BlackBerry Bold 9780 Review
The BlackBerry 9780 aka Bold3 is the newest device from RIM’s ‘Bold’ family. The Bold2 or the 9700 was the second generation Bold, introduced after the hugely successful Bold 9000. In this review we will find out exactly what’s new in the BlackBerry Bold3, is it as good as it is touted to be? The Bold3 might look like the Bold2, but as they say, “Looks can be deceptive”.
The BlackBerry 9780 builds up on the legacy of the Bold family, a good comfortable keypad, a 5MP snapper and a rather crisp looking screen. These three facets make the phone look and feel like a good phone. Then again, BlackBerry loyalists will buy it just for the new OS and the BBM.
Hardware / Design
The BlackBerry 9780 is certainly not as charismatic as the original Bold. In fact if you have the 9700 or have seen it, then you’ve seen the 9780 too. They look alike save for one differentiating factor – The chrome on the 9780 is dark as against the lighter shade on the 9700, on the white 9780 that disappears completely. So the only real way to know that you are in fact buying the 9780 is if you have seen the box.
The 9780 is more compact and does fit snugly in one’s hand, which makes it quite a ‘small’ device, the Bold aka 9000 was however the big daddy of BlackBerry devices, it was big and definitely had the appeal and aspirations that an E90 conveyed.
The compactness has meant that the keypad has become smaller, but retains the same comfortable feeling. Typing is quite a pleasure on the device and is at par overall, with the E72 in terms of comfort. However with larger keys per alphabet, it means that bigger thumbs will be more at home on the 9780.
The 9780’s ports and other important buttons are exactly in the same location as the 9700. The top has the lock/unlock key and the mute key, the left side houses a ‘short-cut’ key along with the microUSB slot and the 3.5mm audio jack; a little lower is the steel finish contact point for the cover which automatically changes the behavior of certain things in the phone. The other contact point is at the right side of the phone. Also on the right are the volume rocker and the other ‘short-cut’ key. Both such keys are programmable and therefore quite handy.
To the back you will find the leather finished back battery cover, a signature element for this series and above that the LED flash and the 5MP camera sitting snugly. The distance between the two has the family name embossed.
The chrome finished logo in the leather back gives the BlackBerry a rich upmarket feel. This device was certainly not meant for the average college ‘kid’ or the MBA student, but a manager or VP of a company.
Display on the 9780 is the same that is used on the 9700. A 480×360 pixel 2.5” screen ensures that you have an almost equally clear screen as some of the ‘touchscreen’ phones tote at a similar price point.
The overall look of the phone is good, however we did find the ‘layering’ in terms of design when looked at from the side, to be a bit of an overlook in terms of design. Clearly two ‘layers’, one chrome and the other rubbery metal would have been enough, but with the battery cover also curving, the three layers somewhat take away the appeal the device otherwise exudes. The other thing that was a bit disliked was the fact that the buttons at the side were ‘add-ons’ in terms of parts and seemed out of place. The E72 has a cleaner and more effective design in this regard and clearly is the standard that RIM needs the next version of Bold to have if it wants to make the Bold4 stand out and look ‘perfect’.
Business Phone :
The 9780 competes in the very lucrative business phone segment. This segment has some key requirements – no nonsense looks that give the owner a sense of power, black or muted colours to convey a tone of seriousness, email functionality that is unmatched, unbeatable battery life, and a QWERTY keypad along with other bells and whistles.
Clearly the 9780 excels in most fields. In fact it pretty much features all of the above. The 9780 is primarily a device for the every busy manager after all, at least in theory. With the latest version of the OS (OS6), the new Bold looks even more appealing and brings in a few additional benefits to the table.
But let’s face it ultimately it is after all an email device that does all the other things. Email after all, is at the core of RIM’s device philosophy.
As an email device the 9780 is quite competent and allows you to do quite a bit of things. There are a few short-comings that a power user might feign upon, that of being able to sort between Gmail labels, but that’s about it. An average user might not really find this a hindrance in daily usage. Email sync quickly and regularly. We’ve hardly has a time when the mails took longer to sync than normal, momentary outages if any per purely from operator end.
A business user will find this phone to be a lifesaver as synchronization across a lot of things like mailbox, calendar, and contacts is possible on the device. With a multitude of service being supported to enable you to do so, the 9780 truly will make life simple and uncomplicated for you.
Since we are talking of an email device, it’s expected that typing will be a treat on this device. We found typing on the 9780 to be a pleasurable experience and people moving from the 8520 or a Nokia will love the bigger spacious keys that the 9780 presents to its users. The keys are curved slightly on the top to allow you to be able to type in a more natural and comfortable stance. The layout is the typical BlackBerry keypad layout, which to a Nokia user might seem like last generation, since Nokia does have a better layout for QWERTY than BlackBerry at this point in time. But the learning curve is a short one and in a couple of days you won’t even feel it to be an irritant.
