The iPhone OS 3.0 software update means the iPhone now supports Microsoft Exchange, so you can read your Outlook emails on the device. It also added a remote wipe function that should appease nervous IT departments. Furthermore, the Hero, Palm Pre, Motorola Dext and other devices have shown how the integration of social networks, such as Facebook, can be taken much further. The social-networking functionality of these touchscreen contenders is more playful and user-friendly than the 9700's, including features such as live Twitter updates on the home screen and set-up wizards that don't fry your brain with complexity. In comparison, the BlackBerry's user interface is beginning to feel rather dowdy.
The 9700 does, however, spice things up with a new optical trackpad, which replaces the tiny trackball seen on previous RIM devices. The trackpad's fun to use, and makes it a doddle to whizz around the screen. It also collects less dirt than the trackball. In addition, the 9700's screen is a pleasure to look at, thanks to its superb resolution. Photos and videos look fantastic on it.
Stuck in a Web
In our tests, the 9700's Web browser proved a huge improvement on those of its predecessors, offering better standards compliance. It scored 97/100 in the Acid3 test, compared to the 8900's paltry 13/100. It's still slower than many of its smart-phone competitors, though, and it struggled to properly render the best site in the world, CNET UK.
It's worth noting that our test 9700 had been massaged by T-Mobile -- the browser was branded as a T-Mobile web'n'walk application -- and we can't be sure that its performance wasn't affected. For example, when we searched using the default T-Mobile search engine, Yahoo, spaces were converted to '%20', which made our searches fail miserably. The Google search engine didn't have the same problem, and there may not be an issue on other networks.
Like its Web browser, the 9700's 3.2-megapixel camera and two LED lights are much better than those of other BlackBerry devices, but you shouldn't chuck out your digital camera just yet. In our tests, the camera proved sufficiently good for capturing spontaneous moments, but its photos aren't sharp or accurate enough to be blown up on a big screen.
The camera also suffers from slight shutter lag, so a few moments pass between pressing the button and taking a picture. Happily, this is one of the only areas in which the 9700 feels slow. Otherwise, the user interface feels punchy and responsive.
The BlackBerry Bold 9700 offers refinement of a well-loved format, but it doesn't break much new ground. We can't fault its zippy performance, vivid screen or reliable email service, and its optical trackpad and 3.2-megapixel camera are useful improvements. For BlackBerry fans, and people who want to do some serious emailing, the 9700 is the pick of the bunch. But the 9700 just doesn't offer the thrills that some of its rivals do.
Edited by Charles Kloet