[Blackberry World] Today, RIM unveiled its thinnest Smartphone to date, the BlackBerry Bold 9900 / 9930 that features a touch interface alongside the “best keyboard ever”, according to RIM. At only 10.5 mm, the super-thin and relatively lightweight (130g) Bold 9900 sports a 1.2 GHz single core processor with a high performance graphics processor (GPU), a 2.8” VGA (640×480 – 287 dpi) capacitive touch screen display, 4G/ HDSPA+ support, 5 MP camera, 720p HD video recording, dual band WiFi b/g/n at 2.4 Ghz and WiFi a/n at 5 Ghz, 8GB internal memory. The 9900 is GSM /HDSPA+ and the  9930 is CDMA/GSM/HDSPA+ (world phone) –  no LTE support. On the software side, the big news is the launch of the new BlackBerry 7 OS.

RIM did not want to share anything about the pricing, and when asked about the brand of the SoC/processor, the company representative told me that “the information will be released closer to the market launch, in late summer 2011”. So we cannot comment on the “high performance GPU” not knowing what it exactly is and without running independant tests. Rim claims that the hardware delivers a 60 frames per second (FPS) user interface with instant responsiveness, and we can notice that OpenGL 2.0 support for developers has been announced, meaning that a bunch of applications including games will be able to feature accelerated 3D. RIM has been late to support the 3D graphics API.

Physical Design

The new Bold has a sleek and elegant form factor and RIM made a point to select high end materials for the body, including a brushed stainless steel frame and a high-gloss glass-weave back plate. It looks less “plastic” than the previous Bold and its thinness adds to the overall elegance, making us forget that its width has been increased to offer a better keyboard. (picture below)

BlackBerry Bold 9900 Preview

BlackBerry Bold 9900 compared to the previous Bold

Display

BlackBerry Bold 9900 Preview

BlackBerry Bold 9900 Touch Screen VGA Display (640x480 -2.8")

The capacitive touch screen display is crisp and the contrast high; the 640×480 resolution for 2.8” offers a high pixel density: 287 dpi (the iPhone 4 display is 326 dpi). I tried briefly the touch interface it is very responsive and very enjoyable to use, scrolling through apps is fast (picture below).RIM called it “Liquid Graphics” display, to market the high quality of the visual experience, including the responsiveness.

BlackBerry Bold 9900 Preview

BlackBerry Bold 9900 scrolling

Keyboard

Touted as the “device with the best keyboard ever” on stage today, the Bold 9900’s keyboard width has been increased by 6% compared to the previous generation. I have not had the time to try it well, I will update this post soon when I will at he chance to get my hands on one of the prototype here at BlackBerry World in Orlando.

Blackberry OS 7 demo (video)

Messaging: unified inbox with social networks updates

BlackBerry Bold 9900 Preview

BlackBerry Bold 9900 Unified Inbox

The new Blackberry bold has a unified inbox that includes messages and updates from social networks like Twitter and Facebook. This is convenient as the inbox is typically where the attention is. Additionally, you may be able to reply directly from there, depending on which web service you are using.

Browser

High performance GPU with graphic acceleration allows faster web page loading, additionally RIM told me that Javascript has been optimized for the new browser which  integrate a new JIT (just in time) JavaScript compiler to improve the load time speed of web pages. The new browser also includes support for additional HTML5 elements, such as HTML5 Video. I tested page scrolling, pinch-to-zoom responsiveness and quality, and indeed, it is fast and the graphic rendering is crisp.

HD video 720p – recording and playback

The device supports HD video recording and playback, the experience is fluid and the audio is quite good for a smartphone speaker. Check the vdieo palback demo in our video, at minute 3.50.

Camera

The RIM representative told me that the camera autofocus and response time has been enhanced. He showed me a demo that you can watch in our video.

Universal Search with voice command – BlackBerry 7

The universal search was in the previous OS, BlackBerry 7 OS brings voice activation to the universal search, check the demo at minute 4.01 in our video.

Documents To Go enhanced – BlackBerry 7

BlackBerry 7 offers a enhanced version of the Office apps suite Documents To Go that allows users to view and edit their Word, Excel, PowerPoint files.

NFC support in BlackBerry 7

NFC is the new trendy topic in the mobile industry, maybe because it will unlock new revenue streams opportunities for the whole ecosystem.The new BlackBerry 7 OS supports NFC and the chip is integrated in the Bold 9900, watch a demo of one of the application that can be devloped for it, the possibilities are endless.

Perceived Performance

RIM is putting a lot of efforts in enhancing the performance of its smartphone, since previoulsy, security features combined with Java made the BlackBerry platform known for its slow responsiveness. From what I have seen in the few minutes I could gets my hands on the device, the overall performance looks good. Web browsing is fast, the display and the user interface are very responsive, HD video playback is fluid.

BlackBerry Balance technology: Work hard, Play hard

It is interesting to note that RIM is trying to jump into the consumer band wagon while remaining faithful to the enterprise, and from the design and product strategy decisions the company made, we can see that RIM wants to makes its devices more sexy and fun, two characteristics that are usually associated with more consumer-oriented competitors.

Pushing graphics quality both on the display side and on the hardware side – with OpenGL 2.0 support, high performance GPU – means that BlackBerry expects to offer some graphically intensive entertainment.

That is might be the reason why today, RIM launched BlackBerry Balance, a technology integrated to BlackBerry 7 OS, that separates work data from personal content in the back-end, keeping work-related files secure and under the IT department control.
The border between enterprise and consumer technology is getting more blurry everyday, we have seen a similar application for Android, Enterproid, winning the Qualcomm Award at DEMO.

Conclusion

The BlackBerry Bold 9900 is the sexiest RIM handset to date, that features a brand new OS with good graphics performance, nicknamed “Liquid Graphics”, and which integrates security features while letting professionals have fun with their personal content, thanks to the new BlackBerry Balance technology.

BlackBerry World Coverage:

 

Disclaimer: we have been invited by RIM to attend BlackBerry World with many other journalists/bloggers. Our trip and hotel accommodation have been arranged by, and paid for, by RIM. We always pay for our travel expenses to events like CES, MWC, CEATEC, etc… but when we are invited, we want to be transparent about it.

This article was filed in Homepage > Breaking > Top Stories and was tagged with blackberry bold, blackberry world, Hands-On and Smartphone.
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