Friday, November 14, 2008
Looking At the Competition: The Blackberry Bold
Posted by Jason Dunn in "Pocket PC Competition" @ 11:09 AM
Being so heavily Windows Mobile-centric, I find it interesting when I can get my hands on devices from companies that compete with Windows Mobile. I had an opportunity to play with a RIM Blackberry Bold earlier this week, and was extremely impressed with the hardware. I thought it might be useful to share what I thought was good about the Bold, if for no other reason than to point out to anyone from Microsoft, HTC, etc. reading this site that Windows Mobile devices are lacking somewhat in the area that the Bold inhabits.
The 2.66 inch, 320 x 480 screen was simply gorgeous - very crisp, with great contrast. It made everything look excellent - I think the Blackberry OS, for all its faults, gets many things right on the home screen - the indicator icons on Windows Mobile are huge in comparison, so even by making them smaller, things look sharper and more organized on the Blackberry home screen. The keyboard felt really good, although I thought the width of the device was a bit much - it's closer to the Motorola Q9h in width, while I prefer the more slender Blackjack II. Not a deal-breaker though, I'd put up with the extra width to get that screen. Device thickness and weight were reasonable.
Performance was very snappy - apps just flew, screens appeared and vanished quickly. I've always felt that other Blackberry models had a nice home screen, but looked like pagers once you dug a layer deeper, but the Bold has a pretty good second level as well. Video playback was very impressive as well - there was a Speed Racer sample clip that looked amazing, the best I've seen on a mobile device in a long time. The media player software was pretty weak though - it was a combination of VCR-like buttons and a DOS-like directory listing of videos. I'm spoiled by how fun and easy media browsing is on my Zune, and everything else pales in comparison.
I could only sigh as I heard my friend explain that he leaves WiFi turned on all the time, and still gets 2-3 days of heavy use out of it, because the WiFi is smart enough to stay in a super low power mode until it detects he comes home, then it connects WiFi and uses that rather than 3G. When he leaves the house, it seamlessly moves back to 3G. Now that's smart software! There were certainly parts of the software that screamed "I used to be wireless pager software!", but RIM has done a pretty good job sprucing up the look and feel of the operating system.
Oh yeah, it didn't have a high-gloss back that attracted smudges (are you listening HTC?). It really is a great hardware design. I'm sure if I spent a week using it I'd see more flaws in the software and hardware, but I have to say that as first impressions go, the Bold makes a good one - and first impressions are generally what sell phones to the public. I can't think of any Windows Mobile device that comes close to matching the Bold in terms of hardware, and that's really unfortunate.
I'm convinced that HTC in particular is so fixated on beating Apple in the touch game, that even though they don't have a great touch-friendly operating system to work with (Windows Mobile Professional is still far too stylus-based), they're ignoring the popular consumer market that RIM is making big inroads into now. When I hear a 25-year old female friend gush about how much she loves her new Blackberry Curve, a device I'd always perceived as a business device, I know there's a missing piece in Microsoft's consumer strategy - a very big piece. RIM has somehow pivoted with their product strategy just enough to allow the carriers to heavily promote Blackberry devices as being consumer devices, and based mostly on nice hardware design, consumers are buying Blackberry devices in big numbers. Microsoft and their hardware partners have to come up with a solution to this problem - and a good start would be a device that competes head-on with the Blackberry Bold and wins.
Jason Dunn owns and operates Thoughts Media Inc., a company dedicated to creating the best in online communities. He enjoys photography, mobile devices, blogging, digital media content creation/editing, and pretty much all technology. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with his lovely wife, and his sometimes obedient dog. He has a thing for high-resolution screens.