BlackBerry Bold 9930 Review: An Enterprise Evaluation

RIM's new BlackBerry Bold 9930 from Verizon Wireless has made quite an impression on CIO.com's Al Sacco; he's calling it without a doubt the best BlackBerry ever for businesspeople. But there are a few key areas in which it is lacking. This in-depth, "business-savvy" Bold 9930 review explains.

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My second complaint relates to the Bold 9930's camera. Though all of the newest BlackBerrys, and even a few of the older devices, have 5.0 megapixel digital cameras, some of them have different focus mechanisms. My issue with the Bold 9930 is that it doesn't focus very well on close-up objects, and as a result, it takes photos of notably lower quality than both of RIM's new BlackBerry Torch devices and even the original Torch 9800.

I believe RIM used a different camera lens or at least a different focus mechanism in the Bold 9930, probably due to the fact that the device is so thin, and the end result is that the new Bold doesn't take as high quality images as my old Torch, which is an unfortunate downgrade.

As stated earlier in this post the BlackBerry 7 software experience is vastly improved over the last generation of BlackBerry 6 devices; however, after using the device for a few weeks now and loading up most of usual applications and services, the Bold 9930 still lags just enough that it warrants mentioning. I definitely see the BlackBerry "clock icon" far less often than I did on BlackBerry 6 devices, but it does show occasionally. And I find the Bold takes its time "waking" up sometimes after I haven't touched for a while, leaving me furiously tapping the standby key atop the device or the keyboard until it turns back on.

My final "significant" complaint relates to the BlackBerry application ecosystem as a whole. It simply doesn't stack up to iPhone or Android application ecosystems. This isn't a new problem. And the issue stems from a number of reasons that I won't necessarily elaborate on here, but the bottom line is that both iOS and Android, the BlackBerry platform's two top rivals right now, currently offer a drastically superior application experience to BlackBerry. And businesspeople like apps, too.

I love the Bold 9930, but due to its inferior application selection, I still find myself also carrying an iPhone or Android device. And I really wish I could just carry one smartphone for a change.

I also wish the Bold 9930 packed a dual-core processor, since many comparable high-end smartphones are currently hitting the market with dual-core chips. I should note that I haven't seen extensive lag or any of the other common indicators that the 9930's single-core 1.2GHz processor can't keep up with me. Given that, a dual-core processor may not be necessary in this case. But I still contend that the 9930 may end up feeling a bit outdated in the not-so-distant future, as dual-core processors become the norm instead of the exception to the rule.

BlackBerry Bold 9930 Rear (Image Credit: Brian Sacco)
BlackBerry Bold 9930 Rear (Image Credit: Brian Sacco)

And though the Bold 9930 does support NFC for short-range wireless communication, Verizon decided to launch the handheld without NFC enabled. Future software updates could, and probably will, enable this feature, but I really hoped to be experimenting with NFC now, especially since RIM touted the features when it first unveiled the new Bold last May.

The Bold 9930's epoxy-glass battery cover looks really nice, but it scratches and scuffs very easily. I carried my case-less Bold 9930 along with a similarly "naked" Motorola Atrix in the same pants pocket for two weeks, and the Bold's battery cover is covered in scratches and scuffs, while the Atrix is fine. (Check out the included image to see for yourself.) If I had been using a case or holster, I probably wouldn't have scratched up the device as much, so I strongly recommend picking up some sort of protective covering for the Bold 9930.

A few more minor complaints: I really wish the 9930 had a second user-programmable convenience key--it only has one. But a number of applications do exist that allow you to assign multiple functions to one convenience key, so the lack of an additional key isn't a huge deal. Also, the volume up/down and mute keys already feel slightly "loose" after using the device for just a few weeks, and that may not bode well for future durability.

Sooooo, to sum that all up...

BlackBerry Bold 9930 Business-Oriented Review: Conclusions

The BlackBerry Bold 9930 is one hell of a business smartphone. You need only look at the lengthy list of things I love about the device, and my relatively short list of complaints, to see that the positive drastically outweighs the negative when it comes to RIM's new Bold 9930, at least from a business user's perspective.

I'm infatuated with the form factor and UI. BlackBerry 7 provides a much better user-experience than any RIM OS has in the past. And the Bold 9930 is actually very good-looking--something I haven't really been able to say about too many BlackBerrys.

Sure, it has its shortcomings, namely the fact that the BlackBerry application ecosystem isn't as robust as some competitors' ecosystems. Battery life isn't what I've come to expect from RIM. The digital camera is lacking. And the Bold really can't compete with rival devices like the iPhone, from a multimedia perspective, due largely to the smaller screen size. But the target Bold 9930 user doesn't much care about all that; the ideal Bold 9930 owner wants, first and foremost, high performance; top of the line messaging components--like a great keyboard and best of breed messaging application; security; and reliability. The rest is just icing on the cake.

If you fit that target Bold 9930 user profile, the 9930 is one of, if not the, best smartphones available to you today.

Will this device draw loyal iPhone or Android users towards RIM and BlackBerry and away from Apple or Google? No, probably not. But it's sure to wow current BlackBerry users, who have stayed with RIM for a reason: BlackBerrys are still the best messaging and enterprise-oriented devices on the market today. The Bold 9930 may also lure former BlackBerry users who recently jumped ship back to BlackBerry--and I believe they'll be satisfied upon return. And again, the device is really good looking, so much so it may scoop up some smartphone users who are still on the fence.

RIM and BlackBerry have been catching a lot of flak from various critics in recent days, but the Bold 9930 is a perfect example of why I still remain a loyal BlackBerry user.

(Still haven't had enough Bold 9930 info? Check out the quick hands-on video below for a live demo.) AS

Hands on with the BlackBerry Bold 9930

Al Sacco covers Mobile and Wireless for CIO.com. Follow Al on Twitter @ASacco. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Al at asacco@cio.com

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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