BlackBerry Bold 9780 Review

9780_Front The BlackBerry Bold 9780 is the newest smartphone from the Canadian firm which bases itself on the BlackBerry 9700, but has a couple of differences, an improved camera, more memory and BlackBerry OS 6.

James at www.tracyandmatt.co.uk put it through it’s paces and has written the following review

The ten second review:
Summary: An updated BlackBerry Bold complete with BlackBerry 6. A communication master piece!
Best of: Keyboard, new OS, camera, messaging
Worst of: Some heavy media users may want a bigger screen,

General:

On the left side of the Bold 9780 we have the headset jack, left convenience key and the MicroUSB port.

The right convenience key and volume controls are over on the right.

On the top are the lock screen and mute buttons, although hard to see.

Over on the back is the 5mp camera lens and the flash. And not forgetting the shiny BlackBerry logo.

The front is typical BlackBerry with an optical trackpad surrounded by the call send/end keys, menu button and back button. And you cant miss that glorious full QWERTY keyboard.

Highlights:

  • Keyboard
  • Battery Life
  • New OS
  • Great Camera

Lowlights:

  • Some may be bored with a re hashed device
  • Video camera is a bit behind the competition

Review:
The operating system on the BlackBerry Bold 9780 is identical to that found on the BlackBerry Torch 9800 that we reviewed recently. The big difference though is that the Torch had a touch screen and the Bold 9780 does not, so like on the previous Bold, the 9700, everything is controlled by the optical trackpad.

There are two main things that make a BlackBerry my number one choice. The first is how quick and easy all tasks are to carry out. The second is the glorious keyboard. It is a real joy to use. The keyboard on the 9780 is identical to that on the Bold 9700. The keys have an almost spongy feel to them when pressed and certainly feel better than on the Curve series.

In terms of build quality the Bold 9780 feels like a premium device. It’s back cover still has the faux leather feel to it although it has a design change compared to the 9700.

The home screen on the 9780 contains a menu bar that by default will show you six on screen icons/apps. If you scroll onto the top of this menu bar where it says ‘all’ and press the trackpad the full menu will pop up showing three rows of six icons. You can then scroll down the list which will continue vertically. The length of the menu list will depend how may apps you have on the BlackBerry.

9780_Bottom_AngleFrom this menu you can also scroll left and right to reveal further menus such as favourites, media, downloads and frequent. Do we really need these further menus? Not really. Some people will like it and some wont. I am not a fan but we are all different. The big adjustment when using the 9780 and coming from an OS5 device will be trackpad control. Historically on OS5 if you wanted to use an icon on the home screen that was either on the far right or far left you would just whack the trackpad / trackball left or right. Now you need to be a little more precise as it is real easy to overshoot the desired icon and end up in the menu next door. It takes a bit of practice to adjust so not the end of the world.

One of the great features with BlackBerry 6 is the universal search. There are two ways of using it on the 9780. First is by highlighting the search icon at the top right hand side of your home screen. Why this is here on a non touch device baffles me as the second option makes far more sense. That second option is just type. Type what you are looking for and the BlackBerry screen will show you all apps/files relating to the word you have types. Universal search is a fantastic feature and really makes it easy to find what you are looking for whether it be a picture, an email, a word doc etc.

On the home screen, if you scroll to the very top and press the trackpad you will enter the connections section. Here you can not only turn on and off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and your mobile network but you can also set up new connections. I love the way that there is a shortcut here to the alarm clock. Just makes things a little easier.

Task Switcher
Like on OS5 we still get a application switcher pop up when we hold down the BlackBerry menu button. But, it now looks a little different to before. Of course it does the same job just as its name suggests, but now it looks a little more up to date.

Settings
With any new Smartphone you will want to alter the settings and set up certain things. If you are not currently a BlackBerry user then the below screen shots may look a little daunting but believe me tweaking the settings is actually very easy to do. Within the setup page the BlackBerry will guide you through setting up your email addresses, connecting to Wi-Fi etc. There is not too much new here compared to pre BlackBerry 6 devices but its presentation is totally different and it makes life just a little easier.

Calendar
I love the calendar on BlackBerry. In terms of new features there aren’t really any with BlackBerry 6 but it looks a bit better. I use the BlackBerry calendar for running my life. Not just for business appointments but also for general reminders. Entering an event into the calendar is simple pimple. Just click on the time you want and write what you need. You can alter the time and date from within the event.

The calendar can be viewed as either day, week, month or agenda so choose which suits you best. Jumping from day to day or month to month is done with a swipe of the screen.

When entering a calendar appointment you get to enter a decent amount of information. My favourite part is that your can invite attendees. Just enter their email address and a copy of the entry is sent to them and will appear on their calendar. Wicked!

9780_Top_Angle

Contacts
With the BlackBerry being the best business tool I can think of the contacts section will be of upmost importance. I use the contacts section for my day job and have over 500 business contacts stored. The calendar can be synced with both a PC and Mac so you will always have a back up as well as being able to work on the computer and then sync back to the BlackBerry.

