Multimedia has never been a strong suit of BlackBerrys and in many ways that hasn’t changed on this phone simply because the screen is still a bit small. It also doesn’t excel when it comes to video format support with MKV and RMVB formats unsupported. High bit-rate H.264 encoded files also won’t play though your average DivX or MP4 clip up to 720p will play fine. The interface for doing so is simple but effective and you can drag and drop files onto the phone.
The same applies for music; just drag and drop and away you go. It will play MP3, AAC and WMA files but lossless formats like FLAC aren’t supported. Nonetheless, the phone delivers great-sounding music from its headphone jack, with plenty of oomph and no background hiss. Oh, and did we mention we love that you can play and pause music with that side button? You can also access the Amazon MP3 store right from the phone, where most individual songs cost £0.99 and albums £7.49. Few of the streaming music services seemed to be catered for in the BlackBerry App World, though.
As with video, photo viewing isn’t exactly this phone’s most obvious forte due to screen size but given the quality of the screen you can more-than enjoy images when the need arises. The image viewer is a simple affair but one that’s nice and easy to use, with smooth animations as you swipe left and right between images.
When it comes to taking your own images, the 9900 doesn’t exactly excel. That its camera only shoots at five megapixels, compared to the eight of many rivals, is bad enough, but it also lacks autofocus, making close up/macro shots impossible. This is particularly annoying as you can get very useful apps for scanning business cards, and they will struggle to make out the necessary detail on this handset.
One upside to the lack of focus, when combined with the phone’s speedy operation, is you can take a shot very quickly – you can go from the homescreen to having taken a shot in a couple of seconds. Also, you do get a reasonably powerful LED flash and overall colouration and sharpness of images is reasonable.
Video has improved compared to predecessors but it’s still not overly impressive. You can shoot at up to 720p and again results are perfectly reasonable, and the LED is there for shooting in the dark. We also particularly like that you can pause and resume shooting without it automatically creating a second clip. However, you can’t turn the light on and off while recording and overall image quality is nothing special. Also, there are no facilities for editing or uploading video pre-installed (nor for images for that matter).
In fact there didn’t seem to be much in the way of video and photo editing apps available on the Blackberry app store either. The App World, while stocked with the basics and sporting a vastly improved interface over previous versions, is somewhat lacking.
Also somewhat lacking is battery life. Not that the Bold 9900 drops dead with half a day’s use but, considering BlackBerrys have long been known for lasting much longer than the competition, the couple of days you’ll get from the Bold 9900 (in general use) may be a little disappointing.
All told then, the BlackBerry Bold 9900 is just about the perfect upgrade for existing BlackBerry users, assuming you can live with the slight drop in battery life. The keyboard’s excellent, the touchscreen’s great, performance is stellar, and the new software adds plenty too. What’s more the limitations won’t feel as such if you’re used to previous BlackBerrys. However, if you’re looking at this phone as simply the best RIM currently has to compete with the iPhones and Androids of this world, then it doesn’t quite stack up. Yes, a lot of its limitations are simply down to form factor but nonetheless the screen is small, the camera isn’t up to snuff, and the selection of apps is woeful.
Score in detail
Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.