John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Blackberry Bold touch 9900 review

I got a chance to do a mini review of the 9900 a while back but the device wasn’t mine so I wasn’t able to do an in depth review. This time the device is mine to pillage 🙂 This device was originally announced August 2011. With the Z10 now out there this is by no means the flagship.

From a physical point of view this is a solid well made device. It feels very good in the hand. I like the look along with the chrome around the outside The keyboard like most BBs is one of the best in the business. The device also has a convenience key (which you can map to anything you want), a volume up and down, and a power button. On the bottom are two contacts for meeting up with a dock of some sort (I assume). It uses a standard micro USB port (which was pretty tolerant of almost any charger) and a standard headphone jack. On the top is a multi color notification LED which I love and miss on my Samsung S2. Although it does constantly flash green when it is on the cell network. A little irritating, especially at night. Fortunately this can easily be turned off (Under Options, Display, Screen display, LED Coverage off). The notification LED makes it easy to see when there is anything needing your attention. All in all a nice compliment of buttons. I wish Android devices would add a few buttons back. The back of this device is a solid piece of plastic. Unlike so many other devices where you think you are going to break the back when you remove it, your more likely to break a nail opening the back it’s that solid!

This device is limited by the carriers desire to preserve their revenue stream IMHO. To get this device to do emails you need a BIS account. To get a BIS account you need a blackberry based SIM account with your carrier. Without this the device is limited to data access for things like the web and apps (but not email). They’ve even eliminated the native Gmail ap (which was awful anyway). Unfortunately that also means the Gmail priority inbox is not possible on this device. I miss that feature. It means that you are bothered any time a mail comes in whether they are important or not.

Once you have a Blackberry enabled SIM account with a BIS account you can get yourself moving. On BB7 (the OS on this device) RIM have included a wizard to setup as many internet email accounts as you wish. The way these work is the BIS server talks to your email accounts, pulls down emails and then pushes them down to your device. This works well and does not require any approvals from your administrator. Corporate BES accounts are done by your administrator. I was going from one BB to another and I was able to do the device Enterprise activation on my own without contacting the admin. The wizard simply informed me it was moving the account from the one device to the new one. You can only have one at a time. My friend Jeff helped to understand how this all worked. Thanks Jeff!

Unlocking this phone was simple and quick. Insert a SIM from a different provider and the phone comes up and asks if you want to enter the unlock code. It was readily available cheap on ebay. However if the SIM you add in does not have a blackberry account tied to it, your mail will stop flowing. You can still make and receive calls, text message, and browse the web. But BIS/BES email and BBM all stop flowing. That’s both in and out.

Mail is the bread and butter of this device and it does it well. Additionally you have BB messenger, and of course text messages rounding it all out. Communicating with the keyboard on this device is a treat when compared with on screen keyboards that eventually drive you nuts with their silly auto correct. The optical mouse and touch screen make using this device quite efficient!

Startup on this device is a tad on the slow side. Fortunately you do it VERY in frequently. From time to you end up needing to pull that battery. The uSD slot for example for some odd reason requires you to remove the battery insuring changing the card is something you will not do commonly. A dumb design. One of the few I can say on this device.

The screen on this device is one of the best seen on a BB yet (other than the Z10). Bright, vivid, fast and crisp. On a BB RIM have included the ability to control the font. And this changes the font pretty much everywhere. Something Android could learn a lesson from. The screen is a touch screen which I really love. You can only imagine how many times without even thinking on my 8830 I would reach up and touch the screen only to end up thinking DOH. Well done and long over due. Sensitivity is good as is responsiveness.

This is the last generation of devices from RIM before the introduction of QNX as the operating system. The processor on this phone is a single core 1.2GHZ. This at a time when devices are dual and quad core. Responsiveness is good but there are these occasional times when the phone just seems to hiccup. Patience eventually is rewarded by the phone coming back to sprightly existence. The operating system has been long in need of a rewrite. QNX is their solution. That said RIM have done what they can to bring this device forward with some multi media functionality given the limitations of the device. The small screen means watching movies on this puppy is NOT going to be a rewarding experience. And of course HDMI out is just not happening. I put in a 32G card with music movies and pictures and it took a while to scan the card for content and gave little to no feedback of what it was doing. Try and playback content before it’s done scanning and it’s going to be jerky. Movie playback of XVID was ok, but jerky from time to time, mostly while it was still scanning the card for conetnt. If you want to watch movies for this device I suspect it’s best to re-encode them for a smaller screen. The music player was fine with good support for tagging. The music was organized by artists, songs, albums, and genres. The player is basic with no support for song recognition, no additional info on the artist or album, no internet streaming support etc. There is a Slacker Radio ap in the mix however which worked fine. Music and video all automatically imported, oddly pictures did not.

The device comes with 6G of built in storage and supported a class 10 32GuSD card so there’s reasonable amounts of storage.

Smartphones are all about the apps. Blackberries for me are on the edge, I don’t really think of them as Smart phones and certainly not superphones in comparison to Android. They just can’t hold there own even from a spec point of view. Or at least before the Z10s. The first thing you need to figure out is what are the apps you are going to loose if your coming from Android or iPhone. Blackberry has the least of the three from an ap point of view. There maybe alternative aps you can live with, or maybe not.

The web browser on this device is hands down the best browser ever on a berry (Other than the Z10). That said, BBs have have the worst mobile browser out there. The pan and zoom work well enough. The small screen (a trade off for having the keyboard) is an obvious limitation as is the slow network speeds and the slow processor. There’s no flash support, but that’s not really a surprise. None the less a nice step forward.

Another consideration when choosing blackberry, particularly if it’s an enterprise blackberry is what aps does your organization block. Companies can decide what is acceptable and unacceptable use. So for example a number of organizations block the facebook ap.

The 9900 is one of the few devices currently approved for use with Rogers suretapp. It’s an NFC based wireless payment system. Sadly my SIM card is Bell not Rogers so it won’t work. So yet again NFC ain’t NFG 🙂

I use Bluetooth tethering between my Android phone and tablet and it works well. The 9900 can Bluetooth tether to a playbook, sadly it can not bluetooth tether to either my Android tablet or my Android phone. Wifi tethering works fine, but I did find the radio on the 9900 slow in comparison to my other devices. Max I saw 1-3Mb/s Vs 3-7 I get on my other devices like my S2. Now according to the 9900 supports CSD, GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA, HSUPA while the S2 says it supports GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA, HSUPA, HSPA+ so HSPA+ is missing on the 9900 which would explain the speed difference.

BBs have been well known for their battery life. Mutliple days off a charge are not uncommon. Well not with this one. Getting a day out of it is easy, a day and maybe a night but multiple days would be unlikely at best. And that’s without even playing games.

Standard bluetooth keyboards and mice don’t work at all. The link but then do nothing.

As a whole IMHO prior to the Z10 this is the best BB ever and a HUGE improvement over my relic 8830. Now comes the killer question, could I live only with this device? Well the slow network speeds is a limiter. The browser is still not as good as Android. The inability to do any form of email off of a blackberry plan is a HUGE limiter. I can see why they fixed this on the Z10. It really has been a long time coming. But the big killer is right now I have 101 apps loaded on my S2. Now I can live without a number of them and if I REALLY had to I could probably find replacements for some of them. But in the end the motivator just isn’t there to abandon Android. Even though I positively love the keyboard 😦

For a complete list of specs Check out



April 2, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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