RIM's BlackBerry Bold: Messaging Is Still Job One

Browser Blues

Like other BlackBerrys, the Bold comes up short as a mobile browser. Implementing an interpreted language (JavaScript) in an interpreted language (Java) carries unavoidable drawbacks. On the Bold, the native Web browser is slow and sometimes unstable even over 3G and Wi-Fi links when JavaScript is enabled. In addition, it lacks a tabbed or multisite view, column mode fails to flow text to fill the width of the screen, and rendering errors are frequent on complex pages. The Bold's snappy 3G and Wi-Fi performance do become apparent when you turn off the standard browser's JavaScript interpreter, download the freeware alternative Opera Mini, or lean toward sites designed for mobile devices.

RIM's browser loads content serially instead of using multiple simultaneous TCP connections. Opera Mini, a freeware browser that takes a server-side approach to Web acceleration, is a worthy replacement. Opera Mini passes URL requests to its servers, which compress the content before delivering it to the browser. A side benefit is that Opera Mini does not impose a limit on file download sizes, so you can pull down that 30MB podcast over 3G on your way to the airport. BlackBerry's native browser caps downloads at 5MB.

The Bold can do more with downloaded documents than yesterday's BlackBerrys, thanks to DataViz's Documents to Go. This suite equips the BlackBerry Bold (Verizon bundles the same suite with the BlackBerry Storm) for offline viewing of Office and PDF documents, including e-mail attachments. But it also permits the editing of Office files, complete with formatting and change tracking, and a small one-time upgrade charge enables creation of new Office documents.

AT&T's bundled turn-by-turn navigation software is TeleNav, a favorite and my perennial pick for killer app on any mobile platform it graces. AT&T seemingly engaged in a bit of turf protection by blocking operation of BlackBerry Maps -- the simple, fast, and free navigation tool that RIM puts in every box. Google Maps, though inferior to BlackBerry Maps for navigation, still functions.

For Pros Only

RIM faces a lot of competition in the enterprise and professional mobile space, not least from its own new and refurbished handsets. BlackBerry Bold puts a needed new spin on old-school QWERTY. Yes, it's a ploy to reach into the pockets of traditional BlackBerry owners who envied the Storm's after-hours potential but wouldn't lop off their keyboards or sacrifice mature enterprise firmware to get it. The Bold updates QWERTY-device feel, fun, and functionality without disruptive compromises that swing it toward the consumer realm.

Is it worth $299? If you're carrying a BlackBerry, and you are among those serious users who type as much as they read, the Bold is worth every penny. The Bold fulfills its new supporting roles as USB storage, media player, video camera, Wi-Fi client, and desktop stand-in quite well. It won't take the market by storm, but it will give those BlackBerry users and enterprises that can afford it a platform for more ambitious applications. Given that the Bold is still a working person's BlackBerry, it makes a more pragmatic perquisite than most other gadgets.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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