Introduction to the BlackBerry Bold 9650
RIM released the BlackBerry bold 9650 for CDMA vendors as a replacement for the BlackBerry Tour 9630. The 9650 has the same form factor as its predecessor, and it can work internationally as well, but it has a few serious upgrades that set it apart including trackpad and Wi-Fi connectivity. Anyone who was happy with the Tour should be perfectly satisfied with the Bold 9650, but otherwise BlackBerry technology seems to have passed the 9650 by in just a few months since it has been released. If you can get over the drawbacks and don’t mind waiting for the upgraded operating system, the Bold 9650 may be the right phone for you.
Design (4 out of 5)
For anyone who was familiar with the Tour 9630, the Bold 9650 looks exactly the same except it has a trackpad instead of the trackball. The device measures 4.43 inches long, 2.4 inches wide and is .56 inches thick. At 4.8 ounces it is light enough that it doesn’t feel like a brick in your pocket, while being heavy enough to make you feel like the device is solid. The body of the Bold 9650 is made from smooth rubber and textured plastic, along with a faux metal bezel. The screen on the Bold 9650 is 2.4 inches and supports a 480-by-360 resolution.
Below the screen is a trackpad with the four standard BlackBerry buttons and finally a full QWERTY keyboard. On the right side of the device you will find the micro-USB charging port, the camera key, the volume buttons and the 3.5mm headset jack. On the top are the ringer and lock buttons, while the left side only has the voice dialing button that you can program to another application if you need to.
User Interface (2 out of 5)
Interfacing with the Bold 9650 requires using the trackpad and the keyboard, and RIM has plenty of experience in designing both. The trackpad is one of the major changes from the Tour, and one of the most welcome since the Tour trackball has all of the issues of the Curve trackball, without the ability to quickly replace it. The trackpad is extremely responsive, almost too responsive out of the box, but the sensitivity can be easily altered and using the trackpad becomes second nature very quickly. The keyboard is well-spaced and a breeze to use.
The Bold 9650 comes with the BlackBerry 5.0 operating system, which is kind of a shame since 6.0 came out not long after the device did. The 9650 will get an upgrade to the new operating system, but there has been no official announcement about a date when the upgrade will be out. Until that time, unless you don’t mind using a cracked version, you are stuck with the old OS, which is a shame since 6.0 really changes the entire look and feel of the BlackBerry software for the better. While navigating around the 5.0 software is still fairly easy, except for the terrible web browser, the lack of support for the OS that was released at close to the same time is a real drawback.
Features (3 out of 5)
The big upgrade from the Tour to the Bold 9650 is the ability of the Bold to connect to Wi-Fi networks. Even in areas that have good data coverage, switching to a Wi-Fi connection will make everything data related go so much faster. The 9650 also gives you a few Wi-Fi options and tools to help with the experience.
One of the major selling points of the Bold 9650 is the ability to use the device internationally. The device comes with a SIM card that you can use to roam internationally, but you should probably contact your service provider to get an idea about rates before you generate a bill in the thousands of dollars. You can also contact your provider to disable the supplied SIM card so that you can use a different SIM card that you purchase while you are overseas. To top it all off, the BlackBerry Bold 9650 supports the international 3G band so that you don’t have to suffer through lower data speeds while abroad.
The Bold 9650 comes with a 3.2-megapixel camera, which is a little disappointing considering some of the cameras that are in other BlackBerry devices released around the same time. The picture quality is ok, but it is nothing to write home about. You can also purchase a version of the device without the camera, if you can’t have one for various reasons (usually security related).
Messaging and email are all pretty standard on the 9650, you can have up to 10 email accounts as well as communicate on a number of different instant messaging programs. The installed programs will vary based on the wireless carrier that you have, but most will come with a handful of carrier-based applications and a few more social networking apps.
Performance (4 out of 5)
With all the extra memory that RIM put in the BlackBerry Bold 9650, 512MB to be exact, the device runs like a well-oiled machine. While it will be interesting to see how the phone holds up once the OS is updated to 6.0, for now you will experience no issues switching between applications and navigating through the device. There is a little lag when you reboot it, as is standard with a BlackBerry, but after that it is smooth sailing after that.
3G data speeds, at least on Sprint, are excellent, and I would assume that they would be good on most large 3G networks. Switching to Wi-Fi does make a world of difference when you are surfing, streaming media or downloading files. The Wi-Fi speeds are almost enough to forget about how horrible the web browser is. Almost.
Call quality is excellent, as it is on most BlackBerry devices. I could hear the other party and they could hear me without a problem. The speakerphone could have been a little bit clearer, but I could still understand was the person was saying. The battery on the device is rated for five hours and it generally lasts longer than that right out of the box.
Verdict for the BlackBerry Bold 9650 (3 out of 5)
The BlackBerry Bold 9650 is well made, runs smoothly and comes with a good assortment of features. Almost all of the drawbacks to the device will be resolved when it gets the upgrade to 6.0, but who knows how it will affect the 9650’s performance. If you need a device that can operate overseas, or you just want a simple BlackBerry device to mostly email and message with, the BlackBerry Bold 9650 may be for you. However, if you are looking for something a little more cutting edge, you may want to get a BlackBerry device that already has 6.0 built-in.