BlackBerry Bold 9900 - Interface

By Edward Chester

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

The BlackBerry 9900 runs BlackBerry 7 OS, which features a fairly hefty number of updates over its predecessor, the most prominent change being the new so-called liquid graphics. This refers to RIM's very sensible decision to ensure that, with its phone now having a touch interface, the interface should react smoothly and swiftly, with none of the clunkiness that some models exhibit - and this is something the company has definitely achieved.

BlackBerry Bold 9900

Moving around web pages, scrolling through lists and navigating menus are all tasks made fluid and intuitive thanks to the perfect way the touchscreen tracks your motion and the display transmits it back to you. It's a subtle thing but getting this feel exactly right is precisely where many touchscreen handsets fall down, and is often where Android handsets can still feel a little bit clunky. Here, though, you're always left feeling confident of your movements.

It's also surprisingly intuitive flitting back and forth between the touchscreen and the optical pointer that sits smack bang in the centre of the handset. Ostensibly it's completely superfluous as all actions the pointer can perform can also be done using the touchscreen but sometimes it just feels right to scroll through a menu or pinpoint a cursor using it. And, returning to the touchscreen once you've done so doesn't result in any odd reactions from the software; it just carries on responding exactly as you'd hope.

No doubt helping here is the vastly improved processor sitting at the handset's heart. Previous Bolds have maxed-out at 624MHz but the Bold 9900 has a 1.2GHz Qualcomm 8655 chip. It may not be dual-core but it makes mincemeat of the BlackBerry OS, with there seldom being a sign of slow down or stutter.

The overall styling and layout of the interface hasn’t changed all that much with the homescreen still eschewing the trend for icons and widgets, and multiple… well, homescreens. Instead you get a blank section in the middle – all the more space for your favourite picture – with information and notification sections above and a thin strip of app shortcuts and a link to the main app launcher/menu below. The combination of these works superbly, giving you quick access to useful information and making most apps quickly accessible.

BlackBerry Bold 9900 1

The top-most section shows all your basic phone information such as date, time, and signal strength in a clean and simple manner, and tapping this brings up a convenient selection of options, including Wi-FI and Bluetooth and Alarms. Again BlackBerry seems to have got the selection here just right, with there being not too much so as to bamboozle but not so little as to require constantly delving into the main menu.

BlackBerry Bold 9900 2

Below this is the notifications section, which is just a thin bar that at a glance shows how many messages you have, apps that need updating, calendar appointments you have, and such like. Tap this and the screen is filled with a list showing the full selection of information (with a maximum of three notifications per app). Like much of the phone's interface, the style is quite stark – each set of notices is just a text list – but it doesn't feel backward because of this, just functional.

BlackBerry Bold 9900 3

The final piece of the homescreen is the app launcher. This sits at the bottom of the screen, and can be either completely hidden, a single line of six apps or two lines of 12 apps. You can then either tap or drag up the bar to fully open the list of apps. Here you now get the chance to arrange apps in whatever order you please, putting them in folders or even hiding them from prying eyes. You can also sort them into categorised pages, though you can't add (or remove) pages so the default selection of All, Favourites, Media, and Downloads is your lot.

As mentioned earlier, it's a system that works well and once you've arranged your apps as you please you can generally get to your favourites in double-quick time. The only difficulty is the lack of labels on the icons, meaning there's a bit of a learning curve in working out what icon infers what.

The search function is another boon of the homescreen. Start typing while on the homescreen or tap the magnifying glass icon in the top right corner and the search feature will kick in. Instantly you'll start seeing contacts, messages, calendar entries, apps and more that match your search, and as you continue typing the search will be refined. And in a subtle but welcome touch, when you click a search result, it doesn't forgot the search you just made so if you jump to a search result then tap the Back button a couple of times to get back, you aren't greeted by a blank page. This is in contrast to much of the competition that ditch the search as soon as you navigate away.

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Castalan

October 1, 2011, 1:52 pm

A physical keyboard - how quaint :)

It's really difficult for companies who have lead a market because of a product to come to terms with the fact that times have moved on and the requirements for their products from their consumers have changed.

it happens time and time again with many companies - and RIM appear to be just as incapable of seeing it as the many other deceased companies that just couldn't face just standing back and starting their product over again.

RIM - if you're listening - dump the physical keyboard, make the touch screen nice and big and you might just come through this .... although i suspect it's already too late

robjohn

October 2, 2011, 12:13 pm

I've had my 9900 since it was launched on O2. I've used a BB since I reluctantly ditched old Palm devices, yonks ago. The 9900 is the best BB I've owned (having got through at least 5 models). It's a matter of taste, but I still like a well made physical keyboard for rattling out longer than a sentence emails. I was in two minds about migrating from BB to iPhone, and I am pretty sure this will be my last BB. Using, as I do, a Mac and iPad, it makes more sense to move to one integrated platform and superb technology. RIM's own email servers and data compressions have made the BB best for my needs (flawless push email on all my accounts, while roaming in Asia, at low data cost). I will be reluctant to leave BB but it looks to be inevitable. 9900 is an excellent device. I have been let down a little by how many business apps from my old BB are not yet available for the OS7 - a sign that developers don't see the platform as a priority. I once said I'd never leave Palm, then I did. Same goes today for BlackBerry I think.

foshy

October 26, 2011, 5:33 pm

Great phone but battery life is terrible. It wont make it through a days normal use without needing a charge mid afternoon. Didnt have that problem on the old bold. As for the comments on the keyboard being quaint?? If i wanted a blackberry with no keyboard, i would have bought the Torch 9860.

