Beneath its premium exterior, the BlackBerry Porsche Design P’9981 is just a Bold 9900, so its performance is exactly the same, which is both a good and a bad thing. Good because at least you’re not losing anything compared to the standard model – as mentioned earlier this isn’t a given on designer phones – but bad because the Bold 9900 isn’t all that cutting edge a handset.
Most high-end smartphones now pack dual-core processors, with quad-core handsets expected to be announced in only a couple of weeks time. In contrast the P’9981 has only a single core processor (Qualcomm MSM8655). It does run at a fairly sprightly 1.2GHz but then so do most of the dual-core phones.
What does this mean for performance? Well, in most situations, not all that much. While tapping out a tome, flicking through Facebook or perusing your pictures you won’t notice any issues. The interface feels snappy and animations are smooth as you move around. However, start flicking between apps at a pace and things slow up a little. The web browser can also get a bit sluggish with graphically rich websites. Moreover, there’s simply the fact that there’s less performance head room for apps to take advantage of in the future.
This would be more forgivable were the phone’s interface more capable. We’ve mentioned the limited extras available in the camera app already but the same could be said of much of the BlackBerry OS 7.0 interface.
You get a very capable web browser, excellent email client, sophisticated contacts management, easy to use picture and video viewers, a smart calendar app, a functional Facebook client, and much more besides. However, on almost every front, it’s either only as good as or worse than the competition.
Take contacts, for instance. You can have them push and pull information (including photos) from your Facebook account but that’s about as far as social network integration goes. Open a contact and you can’t see a stream of your interactions with that person, as you can on many Android and Windows Phone smartphones. In this regard, the P’9981 is actually better than the iPhone 4S, with that phone having no social network integration at all.
Another example is the web browser. Here the P’9981 is actually on a par with the iPhone in terms of raw capabilities, with a slick interface but no support for Flash videos or any other notable extras – Android devices again have it beat, though.
You of course get the BlackBerry extras like BlackBerry Messenger and the unique BlackBerry email service with its generally world beating reliability and speed, but frankly these messaging services are starting to lose there lustre in the face of growing competition. If you’re locked into the BlackBerry way, you’ll appreciate a new handset to add to the roster but for newcomers there’s dwindling reason to go the BlackBerry route when it comes to messaging.
BlackBerry has given the Porsche Design P’9981 a unique interface that mirrors the stark angular external design. It’s quite a nice look that certainly sets it apart but there are two rather key issues. The first is that the restyled icons are even more difficult to decipher than the standard BlackBerry ones and the second is that any new apps added to the device don’t match the style. If you just want to forgo the whole thing, you can turn it off.
Apps are the final death knell for this phone. The list of apps in the BlackBerry App World is growing but it’s still at least an order of magnitude behind the ~600,000 available for iPhone. Moreover, the selection doesn’t include many stalwarts of other devices.
As ever with BlackBerrys, the P9881 is excellent for making calls, with a loud earpiece and speaker and good call quality delivered from the noise cancelling microphone. Then again, few top end handsets trip up here nowadays. Battery life meanwhile is only average at around a day and a half in normal use – standby life is very good, though.
The BlackBerry Porsche Design P’9881 is clearly an overpriced fashion handset that does little to truly justify its £1275 price. However, there is a charm to its build and styling that does make it stand out from the crowd. Moreover, the keyboard is superb and there are some nice extras included in the box. Ultimately, though, it’s the BlackBerry part of the partnership that lets it down. While BlackBerry OS 7.0 is a vast improvement over previous iterations, it still trails much of the competition for both core features and availability of apps. An almost justifiable indulgence for BlackBerry users but a far from sensible purchase for the rest of us.
Score in detail
Screen Quality 6