As with web browsing, multimedia hasn't traditionally been something BlackBerrys excel with. But of course part of the problem has always been their relatively small screens. With the BlackBerry 9860, not only is the screen a sensible size for watching videos and viewing photos, the interfaces for doing so are also very nice to use.
The picture brings little new to the table but it's an easy to use app that makes flicking through your photos an effortless task. You can rotate photos from the app as well as send them via email, text, Twitter, Facebook and Bluetooth. We also love the slideshow app that not only flicks through your photos has the option to zoom into them and pan across them, to give the show a bit more life. There isn't, though, integration of pictures from social networks.
The video player is even more basic in presentation but does a decent job of playing most file types. Only the mkv format wasn't supported, and overly high resolution files will also come a cropper. If you feed it standard def divx, xvid, mp4, avi or mov files it'll cope admirably and the results look great. Some HD content will work as well, but you're chancing your arm most of the time.
When it comes to creating your own photos and videos, the 9860 doesn't hold up so well. All the basics are present and correct; there's a shutter button for launching the camera and taking a shot, the interface is simple yet reasonably powerful thanks to the choice of scenes, and the LED flash is powerful enough to keep tabs with the competition. However, there's nothing special here and the ultimate picture quality from the 5MP sensor is mediocre at best. In bright light it's fine in terms of exposure and colouring, but it lacks detail, while in low light there's quite a lot of grain. It's not bad, just nothing special.
It's a similar story for video. The maximum resolution of 720p is below the biggest and the best – though, arguably this is a sensible thing – and it doesn't make up for this deficit with particularly impressive performance on any other account. In particular, it's annoying you have to jump into a menu to turn the LED on and off.
Music playback is a cinch thanks to an easy to use player that's smart to look at and supports just about every format under the sun, including FLAC. It's easy to drag and drop your music onto the phone or you can purchase more from the BlackBerry themed Amazon MP3 store. Once loaded it will be presented in typical Artist > Album > Track format. Playback is great quality through the headphone jack and we already noted the power of the loudspeaker earlier.
Brickbreak and and Word Mole are all you get in the way of bundled games and there are only exactly 398 games to choose from on the App World, with none of our favourites being present. The app selection isn't exactly impressive either with just 6089 on offer compared to the 100,000s on Android and iOS. RIM keeps assuring us the app selection will improve but currently progress is deathly slow on this front.
The BlackBerry 9860 is a perfectly competent handset with a smart design, easy to use interface, and a healthy selection of features. However, when compared to the competition, it's hard to know exactly who the BlackBerry 9860 is going to appeal to. For your average man on the street, mid-range Android handsets beat it for price and features (if not build), and have a much better stocked app store. And it certainly doesn't have the might to take on the likes of the iPhone 4S or Samsung Galaxy S II. This only leaves the corporate market and BlackBerry fans. With regards the former, the touchscreen form factor may not sit well with the majority of users, particularly when the typing experience isn't quite good enough. Likewise, don't BlackBerry fans buy them primarily for the keyboard anyway? Whatever the case, this certainly isn't a bad phone, just not one we'd outright recommend.