BlackBerry Bold 9900 Review: RIM’s Best Smartphone Ever?

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The full HTML-enabled web browser is more than serviceable — it’s actually quite nice —  but, again, the tiny screen renders it a squinty-eyed browsing experience: You’re just not going to spend much time lurking the net here. Still, the 4G connection is forgivingly fast: The mobile site for took less than eight seconds to load, while clocked in at less than three seconds (even when I tried it from an area of our office with crappy reception).

Now for the downside, and it’s a doozy: BlackBerry’s App World is still as lackluster as ever. Though RIM recently opened up BBM to third-party designers in hopes attracting submissions to its app database, the options are still paltry when compared to the Android Market or the App Store. To put things gently: App World still sucks.

(MORE: The Tragic Decline of BlackBerry)

Preloaded apps like Twitter, Facebook and other productivity apps like Calendar work fine (though they’re not anything to write home about), and anyone looking to do any sort of gaming beyond Brickbreaker or Solitaire should definitely look elsewhere.

The Verdict

RIM proves that they can still launch a solid, professional-feeling product in spite of a pretty glaring design misstep — that damn, space-eating trackpad. For BlackBerry purists it has all the stuff you’d want in a BlackBerry made better than ever, with one of the best physical keyboards around. Period.

For professionals? The Bold’s a workhorse with a durable, long-lasting battery (it still has a charge after 48-hours of casual use) and the best built-in email and messaging system of any smartphone out there. As a communication-only device for all things work-related it’s tough to beat.

But alas, for the average consumer, it’s still pales in comparison to Androids or iPhones with bigger screens and a far, far wider selection of apps, which, if RIM doesn’t find a way to get third-party developers onboard, will be the ugly death of it.

The short of it is that there just isn’t very much to do on the Bold, or any BlackBerry quite frankly. They’re good machines at what they do—work stuff—just not much else.

So, yes, it’s the best BlackBerry ever, hands down. For loyalists and business professionals that’s great news; for everyone else, though, it’s nothing terribly new, and unfortunately there’s nothing outstanding here you can’t get elsewhere, especially at its sky-high asking price: $300 with a two-year contract on T-Mobile. Ugh.

Second Opinions

Telegraph | BGR | CNET | Ubergizmo

Chris Gayomali is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @chrigz, on Facebook, or on Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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