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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The Bold 9650 feels more substantial than the 9700, which is significantly smaller, even though both devices have the same size keyboard. (The Bold 9650 and 9700 have smaller keyboards than the original Bold 9000.) The 9650 is also slightly heavier and thicker than the 9700, but it doesn't feel too clunky like some of RIM's past BlackBerrys. I still prefer the Bold 9700 form-factor to the 9650, since it's smaller and more svelte, and I'm a device-in-the-pocket as opposed to a holster-guy. But the Bold 9650 feels more "solid."

RIM's new Bold is a "world edition," i.e., it can be used on both CDMA and GSM networks. And unlike any other BlackBerry to date, at least that I'm aware of, the Bold 9650 comes factory "unlocked," meaning it can be used on any compatible GSM/UMTS network right out of the box. (Read instructions on how to switch between CDMA and GSM networks.)

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Since the Bold 9650 is practically identical to the BlackBerry Tour, there are already a wide variety of accessories available for the new device. However, Tour users upgrading to the Bold 9650 should know that the microUSB port on the new Bold is in a slightly different place, so some Tour cases/skins/etc. may not fit perfectly. Other Tour accessories that don't employ that microUSB port should work just fine for the 9650, including the BlackBerry Tour Charge Pod.

The GPS in the new Bold seems snappier than the GPS in my Bold 9700; the 9650's time to first fix (TTFF) was consistently quicker than my 9700 and by a significant margin.

Finally, the BlackBerry Bold 9650 is expected to be available in both camera-equipped (3.2 megapixels) and camera-less versions for organization that ban digital cameras from certain areas or facilities, though Sprint still hasn't listed that handset for sale.

The device is reasonably priced at $199.99 with two-year Sprint contract, after rebate, and $149.99 on contract following rebate via Verizon.

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