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The original Bold (9000) has been one of RIM's most successful handsets to date, and deservedly so. Combining distinctive looks with great build quality, easy operation, and a wealth of features, it still sits high on our list of top QWERTY keyboard-equipped smartphones over a year after its release. Nevertheless, with smartphone competition being so fierce at the moment a new model was certainly due and now it has been delivered in the shape of the Bold 9700.

Despite its heritage and name, the new Bold is actually quite a staid looking device. Gone is the completely faux-leather covered back with its metal camera surround, to be replaced by a much smaller patch on the back, while the chrome trimming round the front, though still present in part, is less distinctive. The whole device has shrunk as well, most noticeably in width, which is down from 66mm to 60mm. All told, RIM has toned down the look and feel of the Bold to the extent that a name change to Bland would feel more appropriate.

In truth, though, while the design isn't as strong in theme, it remains attractive and exudes class in an understated way. Likewise, the phone feels secure and comfortable in the hand and all the buttons fall easily within reach for one-handed use, though of course typing is generally a two-handed affair.

Aside from its tweaked design, the other most notable change with the 9700 compared to the 9000 is its use of the new optical trackpad that replaces the old trackball, or Pearl as RIM liked to call it. Reaction to this new trackpad has been mixed and we can see why. While it is responsive and is just as speedy to use for large movements, finer adjustments, like moving the cursor one character in a text document, can be tricky. With a bit of practice you get the hang of it – laying your thumb flat, rather than using the tip, improves tracking – but some people might find the change a bit frustrating to start with. Nonetheless, the fact that it won't get gunked up and become unusable (as many people find with the trackball) should alleviate these issues in the long run.

Aside from this, the front layout is the tried and trusted BlackBerry layout with a wide aspect screen up top, call answer, menu, back and call end/power buttons across the middle, and a QWERTY keyboard below. All the keys are backlit, have a reassuring positive click and respond quickly thanks to a nice shallow action.

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December 7, 2009, 9:41 pm

Great review as always! Any chance of an E72 review, its predecessor was awesome and I'm curious how the new one stands I'm a sucker for Nokia :)


December 8, 2009, 3:48 am

Been spending a lot of time in my old uni library and it seems like all the students have Blackberrys. RIM are definitely doing something right.

Stephen James

December 8, 2009, 4:49 am

Personally, i think it's a beautiful looking phone, and the 'name change to Bland' is a pretty harsh assessment of its aesthetics!

The biggest problems i have picked up so far are:

No tabbed browsing. (Have to use Opera if you want tabs)

Apps generally being more expensive than the iPhone ones.

The volume controls doubling up a next track button - caused fury on the train before i figured it out. Still fiddly.

The positives areas above and beyond the usual RIM qualities:

Surprisingly good camera for stills and video.

Speedy Processor - haven't had to wait for anything yet.

Absolutely immense battery life. With light general use (a few calls, a few texts, a bit of web, a few mp3's each day) i reckon you can go for a week before it's completely dead.

Stunning Screen. I honestly don't think i have seen a better screen on a mobile device. Is there anything that comes close to the dot pitch ratio of the 9700?

Keyboard probably not quite as good as the 9000, just due to that extra width - but still the second best mobile keyboard out there.

It's a pretty awesome all-rounder, with solid performance in all areas.

Beautifully simple device to use and navigate.

Great review Ed.

(FYI - would also be interested in a 9700 vs E72 article!)


December 8, 2009, 11:39 pm

Thanks for reviewing this. I've got a Motorolla V3 on Vodafone and I'm ready to upgrade. I use hotmail and I'm keen to know whether messages can be sent from there to the Blackberry (or indeed iphone). Could TR do an easy guide to the (apparently) complex world of webmail and smartphones? thanks! :-)


December 9, 2009, 12:50 am

Looks fantastic but the Blackberry Enterprise Service costs a bomb and Activesync is free! 3G Mobile reception is also extremely limited where I live. Currently quite frustrated.


December 9, 2009, 6:58 pm

I'm about 9 months into my ownership of an E71 and I love it. The battery is a bit weedy but for a small phone with excellent call quality and a briliant keyboard (touchscreen keyboards are the mark of Satan!) I haven't really seen anything to lead me away from it. The fact that the Nokia's push email service seems to work flawlessly would also make me wince at paying a fiver extra a month for Blackberry's servers to stroke my email as it wooshes past.

Thomas C

December 9, 2009, 10:55 pm

Aslo a happy owner of Nokia e71 would be interesting to see E72 review + further comparison. Shame RIM havent moved to more metal parts on their high end models in the same was a nokia are tending to...


December 10, 2009, 1:06 am

A quick question. Blackberry Bold 9700 for £311, is it worth it?


December 10, 2009, 2:43 am

@prankz2k: I'd certainly be tempted.


December 15, 2009, 8:19 pm

Maybe also worth mentioning that when receiving an SMS, you will only see the phone number, not the person's name, if you have any spaces, hyphens or brackets in your phone numbers. You can then go and search your contacts (1000's in my case) to figure out who sent you the SMS. Clearly only a firmware issue, but still unresolved as of mid-december, which is ridiculous.


January 15, 2010, 10:02 pm

My first Blackberry. Favourably impressed! Great call quality. Web pages displaying swiftly even without 3g. Will enjoy discovering all it can do. Vodafone store staffed by Blackberry enthusiasts. Better than advertised deal on upgrade.

Jason Brook

January 23, 2010, 12:31 am

My business partner and I upgraded to the 9700 just over three weeks ago and it's great. We are new to the 'blackberry thing', only getting it to run a GPS tracking application for our day-to-day needs. It pairs to our existing vehicle mounted bluetooth GPS receiver and runs the Watchberry GPS tracking application (from

These Blackberry's seem to have an impressive battery life, we are getting around four working days of use from a single charge in our configuration for tracking and a small amount of email. Our previous configuration using Nokia Navigator's only managed to last around 1 to 2 days!


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