BlackBerry Style Review: A Look at RIMs New Flip Device

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Introduction to the BlackBerry Style

With the BlackBerry Style 9670, RIM is trying to combine the experience of a full-feature BlackBerry device with a sleek flip-phone design. Sure, they have tried before with the Pearl Flip series, but while that device used the poorly titled SureType keyboard, the Style uses a full QWERTY keyboard. While the presence of a full keyboard is a big plus, it does cause some design issues that might be too much for some consumers to handle. The Style is also the first non-touchscreen device to ship with the new BlackBerry 6.0 operating system, which is almost universally seen as a plus. The Style is available on the Sprint network at release, and is marketed toward people who are looking for a low-end smartphone. The phone has a lot going for it, but will the handful of drawbacks be enough to advise you to skip this one? There’s only one way to find out, on to the review!

Design (5 out of 5)

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The body of the BlackBerry Style, which comes in steel gray or royal purple, measures 3.78 inches long and 2.36 inches wide. These measurements make it shorter than most smartphones, but not much wider. The Style may feel a little thick, at 0.73 inches when it is closed, but that is expected as there are two halves to the device. At 4.62 ounces the phone feels solid, without feeling like a brick in your hand or pocket.

Since it is a flip device, the BlackBerry Style has two LCDs. The external color LCD measures 2 inches from corner to corner and has a resolution of 240x320 pixels. The LCD is very legible, and considering that it is only there to display a clock, signal, battery or incoming messages, one wonders if they couldn’t have gone with something a little smaller here and knocked the price point down even further. The internal LCD measures 2.7 inches and has a 360x400 resolution and can support up to 65,000 colors. Although the screen is a little small, compared to most of today’s smartphones, when you combine that size with a decent resolution you wind up with an excellent looking screen.

On one side of the Style there is a microUSB charging port and a 3.5mm headset jack. On the other you will find the volume buttons and convenience key. The camera is housed on the back of the device, along with the LED flash. Finally there is a microSD card slot located under the battery cover. Under the flip you have a full QWERTY keyboard, four standard BlackBerry keys and an optical trackpad.

User Interface (5 out of 5)

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I’ve discussed how much I like the new BlackBerry OS 6.0 before, and that enjoyment is only increased when I am using a device without a touchscreen. Now naturally, navigation is a little more difficult on devices without touchscreens, but the UI is just so fast and responsive that I don’t even care.

The home page looks a little different than other BlackBerry home pages, with a status bar across the top, followed by a notification bar and finally a navigation bar near the bottom that lets you quickly flip through several application categories: Frequent, Downloads, Media Favorites and All. The programs are all intuitively placed and the messaging and email programs are a breeze to access and use. With the lightning-quick response of the operating system, I have no issues at all getting around the device.

The QWERTY keyboard is one of the main selling points for the BlackBerry Style, and it does not disappoint. While the keyboard is similar in size to the one on the Torch, the Style keyboard feels easier to use. While the keys are flat, the keyboard is slanted a little bit, allowing you to type without having to stare at the keyboard. The key selection is standard for BlackBerry devices, and anyone who used one before should feel right at home.

Features (4 out of 5)

One of the best features of the new BlackBerry operating system is the universal search feature. As soon as you start typing, the BlackBerry Style starts searching through all of the possible matches on the phone and gives them to you as they are found. You can also change the search feature to search through Google, YouTube and the App World as well.

The Style comes equipped with a 5 megapixel camera, which is positioned on the back of the lower half of the device. This can be a little uncomfortable when you are holding the phone open while trying to keep your hand out of the way. The camera has an autofocus feature, an LED flash, a geo-tagging option and a host of shooting modes. The picture quality is good, but nothing to get excited about.

The BlackBerry Style comes with the WebKit-based browser that all 6.0 devices have, and if you are still using an old BlackBerry, this one feature is enough to head out and get a 6.0 device. The browser is easy to use, offers tabbed browsing and loads even large web pages quickly.

If you are looking for a way to stay connected to your social networking applications, then the Style has exactly what you are looking for. Applications for all of the major social networking sites, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, come preloaded on the BlackBerry Style and integrate well with the phone’s software. There is also the Social Feeds application, which will put all of your status updates and RSS feeds into one place.

Performance (3 out of 5)

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Call quality on the BlackBerry Style was average, as there was occasionally some static in the line, but it may have just been the service area I was using. The Style seemed to hold a signal very well, with it staying close to maximum bars during my tests. The speakerphone is effective, but nothing special. Data speeds are very good, with even busy web pages loading in a few seconds and large files coming down fairly quickly.

The processor in the Style is only 667 MHz, but I can’t stress enough how quickly and easily the Style moves through applications and tabbed web pages. This feels like there is some serious power underneath the case. The BlackBerry Style also has 512 MB of onboard memory and ships with an 8 GB memory card, so that you never run out of room. The battery on the Style is rated at 4.5 hours of talk time and did better than that during the tests.

Verdict for the BlackBerry Style (4 out of 5)

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The BlackBerry Style has a lot of reasons to love it, and just a few things to hold it back. It has a good design, a solid build and a very strong operating system. I personally like the style and shape of the device, but I have heard some dissent on that point from several people, so it seems that the form factor is kind of a love it or hate it feature. As far as the BlackBerry experience goes, this device does everything you can ask. If you have used an older BlackBerry before you will pick up this new operating system within a few days, and if you have never used a BlackBerry before it will take you a few days at most to feel comfortable using the device.

The BlackBerry Style is attractively priced at $99.99, which includes a two-year agreement and $150 in rebates. Overall, you get a lot of device for not a lot of money.

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