BlackBerry Bold 9650 First-look Review

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UPDATE: This preliminary review was written after just a few days with the Bold 9650. An in-depth review  of this smartphone is now available:

BlackBerry Bold 9650 Review

RIM is at it again with the BlackBerry Bold 9650, the successor to the BlackBerry Tour. The smartphone successfully delivers the best of BlackBerry’s features: the latest operating system, the best keyboard, camera, Wi-Fi and more.

Despite its outdated looks, the Bold 9650 seems poised to take over the role of most-desirable BlackBerry for Sprint and Verizon users. It’s available now from Sprint for $200 with contract, and Verizon will release it soon.

I’ve only had the device for a short time, but that’s enough to offer my first impression. A full review will be published soon.

 
BUILD & DESIGN

BlackBerry Bold 9650 from SprintYou won’t be blown away by the looks of the 9650. In fact, after the initial unboxing I had to look twice to make sure that this was actually a new device. It looks almost identical to the BlackBerry Tour 9630, with the exception of an optical trackpad and slightly smaller dimensions. It couldn’t be more obvious that the new model is the replacement for the Tour, despite the new name.

Screen/Keyboard/Trackpad
The screen is crisp, vivid, and bright. Happily, it seems RIM has resolved the issue we saw with the Tour where the screen would ripple from the corner when pushing a talk button.

The keypad is taken almost directly from the Tour, maintaining the same layout, color scheme, and the same great rubbery keyboard.

The trackpad seems a little finicky but hopefully that’s just part of the learning curve.

Other Design Elements
Unlike the Bold models offered by AT&T and T-Mobile, the 9650’s back plate doesn’t sport any faux-leather. Instead it has a simple textured plastic center piece on a standard black matte finish.

There is a rocker key across the top for the mute and lock keys, but no dedicated media keys like we’ve seen on other RIM models.


PERFORMANCE

In keeping with its mission of delivering a top-quality device, the 9650 comes loaded with BlackBerry OS 5.0, which includes a collection of useful apps including email, a web browser and a calendar.

BlackBerry Bold 9650With the recent updates to the OS, the line between basic BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) features and the consumer-oriented BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) features continues to be blurred, which is a great thing for BIS users. Features that were once available only to corporate users are becoming available to individuals.

There don’t seem to be any major improvements or changes to this specific flavor of the OS compared to the versions on other RIM offerings.

Other Features
The Bold 9650 offers 3G (EV-DO Rev. A) and support for UMTS/HSPA overseas, so it can be used in the U.S. and abroad.

Unlike its predecessor, the Tour 9630, the smartphone offers Wi-Fi.  It also has Bluetooth.

Call quality is good so far, though the speakerphone can be a little choppy at the highest volume settings.

RIM includes its nearly-standard 3.2 megapixel camera with auto-focus and flash, and the lens is slightly offset from the center on the back of the device.


PRELIMINARY CONCLUSION

The BlackBerry Bold 9650 isn’t groundbreaking. Normally it would be a huge step for the CDMA crowd, envious of the 9700. However given how capable the Tour is, the only real improvements seem to be more connectivity and the trackpad.

Check back for a more in-depth review, coming soon!

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