When the Bold 9700 was launched in October 2009, little did RIM (Research In Motion), or anyone else for that matter, know, how much the smartphone market would change in the space of a year. Change it did, and RIM faced a lot of competition from the likes of Apple iPhones and Android-based smartphones. There was an urgent need change the operating system and the interface in particular. The OS5 looked dated and dull in comparison to the highly customisable Android OS and even the good looking Apple iOS4. Those who wanted a hardcore business phone still went for a Blackberry, but the rest of the consumers found the Blackberry phones dull and boring – not because of the any hardware deficiencies, but because the OS and the interface was boring.
RIM went to work, and emerged from the building with something we now know as the OS6. This is the new smartphone OS on which future Blackberry devices will be based. Not only does it look and feel much more intuitive and fun, but also has a lot of new features. The Webkit web browser is possibly the most important upgrade. Not only is this browser interface snappier than the predecessor, but the page rendering speeds have also improved. Since the Bold 9780 is not a touchscreen phone, we were a little apprehensive about how the browser would respond to traditional mouse based navigation. It did well. Navigation was smooth and zoom-by-clicking on a certain area of the webpage made browsing easy. This browser may not be the fastest one around, but is certainly a huge improvement over what Blackberry users got earlier. Apart from the upgraded browser, the OS6 also gets universal search from the home screen, an app called Social Feeds, an updated music player and multiple ‘screens’ for customising with app links. Apart from this, the navigation and options menus are a lot more streamlined. The settings menu is a lot easier to navigate than earlier, thanks to the clubbing together of similar type options.
The OS6, does not feel heavier or slower than the OS5, despite the changes. Good thing, because RIM plans to send out operating system upgrades to the Bold 9700 as well as the Curve 3G, in due course of time. The OS6 may not have too much problems, despite the lower hardware specs, particularly on the Curve 3G.
We are quite impressed with RIM’s strategy with regards to new handsets with the new operating system. They launched the Torch with the radical (at least in Blackberry terms!) form factor, with the hope that it would catch on. However, they smartly took their most consistent phone, modified it a bit, updated it with the new OS and assured themselves of steady sales, even if the Torch didn’t catch on for some reason. And this ‘tried and tested’ strategy has paid off, with the Bold 9780.
The form factor of the 9780 is exactly similar to the Bold 9700. Same dimensions, look and feel on the outside. The Full QWERTY keypad is as comfortable to use as before, and is assisted by the optical trackpad. The 2.4-inch screen with a 480×360-pixel resolution, is the same as the Bold 9700. The left panel has the 3.5mm audio jack and the microUSB port. The right panel has the volume control buttons. There is a customisable button on each side of the phone. You can set these buttons to open certain apps, and this is fully customisable from the menu. The top panel has the phone lock button. The battery cover has the rubbery feel to it, while the 5 megapixel camera and flash are placed just above it. The memory card slot is also placed right next to the battery cover. The 9780 has a solid build and feels expensive to hold and use as well. Hold a Curve 3G and the Bold 9780 in either hand simultaneously and you’ll know what I am talking about!
The focus of this phone is understandably on the new operating system. The Bold 9780 has the same 624MHz processor as the Bold 9700, but the bump up of RAM from 256MB to 512MB does make a difference. The apps respond quickly, and, even if quite a few apps are open in the background, the phone doesn’t slow down.
There will be no skins wrapped around the OS6, unlike Android. However, with the new OS, RIM has tried to bring in the multiple ‘screen’ feature albeit in a more restricted way. Even though the wallpaper remains constant, the bottom portion of the display has a scrolling strip that is superimposed on the wallpaper. Application shortcuts can be added to it. Users can even change the number of apps shown on the home screen – one or two rows. The interface is a lot more colourful than the OS5, which also helps in a huge way. The menus are clubbed together making navigation simpler and less painful than the previous OS. To get an idea of the difference, just click in the “settings” option from the home screen in OS5.
The 2.4 inch screen isn’t one of the fancy AMOLED or S-LCD ones. The humble TFT has been carried forward from the 9700, and does a consistently good job. Even in bright sunlight, the display works pretty well, which is quite rare. The lack of the touchscreen option makes it essential that the physical keyboard be good. And it is. The full QWERTY keypad is supremely good to use. Even though there is literally no spacing between the keys, the key size itself is big enough to allow comfortable typing. Though someone with not very thin fingers may take some time getting used to the key placement, the usability experience is undoubtedly top class.
