As opposed to elsewhere, where I do in depth reviews of certain devices, this is a little mini-review that reflects the experience of my first month carrying the new Blackberry 9700, aka the Bold2. If you’re looking for a more general overview of the device I suggest Crackberry.com’s review.
In the weeks just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday my 3 year old Blackberry 8100 was failing. The mechanical trackball from which the models “Pearl” nickname was derived was simply failing. I cleaned it a couple of times but each time it would again become unresponsive after just a few days. It’s time had come.
I wasn’t settled upon another Blackberry as it’s replacement. I had been happy with the handset for a long time, but felt that a full keyboard would better meet my needs moving forward.
Further, while I was interested in Android powered phones, I wasn’t willing to change carriers based solely on hardware availability. I’m basically happy with T-Mobile. I wasn’t about to move to Verizon Wireless just to get access to a Motorola Droid.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend I finally caved in, the combination of holiday special pricing and a failing old phone was too much to avoid. I was eligible for a discount if I renewed my contract, which was a perfectly sensible move. In fact, since I have a family plan with two handsets I found that I was eligible for two discounted handsets, which could come in handy later on.
I went to a T-Mobile store and examined the handsets on offer. The leading candidates were the Blackberry 9700, G-1 and MyTouch 3G. The G-1 felt too chunky, and seemed like it was moving into the twilight of its life cycle as a product. The MyTouch didn’t have a full keyboard, which left me with the Blackberry 9700.
Since I had been very happy with my old Blackberry I was comfortable making that choice. The upgrade pricing combined with the holiday special meant that I left the shop having parted company with about $180 for the handset and a simple gel case. The handset actually included a leather case with a belt clip, but I like the protective gel cases and prefer to not put the phone on my belt much of the time.
The first thing you’ll notice about the 9700 is that the display is beautiful. While not especially large for a smartphone, and not a touch screen, it’s truly an outstanding LCD. The display features good color reproduction, decent resolution, and it’s driven by a very peppy processor.
The mechanical trackball has been replaced by an optical trackpad. It took me literally only a few minutes to become accustomed to this change. After a month of using the 9700 I wonder how I ever got by with the Pearl. The trackpad is dramatically better than the old hardware.
On the other hand, the keyboard took me some time to appreciate. Long ago I bought the Pearl specifically because it didn’t have a full keyboard. As my first smartphone I thought there could be an issue with me responding to emails in a knee-jerk fashion. The Pearl style keyboard was very inconvenient to use, which meant that it wasn’t easy to compose emails on the Pearl. I had to really want or need to reply to something to go to the trouble of responding on the phone.
The 9700s keyboard has smallish keys, or perhaps I have large fingers. I’m still working on ensuring that I don’t mistype when composing messages on the 9700.
I was more than a little dismayed to see that the 9700 features a micro-USB charging port. I’ve got a good sized box of old cell phone chargers in my closet but this was the first phone that I’ve had that uses this new standard.
So I had to accept that I was going to be forced to buy all new charging accessories. I typically like to have two AC chargers (home & traveling) and one car charger. In fact, my recent experience with micro-USB chargers and power cables deserves its own post, so I’ll leave it for another time.
Speaking of connectors, I was again a little dismayed to find that the 9700 uses a 3.5mm connector for the wired headset jack. That means that it doesn’t accommodate my favorite Etymotic wired headset, at least not without some form of adapter. That headset has a 2.5mm 3 conductor plug more common to MP3 players.
The 3.5mm 4 conductor jack is wired to handle a stereo headset with a mic element, reflecting the fact that the 9700 is a phone but includes some very usable media playback tools. I’ve used the 9700 to listen to some podcasts while traveling, although since I don’t yet have a suitable wired headset I’ve been using my Plantronics Savi Go Bluetooth headset.
I found that Slacker Radio was installed, and listened to a comedy channel one evening while killing time in a hotel. I can see that coming in handy as I travel.