Let’s also not forget that the 9780 comes with a 5MP camera. 9780 Bold3 receives this bump in camera spec along with a few more hardware additions. We’ll cover the camera in greater detail lower down in the review.
The 9780 as we mentioned comes with a few additional extras over the 9700. These extras are pretty much limited to just larger RAM (512MB) and a larger camera sensor (5MP). There is nothing else that the 9780 has extra in terms of hardware over the 9700.
It is the newer OS being natively available on the 9780 which changes things clubbed with the extra RAM.
User Interface / OS
The 9780 as we stated earlier is running the latest version of the OS (v6) and this OS has a far more appealing UI than OS5 had. Things are better organized, cleaner looking and much more smooth than the previous iteration.
The OS sees social networking getting better integrated with the unified messaging application. RSS feeds, Facebook, Twitter and emails are now neatly integrated in the Messages app. This enable one to access all what is needed from one single application, quickly, though separate apps do remain. The messages feature is more of an internal aggregator.
The menu and how it is accessed has also undergone a whole of change. Pressing the menu key now brings up the shortcut bar; this allows you to view the entire menu. So in effect RIM has clubbed the shortcut bar and menu into one single entity. In addition to that RIM has a different take on the multiple screens too. RIM has gone for just one screen, but revolving set of shortcut bars – menu, media, downloads and frequently used. This allows one to access almost all the features at the touch of a button. Flicking your optical left or right will slide these menus for you, when you are at the homescreen.
If that wasn’t enough, the alerts itself on the homescreen are now more neatly arranged. They now do not appear at the sides like on the older iterations, but in the center under the time and date area. To the side are the profile status and selector shortcut and a new universal search feature, which allows one to search for content in the phone as well as on the web. This means that you don’t need to go into an app or to the browser anymore; just type away and the device will do the rest. This feature was greatly used by us and to be honest is a great addition to the 9780. Other manufacturers have a similar setup, but RIM has done a marvelous job in terms of ease of usability.
Icons in the newer version of the OS is the same and internally also there isn’t much change in how the OS is. Apart from these additions and a far more fluid UI, the OS6 doesn’t throw too many surprises towards an existing BlackBerry user. There is an improvement to the BB Messenger app and the mail application. But from strictly UI point of view, things haven’t changed drastically. The again OS6 is giving exactly what the nextgen BlackBerry needed, a dash of style!
The OS6 on the BlackBerry 9780 isn’t without its share of bugs and we had a couple on the review device. The first one was that of email, surprised? Well we were too when we came across this the first time.
It was noted by us that any email received on the device was readable only if it had been first accessed by the Messages app and not through the individual email inbox on the phone. If it had been accessed through the individual inbox, then the contents of the email would not display at all, text and/or images. This oddity in the device stumped us and we tried it on another review device too, in case it was just a bug or a one off. Too our surprise the bug manifested itself on that device too. Clearly there seems to be something amiss here.
The other bug was that of minimizing the shortcut bar completely so that one can actually see the complete wallpaper and not just a small thin band of image. We did manage to minimize it, but once the shortcut bar had been accessed via the menu button, we could not minimize it again. Only a restart and putting it back onto default settings and then changing them again would help, quite a lengthy process, wouldn’t you say? This bug also dissolves any purpose of changing or putting custom wallpaper.
Having taken it up with RIM India and being promised for revert soon, we’ve had no official comment on this and unless fixed via a patch or update off late, it seems to be an issue. These however are present only in the 9780 as we were able to verify this by checking the Torch for something similar. The torch showed none of these bugs.
Everything else on the 9780 is pretty much like how it was on the earlier BlackBerry devices. Users upgrading will feel absolutely at home. The BlackBerry messenger gets some updates, but unless you dig really deep you won’t really know what has changed.
Overall OS6 brings improvements to the device and definitely refreshes it quite a bit. Will it be enough in the face of the Android onslaught remains to be answered…
Although the 9780 supports 3G, we weren’t able to test how well 3G works on it. On EDGE though, the device performs very nicely. In fact the BlackBerry devices might be the only ones that optimize that speed to such an extent; however this is merely the reviewer’s (mine) exaggeration at work. On GPRS, the 9780 cannot do email, but I’m sure you knew that. We rarely ever dropped to that level and therefore it’s quite redundant to talk about how the device performs on a ‘GPRS’ network.
GPS on the device is really a pain, with BlackBerry Maps not available for India, we had to rely on Google Maps and on a screen like the 9780, it did seem to be a bit of a problem (Google Maps being in satellite view) to use it.
Quite frankly Nokia offers the best navigation services on a device (cell phone) and to top that is an uphill task for the 9780. Unless Blackberry can radically change its positioning with respect to this feature in India, I’d say this is a redundant feature for a business phone.
When it comes to connectivity, the 9780 has all the forms available – WiFi, Bluetooth, MicroSD card support up to 32GB with 256MB internal memory.