Camera
On to the camera which is now a 5mp instead of the 3.2 found on the 9700.

The user interface is much the same as on the Torch with the basic tabs at the base of the screen. From left to right these are:

  • Picture preview
  • Add location
  • Take shot
  • Flash options
  • Scenes

There are eleven scenes in total including auto and these will let you take camera shots in different conditions. I tend not to bother with these and leave it on auto all the time but maybe that’s just because I don’t take a great number of photos.

The camera does a excellent job. The colours look great and I would be more than happy having these photos printed. The camera on the 9700 was great and it looks like the upgrade on the 9780 was worth it. With the added bonus of a superb flash you are guaranteed that you can photograph your friends wherever you are. Nice work RIM.
The video camera however is not so good but I expected that. Playback on the phone looks fine but once on the big screen the quality takes a nose dive. This is probably as we are now used to 720P HD video recording on most top end smartphones. Oh well, you cant win them all.

Clock
The clock on any phone is not very exciting but most of us do rely on it to wake us in the mornings. The BlackBerry Bold 9780, like all BlackBerry smartphones, has a bedside mode. You can set this to activate as soon as the device is put on charge or docked. What this will do is automatically pop the clock onto the screen and a few seconds after the clock will dim so as not to make the room bright at night time. Also your flashing LED will be disabled, again for that same reason. You will see below that the clock appears as a LCD Digital. You have three other options, digital, analogue and flip.

As well as the alarm you also get a stopwatch and timer which are simple yet effective.

YouTube
The 9780 does have a YouTube icon within its menu but this is not an application but merely a link to the web page. Video playback is ok although this very much depends on the quality and format of the file when it was uploaded. It is nice to have the option to upload straight from the phone though. Just bare in mind that you may want to use Wi-Fi for this.

Social Feeds
Another new feature to come with BlackBerry 6 is the Social Feeds app. Here your Facebook, Twitter and MySpace updates are integrated into one list along with any instant messaging ones. In addition, if you subscribe to any RSS feeds these too will appear. At the top of the app is a filter so if you only wanted to see only Facebook updates for example you can do this. We have seen similar apps to this produced by other manufactures such as Friends Stream from HTC. Nice to see RIM jumping on the band wagon as social messaging seem to play such a huge part in our lives these days.

Messaging
A BlackBerry would not be a BlackBerry without amazing email/messaging capabilities as this is what it is best at. If you are not currently a BlackBerry user then I will summarise why messaging is so good.

On any BlackBerry you can have up to ten email accounts. All email will be pushed to the device, which will help conserve battery, instead of it syncing with the server every 10-15 minutes. The email interface is extremely easy to use and what I love about BlackBerry is that everything is quick. You can create an email in seconds. Or open your inbox and delete 20 emails in seconds. Cant beat it!

The 9780 does all of the above and now with the new OS we get to do a few things slightly differently.

You have two options when it comes to viewing messages. Option one is to use different folders (icons) for each messaging client. For example if I had two email accounts set up I would need three folders on my home screen. Two for the separate email accounts and one for SMS.

The alternative is what I use and this is an integrated messages folder. Here all your email and SMS and even BBM’s if you want can come into the same folder. If you also use some other instant messaging clients those messages will also show up. This frees up space on your home screen for your other most popular applications. I find it a cleaner way of doing things but like most things in life this comes down to personal preference.

The emails you receive will still appear on your computer as well as on the BlackBerry but when it comes to deleting on the BlackBerry you do have the option to delete just from the handheld or from the server too which is handy.

Messages on the 9780 are neatly presented and you are given the basic information: who the message is from, the subject and what time it was sent.

As well as email, the other thing a BlackBerry is amazing at is instant messaging. BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) if you have not used it before it is essentially an instant messaging client exclusive to BlackBerry smartphones. Messaging is unlimited as it will be included in your BlackBerry data plan and as well as text you can also send pictures, voice notes, videos and other files.

Groups are another huge bonus with BBM. Here you can have all your friends in a group and the conversation, pictures etc will be shared by everyone in the group.

The conversation is threaded and your text and your friends will be in different colours. You can also add emoticons and this is achieved by clicking the smiley face next to the text input bar at the bottom of the screen. The best bit is that when your BBM has been delivered a ‘D’ (delivered) will appear next to the message. Once the person has read the BBM the ‘D’ will change to a ‘R’ for read.

Within your profile you can add a photo, alter your name and also add personal message which most people use as a status update like with the social networking apps. Once you have used BBM you will find yourself part of a huge BlackBerry family and more than likely addicted.

