BlackBerry Bold 9700: The Best BlackBerry of All Time

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I'm not exactly satisfied with just 256MB of app memory -- 512MB or more would certainly be better -- but it's a step up from the Bold 9000's 128MB of flash. And it's the most app memory RIM has squeezed into any BlackBerry to date.

7. The BlackBerry Bold 9700 has a 3.2-megapixel, autofocus digital camera: The 3.2-megapixel camera found on the BlackBerry Bold 9700 is really nothing to write home about, but it's a solid, mobile phone camera -- and the best you'll find on any of RIM's handhelds. The Bold 9700's camera has autofocus features, which can take some getting used to (the on-screen autofocus "box" is a bit awkward at times). But pictures generally appear vivid and clear. And a digital zoom function makes zooming in or out as simple as rolling a thumb or finger up and down over the device's "trackpad."

6. The BlackBerry Bold 9700 is a visual beauty: The BlackBerry Bold 9700 is without a doubt the most visually attractive BlackBerry RIM has ever produced. Gone are the days when BlackBerrys could be mistaken for clunky old remote controls, or even bricks. The Bold 9700 is thin, light, shiny and downright sexy.

Not only is the Bold 9700 a looker, it's built to last. The most common problems I've had with BlackBerrys over the past few years typically relate to trackballs, wireless signal issues, and faulty battery covers. The Bold 9700 doesn't have a trackball, and the new trackpad is a solid replacement -- I've yet to have any issues with my Bold 9700 trackpad. I haven't experienced any significant wireless signal problems since embracing the 9700. And the Bold 9700 battery cover, composed with a leatherette material, not unlike the original Bold's cover but classier looking, both fits like a glove and is easy to remove and replace.

A new bezel design with contoured edges gives the device a more polished look. Inset, user-customizable "convenience" keys on both the 9700's sides look like they're all part of a single surface. And shiny silver charging panels on the bottom left and right let you use the BlackBerry Bold 9700 Charge Pod to power up while reducing wear and tear on the main micro-USB charging port.

5. The BlackBerry Bold 9700 is a wireless powerhouse: The new BlackBerry Bold 9700 is T-Mobile USA's very first 3G BlackBerry -- just like I predicted it would be way back in August. The AT&T version is also 3G, and both versions pack Wi-Fi radios, stereo Bluetooth, and integrated GPS with assisted GPS.

AT&T's and T-Mobile's BlackBerry Bold 9700 devices are exactly the same except for a few minor differences: T-Mobile uses a different 3G radio frequency band in the United States than AT&T, so the T-Mobile version supports different bands. And T-Mobile also supports unlicensed mobile access (UMA) for Wi-Fi calling, while AT&T does not.

4. The BlackBerry Bold 9700 runs BlackBerry OS 5.0: The BlackBerry Bold 9700 is just the second U.S. device to ship with RIM's latest handheld operating system, BlackBerry OS 5.0 (the Storm 2 was the first). Verizon Wireless also just released the BlackBerry Curve 8530, which is now the third device to ship with the new OS, after the Storm 2 and Bold 9700.

RIM has shipped OS 5.0 for the original BlackBerry Storm, but that device is the only "older" BlackBerry with an official OS 5.0 build. Verizon Wireless shipped the OS 5.0 update for the first Storm in late October, shortly before releasing the new Storm 2. T-Mobile and AT&T released the Bold 9700 with different 5.0 software builds -- T-Mobile went with a newer version than AT&T -- but the basic functionality is the same, and both devices run the best software the BlackBerry-maker has to offer.

3. The BlackBerry Bold 9700 keyboard: RIM currently makes four kinds of keyboards: 1) SureType keyboards, found on RIM's various BlackBerry Pearl devices, with multiple characters on single keys; 2) SurePress keyboards, or touch-screen keyboards for BlackBerry Storm devices; 3) the "Curve"-style full QWERTY keyboard found on Curve devices; and 4) the "Bold"-style full QWERTY keyboard on RIM's Bold and Tour devices.

I'm a very heavy texter, so keyboard design is very important to me when choosing a smartphone. In fact, keyboard design is one of the top factors that keep me loyal to BlackBerry, despite flashy devices like the iPhone and Motorola Droid.

RIM's Bold-style keyboard -- contoured keys with little or no horizontal space between them and guitar-like, chrome frets spaced vertically between rows -- is by far my favorite BlackBerry keyboard design. And the Bold 9700's keyboard doesn't disappoint, though I do wish it was slightly larger. (More on that subject in the next section.)

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