BlackBerry Bold 9650 Review: An Updated Tour, Not Much More

CIO.com's Al Sacco reviews RIM's new BlackBerry Bold 9650, an upgrade to the popular BlackBerry Tour. The verdict: RIM's latest smartphone gets the job done in style, but it may not satisfy true smartphone geeks. Here's why.

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I had some Wi-Fi connectivity issues with my Bold 9650--it didn't want to stay connected to my home Wi-Fi network for extended periods of time. (I've never had this issue with any of the other BlackBerry devices I've used.) But I asked additional Bold 9650 users and reviewers, and the issue doesn't appear to be widespreadat least at this point.

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This new Bold is the third smartphone in RIM's Bold lineup, behind the Bold 9000 and 9700, and the only Bold to support CDMA frequencies. The BlackBerry Bold 9650's 512MB of app memory means it can store more applications, themes or other software than any other BlackBerry, all while in theory performing without as many "hiccups." And it's also better positioned to run RIM's upcoming OS, dubbed BlackBerry 6, which is said to require more than the standard 256MB of app memory found within other modern BlackBerrys, like the Bold 9700 and Storm2.

The Tour 9630 has been plagued with trackball-related issues. Just ask a current Tour user if they've had any trackball problems, and you're sure to get an earful. I've used a number of Tour units, and I bought my girlfriend a Verizon Tour on the day it was released last summer. Every single one of those devices has been returned to a Verizon store or swapped out for a new unit due to bum trackballs.

RIM wisely addressed this issue by giving the Bold 9650 a trackpad. (Read my thoughts on why RIM's low-end Curve 8520 was first to get the trackpad.) Overall, I've been very pleased with my experience using RIM's trackpads, and the Bold 9650 is no exception--though I do have one significant concern I'll address in the following section. The trackpads "loosen up" a bit with wear and tear, but for the most part, they're infinitely more functional and less prone to breakage than track balls.

Like the Tour 9630, the Bold 9650 uses a 1400mAh, standard "D-X1" BlackBerry battery, and I got right around 24 hours of moderate-to-heavy use on a single charge. That's about the same battery-life I saw on the Tour 9630, and though it's not quite as strong as the Bold 9700's battery life, it's certainly not bad for a 3G device. (The 9700 employs a slightly different type of battery with a larger storage capacity.)

The Bold 9650 is a very handsome smartphone, just like its Tour 9630 brother. A silver/chrome-colored bezel encompasses the handset on its sides and bottom, complimenting the similarly styled trackpad "ring" and silver keyboard "frets." The Sprint and Verizon versions of the Tour 9630 had slightly different color bezels--the Verizon bezel was a less-shiny, matte silver--and though I haven't yet seen a Verizon version, it stands to reason this will also be the case with the Bold bezels.

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