yet due to its speed and usability, especially as BlackBerrys go.
The assertive 8900 has the proficiency and prowess to give the Bold a scare. It does nearly everything that the Bold (and more, from the multimedia angle) is capable of. The sexiest BlackBerry Qwerty around, the 8900 notches up points for its leaner, meaner vital statistics. Though, for many, the trimness cuts into keyboard comfort, there’s no denying that it’s fast, efficient and effective.
Looking for free applications to make your BlackBerry smartphone even smarter? Try these.
reQall (www.reqall.com): A voice-to-text recorder, task/shopping list/idea manager, reminder service and memory aid.
Nobex (www.nobexrc.com): A streaming radio app that gives you about a 100 stations.
Vlingo (www.vlingo.com): Gives your mobile a voice-powered user interface.
Viigo (www.viigo.com/home): News, blogs, sports, stocks, podcasts, entertainment and more.
Google Maps (www.google.com/mobile/default/maps.html):When BlackBerry Maps don’t suffice.
Mobipocket Reader (www.mobipocket.com): Buy and read your e-book here. ASHISH BHATIA
Do you have 60,000 songs that you’d like to cram into your iPod? Rapid Repair (RapidRepair.com), a company that specializes in repairing iPods, will soon enable you to upgrade your iPod to Toshiba’s new 240-GB hard drive ($295), giving you room for roughly 60,000 tracks. Only fifth-generation iPod Video devices are compatible with the new 1.8-inch drive, however. Rapid Repair will upgrade the drive at no cost, or you can crack open your iPod and install the drive yourself. It has also published a guide to replacing the drive on its website. But either way, any hard-drive upgrade will void the warranty. ©2009/ THE NEW YORK TIMES
Freeware application Floola (www.floola. com) allows you to sync not just music to your iPod but also your Google Calendars. And all without iTunes. The Windows-, Linux- and Mac-compatible program—that sadly doesn’t support iPhones or iPod Touch models—lets you do almost everything you do with iTunes and more... So you can convert audio- and video-incompatible formats, dig out duplicates, find lost files, add Web videos by copy-pasting URLs, export to HTML, fetch podcasts, manage notes, or keep your Google calendars neatly synced. ASHISH BHATIA
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