It has been a long time in the making. The infamous trackball that has graced the faces of so many BlackBerry devices is taking its last few breaths. Those were my initial thoughts, when I heard that there would be a BlackBerry Bold 9650 out to replace the Tour 9630. If you are a Tour owner, or know one, then you are fully aware of the trackball, and its many problems. Could RIM really pull it off though? Many must have thought the same thing when the transition from the scroll wheel to the trackball on the 81xx Pearl series was announced. It was a huge success for RIM, and took them in a new direction. The same can be said about the trackpad used on the Bold 9650.
It’s the Tour part 2. It’s a new Tour. It looks like a Tour. It’s a Bold. It’s confusing. What is that pad? Those are probably some of the thoughts that crossed many of your minds when you first saw or heard about this phone. It’s true, well most of it is. It is new. It is a Bold. It has an optical trackpad. But is it a Tour? You realize that it is not a Tour when you open the package and pick it up for the first time.
In the box:
You get all of the standard stuff, phone, battery, battery cover, USB cable, wall charger with interchangeable outlet adapters, swivel holster, headphones, 2gb removable MicroSD card, manual, Desktop Manager disc, and basic information that comes with all phones.
Solid. That is the only word that I can use to describe the 9650. It feels like a phone should. The build quality is back to where it should be for RIM. Everything is tight, and crisp on the phone. The battery cover fits perfectly. The keys are slightly different from the Tour, but in a good way. They are slightly clicker and have a little better feedback. In comparison to the Tour, there is no comparison.
Physically, it looks like the same phone. Aside from the trackball/trackpad, you wouldn’t really know the difference at first. Once you compare the keyboard though, you will see a difference. The keys on the Tour are all curved equally. On the Bold 9650, they start out curved with the top row, and become less curved as you move south on the keyboard, so that when you get to the bottom row, they are almost straight across. This makes it feel a little less cramped when you are typing. A slight change in appearance also comes with the new green phone and red end key. The Bold is slightly thinner than the Tour, but tips the scales at slightly more than the Tour which comes as a surprise. It also comes as a surprise that the charging port, while still on the lower right hand side of the phone (annoying RIM – read this!!!) has been moved slightly. This means that any accessories that you may have thought would fit once you upgraded, might not. I was able to continue to use my OEM desktop charging dock from my Tour with no issues with the Bold.
It’s a phone first. We tend to forget this, especially when dealing with a smartphone. We have many needs, like email, web browsing, applications and all the bells and whistles. The Bold performs well as a phone. The speaker volume is great, as is the in call speaker. There was no distortion, and I had no issues with any dropped calls. The unit is on the Verizon network, and Verizon has outstanding coverage where I live.
It’s still a BlackBerry:
v188.8.131.529 came on the Bold, but as you read this, that may change. I found no flaws with the OS. Everything was stable. On board memory is unreal. In its current state, loaded with themes and applications, I am sitting at 315124256 bytes which to most BlackBerry users is unheard of. That is three times the memory of my Tour, which is also loaded with themes and applications. There is plenty of room on this phone for whatever you can download. The camera is the same 3.2 megapixel that is found on the Tour, with auto-focus and a brilliant LED flash. I found the picture quality to be very nice. There is a non camera version of the Bold available for those who may work in a place where camera phones are not allowed.
This is a nice addition to an already impressive device. Setting up a connection to a network was simple, and I had no issues staying connected. I tried this with several wireless networks, and it was always the same experience. This was my first exposure to a BlackBerry with wifi, and it was a welcome addition. No wireless network available? Hop on the free wifi that can be found in so many restaurants and coffee shops, malls, airports, etc. and get the information that you need.
I saved the trackpad for last. At this time, I am undecided about the trackpad. In comparison to the trackball, it is a huge improvement, since there won’t be rollerball issues that the Tour was plagued with. Is it better though? That is my biggest question. After using 4 different BlackBerry devices with the trackball, making the change to a trackpad has been more difficult than I initially thought. I found that it worked very well. I found the sensitivity of it to be an issue. Once the sensitivity was adjusted to an acceptable level, it made the trackpad seem more usable. This will not be the case with everyone, that I can be sure of. One problem that I did run into, was sweaty hands. It’s summer here, and it’s hot out. I pulled out the Bold to browse the internet looking for some information. And this is where the issues began. The trackpad does not seem to work so well unless you have a clean, dry thumb. Scrolling with the trackpad was an issue, much like a stuck trackball on the Tour. They reacted much in the same manner. You would scroll and scroll, and nothing would happen. It was almost as if your finger was just sliding right off the trackpad. This was my experience, and yours may differ.