One of the areas where the BlackBerry 9860's slightly clunky interface is shown up most is when typing. For the most part the onscreen keyboard is decent with responsive keys, enough space between keys that mistakes aren't too frequent and a good enough word prediction engine to ensure most mistypes are dealt with. However, the break with convention to have the numbers arranged like a numpad, while being a reference to the same layout on the physical keyboard-equipped BlackBerrys, just doesn't work – a conventional row across the top will do fine, thank you. It is a little more susceptible to mistakes than the competition as well, with us having to really concentrate not to slip up. There's also no voice to text input, as Android and iOS both now have.
Contacts management is rather basic with names just presented in a boring list, with no pictures or social networking extras thrown in automatically. All the basics are quick and easy – adding new numbers, selecting someone to text, or searching out a name – but there's little finesse. One such missing luxury is predictive dialling, whereby the matching names for people appear as you start typing a number.
When it comes to messaging, though, this phone gets right back on track (keyboard issues aside). For the most part you'll be using the universal inbox for keeping track of all your friend's goings on. It brings together text messages, emails, Twitter DMs and Facebook messages into one view. Tap a message and you shoot off into the relevent messaging interface where you'll find most messages are arranged in convenient conversation style. It's all very quick an simple, if a little bland looking.
There's also an integrated Social Feeds app that serves much the same purpose as the messaging app, but focussed on updates rather than messages. It's compatible with Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo! Messenger, Live Messenger and BBM. Again it's quite useful though the stark interface really does limit your experience particularly when it comes to people sharing photos and the like.
This same criticism applies to the Facebook and Twitter apps themselves, which are very much usable but just not very enjoyable to use.
Web browsing hasn't been a BlackBerry forte in the past but now the basic experience is up there with the rest. You get a fast, fully featured browsing experience with pages rendered quickly and correctly, and scrolling and zooming works smoothly. It's easy to create new tabs for looking at multiple pages at once and adding bookmarks and entering web addresses is easy. However, you don't get much beyond these basics. There's no Flash support nor the clever tools that convert pages into an easy to read format. It would be harsh to call it behind the times, but it's not cutting edge.