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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When I first heard of RIM's decision to change the Tour name to Bold, I was sure it would do little more than confuse BlackBerry users. But after some careful thought, I realized the name change could actually be a very good idea...if executed effectively.

After watching the Bold 9650 come to market, I'm not sure RIM has met my expectations. First of all, the Bold experience is meant to be the best RIM offers: the Bold is RIM's flagship device; Bold devices are arguably the best looking BlackBerrys; and they're frequently the most pricey RIM handhelds.

The first two Bold devices, the BlackBerry 9000 and 9700, feel like natural entries into the Bold family. The Bold 9650 does not. Specifically, the Bold 9000 and 9700 both have similar faux-leather battery covers. The 9650 does not. The Bold 9000 and 9700 both show a 3G icon when connected to a 3G network, stressing the fact that both are new, fast, high-end devices. The Bold 9650 does not unless it's connected to a 3G UMTS network. (RIM's most recent 3G CDMA device, the Storm2, did show a 3G icon when connected to a 3G CDMA network, but the Bold doesn't, creating more BlackBerry device inconsistency.)

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So to sum all that up: The Bold 9650 doesn't feel like a BlackBerry Bold; It feels like an upgraded BlackBerry Tour. In fact, it feels to me like what the original Tour should have been. And it should've been released in June of 2009, in place of the Tour, not June of 2010, as an upgrade. Good-marketing intentions aside, RIM may have actually added to its ongoing BlackBerry branding confusion with the Bold 9650 because of this confusion.

Finally, the placement of the microUSB port toward the bottom of the handset's side, same as the original Tour, is awkward, because it makes using the device or placing calls difficult while charging, particularly for right-handed users. I also could not get my BlackBerry Desktop Manager for Mac software to recognize the Bold 9650, though the software probably just needs a update for the new device.

Now. My conclusion...

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