An inherent problem with the classic BlackBerry shape has always been that you can only fit in so big a screen. This hasn't really changed with the Bold 9900 but RIM has managed to fit the largest screen yet in this model. At 2.8in from corner to corner, it still pales in comparison to the 4in ones you get on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S 2 or even slider phones like the Nokia E7 or BlackBerry Torch 9800.
Nonetheless, RIM has upped the resolution so you get 640 x 480 pixels (compared to 480 x 360 on old models). This makes for a wonderfully sharp display. In fact, like the iPhone 4, it's so sharp you basically can't see the pixels, no matter how close you hold it to your fizzog. Viewing angles are good in that you can still clearly see the display from even the most acute angle but there is a fair amount of colour shift as you do so. It doesn't completely invert like on some displays but colours do wash out a bit. Overall, though, it's a big improvement over predecessors
Making less of an obvious advance is the keyboard, but this is largely because the Bold series's keyboard was streets ahead already. RIM has improved things, though, by widening it by 5%, giving your fingers just that little bit more room for manoeuvre. Unlike its cheaper sibling, the Curve, each key is mounted separately so there's no wobble as you bash away, while the sculpted shape of each key also makes it really easy to pick out where you are by feel alone.
The layout will be familiar to regular BlackBerry users, and should cause them no concern, but for newcomers there is a little bit of head-scratching involved. The letters, space bar, delete and return keys appear just where you expect but the lack of dedicated number keys, and that all punctuation marks are hidden as secondary functions – even the full stop – can make for something of a learning curve.
Overall typing speed is also hampered by the mediocre text prediction. While pro-BlackBerry users may get by without prediction at all, we found prediction necessary to mask the odd finger slip. But, while the more obvious mistakes were picked up, the prediction engine here is nowhere near the level of the Android, iPhone or Windows Phone devices. You can manually input corrections but it strikes us that most common mistakes should already be in there.