While the design of the Bold 9780 might be pretty familiar, the new BlackBerry 6 OS is… also pretty familiar.
But that's no criticism. Familiar it may be, but there are changes, and they add up to significantly improve the usability. You rarely need to stray more than one menu from the Home screen to access anything, and yet it's not cluttered or confusing.
We love the new Quick Access Points, which offer immediate access to options such as connectivity settings, the alarm clock, the ringer/vibration settings and the new Universal Search.
Notifications are now also an access point, bringing your a list of all recent activity and upcoming calendar events when selected.
At the bottom is the Navigation Bar, which enables you to access apps and functions in different categories. The All option is exactly what it says, offering access to to everything in a big scrollable list, but it's the addition of the others that refines the experience.
Scroll right on the Navigation Bar and you'll get to Favourites, to which you can manually add the items you use most.
Improved media functionality is a big push of BlackBerry 6, and this is demonstrated by the fact that Media now gets its own option on the Navigation Bar, to the right of Favourites. Here you'll find everything from music playback to voice recording and ringtones.
Next up is downloads, for seeing the apps you've added to the handset. Finally, you have Frequent. This simply offers you your most-used apps and functions, changing dynamically as you get more obsessed with Twitter/BlackBerry App World/BrickBreaker.
The BlackBerry button brings a contextual menu on the Home screen, in which you can access options for moving or removing apps, opening the current 'tray' in the Navigation Bar, access the app switcher (you can still hold down the BB button to bring this up) or get to some Home screen options.
By default, just typing on the keyboard will open Universal Search (which searches for terms both on your phone and online), but you can set it back to BlackBerry 5's app shortcuts here, if you wish.
Now, we're massive fans of this new layout. It feels both usable and powerful – you need never touch, say, the access point to the connectivity settings if you're not into that sort of tinkering, but it's quickly accessible if you are.
However, these enhancements feel more suited to a touchscreen than the optical trackpad on the Bold 9780. Being able to just tap the top-left to get to the ringer options, or swipe left and right to go between the Navigation Bar's 'trays' would be far more intuitive than scrolling up and then across to where you need to be.
At first, we found getting around the Home screen using the trackpad to be infuriatingly imprecise. Eventually, we tweaked the sensitivity down to 50 from 70 in the options, and this made it much more bearable on the Home screen.
One final new interface feature to note is the Social Feeds options. It's technically an app, but because it feeds into so many of the other sections in this review, we'll include it here (plus, it's a big new BB 6 addition).
It basically integrates your online life into one giant feed, pulling messages from the likes of Twitter, AIM, Windows Live Messenger, Facebook, Google Talk, BlackBerry Messenger and more.
In this way, you can catch up very quickly with any cloud-based messages you might need to. On top of this, it has a second screen dedicated to an RSS reader.
It's basically a giant info dump, and it's confusing in the best possible way. It's just an online assault on the sense, and we love it because of that. You can filter by service (so you can, say, just see Facebook updates), and you've got the option of using all the separate apps, so if you want a careful experience for each different service, go that way instead.
This is for just looking over everything that's going by just opening your brain and pouring words in. Superb.