I remember a conversation I had with the guys from RIM back in 2006 at the launch of the BlackBerry 7130g. I said that the company's insistence on creating devices targeted only at the corporate market was self defeating. I told them that there are many consumers out there who would want to receive their email straight to their pocket, but wouldn't want a device that's so light on features. RIM insisted that it would not make a BlackBerry with a camera or Bluetooth file sharing, since big, paranoid, corporate clients wouldn't want those features. Oh, how things have changed.
It's probably fair to say that the real turning point when it comes to consumer friendly BlackBerry handsets was the introduction of the BlackBerry Pearl, which came around six months after the above conversation. Of course I'm not going to take credit for RIM's movement into the consumer space, since the company clearly had the Pearl on its roadmap before I spoke to them, but what surprised me was how development seemed to stall for so long after the launch of the Pearl. However, it's clear that the bods at RIM have been beavering away in their labs, because the company recently launched its most powerful and consumer friendly BlackBerry yet, the Bold.
Although the Bold has been available for a while off contract, most BlackBerry users are more likely to upgrade through their network operator. As such, I'm looking at the Vodafone version of the Bold, which is available on a plethora of price plans. For the sake of this review though, I'll be working with the £39.99 (inc. VAT) contract, which gets you unlimited email, data and calls to landlines, as well as 700 minutes and 250 texts - a pretty comprehensive package then. On this package the handset itself is free.
There's no denying that the Bold looks the part - I'd go as far as saying that this is the best looking BlackBerry ever, although the forthcoming Storm could steal its thunder (pun intended). The glossy black fascia is offset perfectly by the chrome surround, although I'm not completely convinced about the faux leather back. The front fascia is split into two halves in traditional BlackBerry style, with the screen at the top and a hardware QWERTY keyboard at the bottom.
Let's start with the screen, since this is one of the major highlights of the Bold, and is actually one of the best screens I've ever seen on any handset. The Bold has a high resolution display with 480 x 320 pixels, which is, coincidentally the same resolution as the Apple iPhone, but since the Bold's screen is physically smaller, it's also sharper, thanks to a finer pixel pitch. At 2.5in the screen isn't really small, but in this fully touchscreen iPhone age, any device that sacrifices screen size for a keyboard will appear slightly underwhelming. But in the case of the Bold, you shouldn't make rash judgements, because the screen really is superb.