My grouse with the Bluetooth on the BlackBerry has always been the extra layer of security that makes it a bit tedious to send data from and to the 9780. WiFi connects quickly and covers the two basic bands of ‘b’ and ‘g’. In our tests, the 9780 connected well and was able to function quite smoothly, playing a few Youtube videos with ease.
The slot for the MicroSD card is quite uniquely positioned, allowing for really easy removal and insertion of the card. Mind you, this is not a hot swap slot. Accepting cards of up to 32GB means that the BlackBerry 9780 can really become an office on the move for a lot of people. If connected with appropriate accessories, I doubt one would need a ‘laptop’ to carry around if you have this.
Browsing on the new webkit based browser was strictly okay. On EDGE it was a bit slow and only with complete rendering would a webpage be of any use. This approach might seem efficient in some way. But from a customer viewpoint it is irritating. On WiFi, due to a faster internet source, the browser showed significant improvements, but still there was a noticeable lag, which can be avoided and done away with.
It was possible to do multiple pages (tabbed browsing) and that was a good thing. The UI for the browser has undergone a change and is not more screen friendly. All the relevant bits simply appear only when you need them, thus making the entire browsing experience pleasing.
Messaging / Emailing:
SMS and Email are the forte of such a device and we truly do not see any point in elaborating these features for this device. We can affirm that these functions perform exceptionally well and in keeping with the standards one expects from BlackBerry. We, however, do dislike the lack of support for labels in Gmail powered inbox. Hopefully RIM will fix it in the next firmware update.
MMS is an area that remains in the dark. We don’t think MMS is a feature that is being used by any BlackBerry user and for that matter any user at all, to justify a review of that aspect.
The 9780 has a 5 megapixel auto-focus camera which is an upgrade from the 3.2 megapixel camera found on the 9700. This new camera ensures that one can take VGA quality videos at 30fps. It’s a technology that’s been there for ages now. We are glad the BlackBerry also has it. Then again this wasn’t a media centric device and hence it seems apt for the business devices to have camera modules of the specs mentioned earlier. We found that the BlackBerry 9780 takes decent photos and it does seem as if RIM has worked on the algorithms. Pictures seems crisper and clearer compared to the 3.2 megapixel module on the 9700. Equipped with a single LED flash, the 9780 isn’t exactly meant for night photography.
In terms of videos, the ability to record VGA quality videos is a great improvement and definitely means that you now can take some decent videos. It is however a pity that the videos are in ‘3gp’ format. We would have liked the 9780 to have recorded in MP4 format.
The 9780 like its brethren is equipped to play the DivX format along with the standard WMV/XviD/3gp formats. This has been a standard feature in RIM devices and is great to see it being supported on this device. As a result one can watch quite a few videos encoded on the favourite DivX format. We don’t think HD playback is possible on this device. The lack of MP4 playback is telling, it’s unacceptable to not have MP4 support.
Music playback on the 9780 is pretty good. To be honest we were surprised at the audio quality delivered by the 9780. For a business device it surely doubles up as an excellent mp3 player. The audio we sampled on the 9780 gave us crisp results. Even on full volume, it did not feel as if the sound is cracking or losing structure. With a good pair of earphones/headphones this can be become a good music player. The standard earphones are good, but you need a good pair of headphones to be able to do justice with the music player. The music player is the only way to stay entertained as there is no radio on this device. This I believe is a bad thing. The inclusion of the radio was not a big thing and could have been done. It really put us off as we could not stay tuned to our favourite radio stations. It would really nice if radio is included in further iterations of the lineup.
The 9780 is a good device and comes across as a capable business phone with a no-nonsense attitude. It is certainly more pocketable and compact. The new OS does give the platform a refreshing look. The device manages email and messaging very well and is clearly the standard for emailing and messaging solutions.
On battery life, with moderate usage we were able to get 20-21 hours of usage, which meant that it needs a recharge every night. But it might be just our unit as some users claim that this device lasts for about 2 days.
The competition devices for this are the Android devices falling in the range of Rs.22000 and above. The E72 from Nokia is its closest rival on paper. The E72 outperforms on a lot of areas, but certain areas like email, chat, DivX playback and a slightly better keypad remain the stronghold of the 9780. Clearly the 9780 takes the cake since email is the chief reason along with BBM that prompts one to buy it in the first place.
To sum it up, here’s a small list of pros and cons of the 9780 –
- New OS version
- Great keypad
- 512MB RAM
- Good Facebook and twitter integration
- BlackBerry Messenger
- The leather finish for the cover
- Video playback
- Music player
- Not as imposing as the original Bold
- Not at all distinguishable from the 9700 in terms of design
- Low internal memory (1GB should have been the internal memory)
- No Maps support
- No Radio
- Bluetooth connectivity is too complicated for regular usage.
- Browser could do with improvement
To sum it up, this is a great business device and makes for a good communication device as well. But in the light of the Android invasion and the newer iPhone, it pales as it loses out on the entertainment factor. So if you are a ‘BlackBerry Boy’ or want a serious phone, go for it!