Designer phones seldom live up to expectations, as they tend to be expensive simply for the sake of it. Buy a Porsche 911 or a Rolls Royce and you not only get a car that's beautifully made, you get better performance and better features than your average motor. Not so with posh phones, though. They tend to offer only as much, and often less, than the best 'normal' phones with only a bit of bling to make up for the extra cost.
So, can the BlackBerry P'9981 crafted by Porsche Design break this trend?
Well, dealing with that all important design first, the P'9981 (or P9981 if you like) certainly ticks most of the right boxes. Tough steel and glass dominate the front while the back is covered in soft black leather. The design is perhaps a bit utilitarian and lacking in true bling but it's also classy, and clearly a cut above.
The fit and finish is also better than most. The sand blasted steel feels great while touches like the etched Porsche Design logo above the screen and 'P'9981' on the back, are perfectly executed. There's not a hint of flex or give to the body, despite a removable backplate (we had no issues with the backplate coming loose as others have reported), and all told you feel like you're gripping something that rightly costs that bit more.
It's a bit heavier than the Bold 9900 on which its based, with a weight of 155g compared to 130g, and it's a little larger too with dimensions of 115 x 66 x 10.5 mm vs 115 x 67 x 11.3 mm but it's actually an easy device to handle thanks to that leather finish giving a firm comfortable grip and the buttons and controls being well placed. In particular the screen lock button on the top edge and the full expanse of the screen are both easy to reach, as are all the navigation buttons and keyboard. The volume keys on the right edge also fall easily under finger or thumb, along with the play/pause button that sits between them. The only issue is that they're a bit small, so aren't that easy to press with the phone still in your pocket.
There is one potentially major slip up, though. Each of the navigation buttons is a little square of glass that looks pretty snazzy. But, as well as having a slight wobble that large buttons of that type often have, they're also prone to being damaged. You see, both these buttons and the keyboard buttons run right to the edge of the phone where they're susceptible to being knocked. This had clearly already happened to our review sample before it arrived to us as the power button (the right most one) sits slightly awkwardly and can easily be prised up further than it should.
The screen, also, has a bit less visual pizzazz than we'd hope for. It's kind-of understandable that the display is no bigger than that of the Bold 9900 but given the extra cost and extra girth of this phone, a bigger, bolder display would've been nice. As it is you get a 2.8in LCD panel with a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. This is a high pixel count for a screen this size but it's still not exactly iPhone-rivalling.
It's of reasonable overall quality with punchy colours, good viewing angles and good contrast but it just doesn't excite in anyway. At least the touch element of it is responsive and easy to use.