GerryW

December 5, 2011, 7:09 pm

Comparing a BB with an iPhone or Android product is like comparing cars to trucks, or bricklayers to plumbers: both do their jobs well enough; but if you need one, don't get the other. BBs are first and foremost business machines. I switched from my old BB to an iPhone two years ago, and immediately regretted it. I suspect iPhones are great if you're playing games all day or fiddling about on Facebook. But the fundamentals just aren't there: rotten battery life; boor audio and reception on calls; a near-inaudible email alert, even at full volume; rotten battery life;

block

December 16, 2011, 2:02 am

Just been through the process of buying a new phone. After some pretty exhaustive research I went to look at some in store. First the iphone. I have a mac, so it made sense. I told the sales guy what I needed, and ended up with: "above all, I need a phone that is good for calls. It has to hold on to a signal." He put the iphone straight back in the box without even bothering to show it to me. I then looked at a Nokia E72, because I'd had an E61 that lasted for five years and took every kind of knock and was good for calls. But the keypad was too small. Then the guy told me to have a look at the Nokia Lumia. I was reluctant at first because I'd already sent back 2 Nokia E7s to the network because even when standing in the store, with its booster, calls sounded as if they were being made under water. But I looked. I liked it. I even thought I might get used to the teeny tiny keyboard, mainly because of auto correct. Then I asked if I could make a call on it. He frowned a bit and seemed rather reluctant. But I got my way. Apparently someone was hissing in my ear during the calls. No good. Again. Then I tried this Bold. Big keys. No problem to type. Robust build. Fast. Very good call quality, including speaker phone. Very good signal. I bought it. So far it is far and away the best phone I have every owned, seen or used. Emails get to the device before they get to my desktop Mac (and the sync with it is no problem either). The integration is sublime. Maybe there are better OSs out there, but when everything I need to contact people is so integrated and easy to find, why would I bother. Maybe there are better, flashier toys out there, but this is a proper, highly efficient phone that actually works as a phone. Your reviewers have, I suggest, lost sight of the fact that people - or adults who have to go to work, anyway - need something that can make telephone calls. It is almost, but not quite, as good for that as the 10 year 㿀 second hand Nokia brick I picked up to tied me over my contract transfer.

sam1919

October 2, 2012, 4:03 am

cut it to the chase....
1) blackberry load up takes way too long
2) slow internet
3) Outdated App world
4) cant handle high usage volume
5) Poor camera
6) small screen

Dont get this phone if you love playing on apps. i bought a htc one s due to the amount i was paying for the blackberry didnt seem right for what i got...but the htc one s is worth every penny.

Stunty

October 22, 2012, 1:46 am

I have just received a BB 9900 after my damaging my 9800 and I have to say I'm not impressed.
What good is a pinsharp screen when it's been reduced in size?
Internet connections are still too slow.
Battery life is a cause for concern.
App Store is still poor and expensive.
I'm afraid to say that come the end of my contract I shall be switching to the IPhone or Samsung galaxy as at least I will be able to read drawings and diagrams whilst on site.

Swilson

November 9, 2012, 2:10 am

Excellent layout, pleasure to use, except for one thing:

This phone is the most unreliable P.O.S. I've ever had the misfortune of owning. This is my first Blackberry and most certainly my last. RIM is a think of the past, and with this low-standard product one has no trouble seeing why.
Problems:
-Calls drop frequently (Changed the SIM card multiple times, ruling out network issues)
-Stops receiving text messages for hours at a time, until I finally take out the battery to reset the phone
-BBM goes down too often

In closing, I would recommend that someone buy a flip phone before they consider buying this. Nothing but disappointment will follow the purchase of a Blackberry.

Moleskin

December 17, 2012, 8:03 pm

I have both BB9900 and Iphone 4. Both great phones. However if I had to make the choice without question it would be BB. It just works for me including the physical keyboard. Admittedly the Iphone is better for browsing and playing with apps but call quality, music playing, e-mails and general day to day business use the Bold wins hands down. Did I mention battery life. Twice as long as the Iphone. Every one is different so we all like different phones.

Alexander C G Kitchin

March 18, 2013, 10:06 am

I have one of these for work ( have an Iphone 4 too); I cant get on with this phone. I was initially very enthusiastic, hoping I would like it more after the Curve I had before. Personally, I find it very difficult to type (my fingers obviously aren't the right shape for this type of keyboard) and, as time goes on, I find myself disliking this phone to the extent that I avoid using it if I can and wait until I am back at my PC. Its too easy to alter settings unintentionally, I have to hold the phone at an odd angle to stop it turning to speaker phone by mistake while on calls(if there is a way to stop this happening I cant find it) and the screen goes berserk when on charge, rolling through different modes randomly; switching on the alarm is also too easy. The battery life is poor, signal drops out often and, as for trying to use the internet, I cant be bothered to waste time waiting for it to do something and navigating with the trackball thing is a pain. It also crashes every now and then which involves taking the battery out to get going again. On the plus side it appears well made and the screen is clear. I know BB fans will think I am just moaning but compared to my iphone it is just not worth the hassle.

nor azmi

April 14, 2013, 10:48 am

1, always hang
2.battery drain fast without any touched
3.camera NOT sharp-much better bold 2
4.sreen blank suddenly

feel frustrated with this concern and 9900 model....

AliceB

August 7, 2013, 9:40 am

This is my second blackberry and certainly my last. It was working fine for the first 6 months and then problems started to occur. Firstly, my i button went dodgy, I don't have to press the I button for it to come on, I just have to slightly tap it. This is very annoying because when I just write a word, I's just appear. Secondly, it keeps turning itself off. And lastly, when I'm on BBM and on recent updates and I want to get back to chats, when I press the back button, it keeps going to home screen. This all started when my scroller kept jumping

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