On paper, one of the biggest draws of the BlackBerry Bold 9930 is that it’s one of the first devices to run the brand-new BlackBerry 7 OS. That being said, it’s not much of a change. There are plenty of minor tweaks and, of course, the integration of touchscreen controls, but in terms of the user interface and app selection, it’s pretty standard BlackBerry fare; that is to say, not particularly appealing when considering the user interface of Android and App Store for iOS devices.
The handset also sports 8 GB of storage (expandable up to 32 GB via microSD) and a very respectable 1.2 GHz processor. The CPU is plenty powerful and ensures everything runs smoothly, especially when running apps or games that do not rely on an internet connection. That’s not a knock on reception — which was just fine — I just mean to say that when a task falls entirely on the processor, it handles the job very well.
The Bold 9930 functions just fine as a phone, with calls coming through crisp and clear on my end. I never had any dropped calls during my time with it, though on one or two occasions I had people on the other end of the line say that they couldn’t hear me very well. I think that fell more on the network than the phone, though, as I just relocated and everything was fine. I made sure to test the messaging as well, and that went down without a hitch.
Though some people would be concerned about the fact that the 9930 is not 4G enabled, I would venture to say that it’s kind of a moot point, mostly because web browsing on the device — like all BlackBerrys — is a miserable experience and still would have been regardless of its network.
The browser in BlackBerry OS 7 is substantially faster than the one found in previous iterations of the operating system, so much so that it took my editor’s Bold 9650 roughly 15 more seconds than the 9930 to load the TechnologyGuide webpage. But a good browser by BlackBerry standards is not saying much. In the grand scheme of things, it’s still very slow and can take a good 10-15 seconds to load a simple webpage. The browser is especially slow when loading blogs or blog-type sites in which the pages are vertically quite long, with multiple images and stories running down in a straight column. Often with these pages, even when the browser said it was finished loading, many images and assets would still be missing. It may be an improvement, but in the grand scheme of things, this still is not a very good browser.
Geting work donwe is where the 9930, as usual for BlackBerrys, really shines. Email and messaging is extraordinarily streamlined and easy to use, with notifications for any types of messages (be they BBM, text, voicemail, or email) popping up in a convenient link right on the home screen. Personal email accounts as well as corporate Exchange accounts can be easily synced to the phone, though I did find it a bit odd that regardless of what kind of email address you use, you’re still required to sign up for a BlackBerry account.
Many other productivity staples are here, including an address book for your contacts and a simple calendar app. It also comes preloaded with DataViz’s Documents to Go app, which allows you to view and edit Microsoft Office documents. Not only is this useful — especially for the business folks — the ability to edit documents is far more appealing on a device that has such an excellent keyboard and control scheme (that is, when you use the touchscreen and trackpad together… trying to edit documents with just the touchscreen can be tough).
And while the 9930 does come with the BlackBerry Maps app, I would suggest avoiding it like the plague. Compared to Google Maps or even the Bing Maps app that I have on my Windows Phone 7, this is just dreadful. Aside from the fact that it takes forever for the device’s GPS to find your location, load times are painfully long (especially when zooming) and it does not seem to have a particularly extensive index of locations. I tried typing the name of a popular restaurant chain, P.F. Chang’s, and yet the app could not find any locations despite the fact that there are a handful of them in the surrounding area. Navigation is made marginally better by the fact that you can now do pinch to zoom, but beyond that, the mapping software is just as bad as ever on the BlackBerry.
There are a decent number of preloaded apps on the Bold 9930, including the ubiquitous media suite of music and video players, as well as a camera, camcorder, picture viewer, Slacker Radio, BlackBerry Podcasts, and a whole lot of that blasted V CAST software.
It has social networking in spades too, as it comes preloaded with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube apps, along with a healthy choice of messenger apps including Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and Google Talk.
It’s light on games — it only comes with Brick Breaker and Word Mole — and unfortunately, the app selection for BlackBerrys is neither expansive nor is it of particularly high quality. For some odd reason, the most recently added app to BlackBerry App World is, at the time of this review, the Evansville Indiana Police and Fire Dispatch Scanner for $0.99. Take that however you will.
I never really know what to say in this section of my reviews because, with a few extremely rare exceptions, camera phones are never really any good. Like most other camera phones, the 9930’s is serviceable for quick, casual picture taking in the event that you have a celebrity sighting or something, but otherwise this 5-megapixel camera is nothing worth writing home about.
It can also shoot 720p video which is certainly not the worst I’ve ever seen, but like I said about the still shots, don’t lean on this for anything more than casual usage. And, unlike some phones, the 9930 is not equipped with an HDMI out that would allow you to share your videos on a larger screen, so you’ll have to rely on uploading to share the love.
The battery life on the Bold 9930 is outstanding. Even as I was putting the phone through its paces by testing out every feature and application I could, it lasted about two and a half days on a single charge. And the thing is, I wasn’t even trying to conserve battery life, so I had my email settings on push and for most of the time I had Wi-Fi on (that was because I didn’t realize it was on until the third day, so I turned it off at that point).
So I was very happy to see that despite me using the 9930 for some power-intensive tasks like retrieving directions, browsing the web, and taking pictures and video, I still got a very solid run on a single charge.