As well as BBM you will also find a instant messaging folder within the menu. Here you will have four IM apps pre loaded. These are Windows Live Messenger (MSN), Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger and AIM.
Applications Folder
Within the Applications folder in the main menu you will find much the same as on previous BlackBerry devices. With Word To Go and Sheet To Go you will be able to view word and excel documents although creating them from scratch is a no no. I do foresee this changing in the future though.

A calculator, memo pad and tasks are also present. Nothing ground breaking here.

Games
If you want to play a lot of games on your mobile then a BlackBerry may not be the perfect device for you. The 9780 does come with six games installed but compared to all other mobile platforms gaming on a BlackBerry is poor.

Social Networking
Social Networking apps are great on the BlackBerry. Both Facebook and Twitter come pre loaded and both work seamlessly. Facebook notifications are handled by the app and not by email like on many other platforms. If you get a notification then as well as a sound and a flashing LED you will get a symbol appear on the Facebook icon to let you know.

GPS
With A-GPS included, the BlackBerry Bold 9780 clearly needs a mapping application. BlackBerry maps will be installed on the device and this works much the same as Google Maps, although I prefer the latter. You can use the app to search for things around your location as well as send your findings onto a friend. The UI is nothings special and if I were you I would just forget about this and download Google Maps. It has more features and a much nicer, brighter, fresh user interface. Sorry RIM.

Google Maps is way better. If you hover over a road and press the trackpad the address or POI will be displayed. From here you can then view more detailed information about that place and even jump into Street View which is a personal favourite of mine when looking for on street parking before I drive into London.
Within the layers options you can switch on traffic so a nice easy way to check for traffic jams before setting off on a drive. If you need driving directions this too can be done but don’t expect the BlackBerry to have voice instructions. It is purely on screen so maybe leave the navigation to your passenger. Overall a great free app and a must have for any BlackBerry.

Media
On to the media features on the 9780. Like I said earlier, media can be found in its own home screen menu. Viewing pictures is fast and fluent but remember that the BlackBerry Bold does not have the biggest screen. Images however appear crisp and bright.
Once you have the image you are looking for you can give the BlackBerry button a press and you will have options to send the image to your friends. As you can see below there are various ways of doing this including email, BBM, MMS, Bluetooth or any other IM clients that support it. Superb!

The music player too has had a refresh with BlackBerry 6. Navigating your music collection is super fast and quite nice on the eye. The important bit though is music quality and the 9780 does a great job. You may have seen in my unboxing video that I had the old BlackBerry headphones that I said I did not like. I have been told by RIM that the retail unit will ship with the nice ones that were with the BlackBerry Torch. Phew!

As well as the above there is a video section (that i covered in the demo video), the BlackBerry podcast app, and a voice recorder. All work seamlessly and are a joy to use.

Web Browser
Historically on a BlackBerry we have very much been let down by the web browser. Things have changed now with BlackBerry 6 and it is soooo much better. Browsing may not be on par with the likes of the iPhone or many Android devices but compared to what us BlackBerry users are used to it is heaven!
With the new webkit browser page load much much quicker and scrolling around on screen is fluent and painless.

At the top of the screen you have the address bar. Here you can type what site you are looking for. Directly next to it is a globe symbol. Press this and you are given a selection of options such as bookmarks, add to bookmarks, send page address and history. A quick and handy way of getting to your saved pages.

Next to the Globe symbol is a further symbol that looks like two squares. This opens up multi tab browsing. As you can see you can scroll through open web pages and below the tabs you are given a preview of what the page is displaying.

9780_Keys_2

App World
If you have not used a BlackBerry before then App World is where you can download applications from. The amount of applications here is a long way off from being on par with the Apple App Store or the Android Market but you will find loads of useful stuff here. There are both free and paid applications and the top 25 of each are shown within a tab at the bottom of the screen for quick access.

The other tabs contain categories, search and My World where you will see a list of all applications you have downloaded. Un-installed apps will appear here too in-case you want to re-install.

Upon using App World for the first time you will be prompted to create an App World ID. This will then be linked to a PayPal account for when purchasing apps. If you transfer to another BlackBerry at a later time you take your App World ID with you.

Battery
There are not many smartphones these days that get me through a full day of heavy use but I am glad to say that the BlackBerry Bold 9780 is one of them. It was the same with the 9700. They just have great battery life and this must be due to them not powering a huge touch screen. You wont need to carry around a spare with you, that’s for sure.

Conclusion
Overall the BlackBerry Bold 9780 is a fantastic smartphone. If email, instant messaging, and social networking are your top priority then the 9780 will serve you well. As far as I am concerned there is no better device to do these things. The keyboard on the 9780 is just superb and in my opinion the best I have used to date. As I said earlier in the review there are only a few differences between the 9700 and the 9780. Should you upgrade? That is a hard one. Although BlackBerry 6 is not officially released yet for the 9700 it will be soon which means that the camera and memory will be the only differences in the two devices. I would say that if you are BlackBerry fan and use a lot of applications on your device then the 9780 is the natural progression forward. Go get one and enjoy.

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