The call quality offered by the 9780 is very good. The in-ear speaker is very clear. Users can adjust the volume while on a call with the volume control buttons on the right side panel. Also, the settings menu lets you adjust the in-call default volume. At 75 per cent, it was loud enough even in very noisy situations. The hands-free speaker is quite loud and surprisingly clear as well. This helps in music playback as well. The music library looks fantastic now, for a Blackberry device. The albums are sorted well, and the album art gets prominence. The music player also has multiple equaliser settings, which do make quite a difference. Even on the speaker, the music quality was excellent, if the volume is not pumped up beyond 70 per cent. The tiny speaker is placed on the rear panel, but packs quite a punch.
However, since this is a Blackberry, the focus is on emails, social networking and the web. Email setup is a breeze. I configured two email accounts on it simultaneously – Gmail and Windows Live Mail, and the setup even asked me if I would like to link these IDs to the respective IM clients. Blackberry Messenger is something which everyone seems to be using these days! The Bold 9780 has the Gtalk, Windows Live and Yahoo messengers pre-installed, along with the Facebook and Twitter applications.
For social networking, there is an app called Social Feeds, which allows users to check for all updates on Twitter, Facebook, BB Messenger, Gtalk, Yahoo Messenger etc from within one application. The convenience offered is immense, considering the fact that accessing six different apps for the updates can be a little overwhelming!
The battery life of the 9780 is much better than most smartphones out there. Two days from full charge to full discharge is quite impressive, particularly when the BBM, Facebook, Twitter and mails are constantly pulling data from the Internet. The screen brightness was set at 10 per cent with the adjust brightness according to ambient light setting activated. The 1500 mAh battery is the same as the Bold 9700, but the better battery backup is probably because of the new and better OS.
The 5 megapixel camera is a huge welcome, putting a stop to the trend of poor cameras on good Blackberry phones. Even the Bold 9700 has a 3.1 megapixel camera, which is just not good enough. The 5 megapixel camera on this one is a very decent clicker. Images taken are clear, vivid and not noisy. There are multiple scene settings which make a lot of impact on the quality and the liveliness of the image.
What is disappointing however is the relative lack of apps, when compared to the Apple and Android smartphone platforms. Most apps are paid, and there is just a distinct lack of sheer variety.
Blackberry data plans, offered by the mobile service provider, are a complicated ecosystem. There are some plans which cost less, but only allow Blackberry Messenger, emails and IM usage, for example, Blackberry Prosumer Lite @ Rs. 299 on Vodafone postpaid. No web browsing or Facebook and Twitter access. However, you will have to subscribe to what is known as the Blackberry Internet Service (BIS) plans to get the full access to all www services. These cost more than the basic messenger plan (For ex- Rs. 599 per month on Vodafone postpaid), but are definitely worth it. However, some video streaming services are not included in the free data usage. Do check with the service provider, rather than get the shock of a huge bill later.
The Bold 9780 is definitely an improvement over the previous Blackberry handset generation. Not because of the hardware, but a vastly improved operating system. The OS6 not only looks better, but also offers a more streamlined navigation path.
While this is a new phone, the focus is largely on the software side. The Blackberry Bold 9780 carries forward the superb performance standard set by the Bold 9700. However, the software upgrades will make the 9780 appeal to a much wider audience. The OS6 definitely looks and feels a lot better than the bland looking OS5. The three megapixel camera has now been replaced by a much better five megapixel camera. Also, the bump up in the RAM from 256MB to 512MB makes a lot of difference – the phone just responds much faster.
For someone with a Bold 9700, this may not be an enticing enough upgrade. After all, we are hearing that the Bold 9700 along with a few of the newer older generation handsets will get the OS upgrade. You might want to wait for that one. However, if you need to buy a new Blackberry phone now, and have a big enough budget, this is the one to buy. We have seen it retailing for Rs. 26,000, just Rs. 1,300 more than the Bold 9700. The Bold 9780 just makes a lot of sense to buy, if you were planning on buying the Bold 9700 anyway.
Quad Band GSM
3G Capable smartphone
2.4 inch display (480×360 resolution)
MicroSD card slot
5 megapixel camera
1500 mAh battery
Price (MRP): Rs. 27,990