The Bold 9900 is certainly bold in its ambition. It may fail in some places, but in the most part, it really impresses.
Slimmest BlackBerry ever
8GB of built in memory
Amazing screen clarity
Proven reliability of email
OS 7 not much better than OS 6
No Flash video
Camera snaps could be better
Social networking could be better integrated
Function buttons are fiddly
Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.
The BlackBerry Bold 9900 comes as something of a shock. You see, for years, BlackBerry has, in a sense, been catching up. That's not a dig at its parent company – it's practically royalty in push email and corporate handset circles. But it has been rare for RIM to lead the way.
Cameras, internet browsing, HTML emails – all were included on RIM's phones years after they'd become standard fare on other handsets. For recent examples of decent phones that didn't really push the envelope all that far, just take a look at the Bold 9780 and 9700.
But the Bold 9000 finally offers some cutting-edge tech, and in an attractive package to boot. Its 1.2GHz processor, high-spec touchscreen, brand new OS7 and HD video camera are all specs we never really expected a BlackBerry to have before the next millennium.
Plus, the staple BlackBerry offerings of a fantastic keyboard and top-notch security will keep regular users interested.
We've taken some time to bring you a few moving pictures to go with the words - think of it as a sidekick to our superhero prose:
And if you're stuck deciding between this and the two other recently released BlackBerry phones, never fear - we've got an enlightening group test to pit the Torch 9860, Torch 9810 and Bold 9900 against each other to see which takes your fancy:
For once, RIM is taking the initiative, thanks to the inclusion of a near field communication chip – a fairly new technology that's been talked about for years. RIM is the first to properly take the plunge and add the tech in, while the others dilly-dally about whether to include it.
The question is: can the 9900 really compete in an already very crowded, and competitive, market?
Pick up the Bold 9900 and you'll definitely know about it. It's 130g, so it's by no means feather-light. But would you want it any other way? Ultimately, this is a handset that's supposed to feel like it means business, and at least it feels lighter than you expect it to be.
RIM's also bucked the trend in making a phone that's bigger than its predecessor, the 9780. In fact, it's like looking at a smaller version of Ol' Grandpa Bold, the original 9900 – albeit smaller than that huge elder statesman and with a trackpad instead of a trackball.
At 115 x 66 x 10.5 mm, you can slide it into your pocket without too much bulk. In fact, that's one of the 9900's key selling points; RIM says this is the slimmest BlackBerry yet.
It probably is on paper, but due to the design and the way that the back protrudes out slightly, it looks a bit thicker than it is.
The high-gloss screen is surrounded by a brushed metal border, while the rear is made of a combination of matte plastic and glass. The rear cover isn't so much a cover but a door that easily pops out of the centre, enabling you to throw in your SIM card and memory card (which is not hot swappable, even after all this time).
With 8GB of internal storage and an option to increase that to 32GB, this is a handset that doesn't scrimp on memory.
The right-hand side of the 9900 has four buttons. Three of them are clustered together with the top and bottom ones acting as volume up and down and the middle used to pause media, which is a nice touch and saves you having to muck about on screen.
There's also a camera shortcut button, which you can, as always, change to open something else on your 9900 should you wish. There is no second convenience key on the left, which we will admit that we miss.
That's your lot, because the left-hand side is reserved for ports, including a micro USB charging and syncing port, the latter of which we can't help feeling looks a bit naked, since you get the illusion of being able to see right inside it. Plus there's a 3.5mm headphone slot.
The beauty here is that the headphone jack creates what seems like an unnatural lip in the contours of the back, but this gives you something to rest your fingers against as you hold the 9900 in your hand.
Up top, there's the lock button, which is aesthetically placed in the middle and conveniently situated so that your finger hits it without effort. RIM has obviously thought this through and little touches like this go a long way in our eyes.
On the front is an incredibly sharp touchscreen. It's 640 x 480 pixels over 2.8 inches and easily looks as good as anything with 'Retina' branding.
We love it. Icons feel like they float above the wallpaper, whites are white and text looks fantastic. In fact, we never thought we'd say this, but RIM's basic black text on white background when reading emails (boring, maybe) looks brilliant.
The touchscreen is capacitive and highly responsive. Whether most BlackBerry users will migrate to it is another matter - we found ourselves reaching for the trackpad regularly for navigation, although the internet is certainly an area where we prefer to caress the screen.
If we have one criticism, it's that we're not big fans of the buttons below the screen. The usual BlackBerry suspects are there (call, menu, back and terminate call) and they're all moulded into one big section, which makes you think they may be touch sensitive.
They certainly look like they are. But they're not and when you use the frankly excellent QWERTY keyboard, your fingers aren't able to glide over them but have to be raised up, then brought across and down to set your choice into action.
At the time of writing, the Bold 9900 is not on the shelves yet, but for a SIM-free model, you're looking at forking out about £500 based on pre-order prices with the big online retailers.
This puts it right at the top end of BlackBerry's range, which is where the Bold has always been since it was introduced to the family. Contract prices are still to follow, but they won't be cheap. We can't help feeling you'll struggle to get this as a free upgrade on anything less than a £30-£35 a month with a two-year plan.
Competitor-wise, BlackBerry has always been a bit of its own entity, a bit like the posh child from down the road who desperately wants to fit in and play with the cool kids, but can never shake off their label.
RIM is, however, a master of its own arts: email and security. That's why we can't imagine a day when we'll see the suits in Canary Wharf carrying anything else other than a BlackBerry.
Yet, we've watched the strategy change recently, with the introduction of the Curve range, the pushing of the BBM messaging app as a credible tool for teens and the desperation to get some BlackBerries included in the recipe for that ever-popular social media pie.
Although BlackBerries want to be cool, they're always going to have that air of being too classy about them. This isn't such a bad thing for the Bold 9900, which is the kind of handset you imagine anybody who wants to look like they're anybody will have.
We imagine RIM's biggest competitors will be its own Bold 9770/9780 (after two years, though, we think this is starting to look tired now) as well as other business-led communicators such as Nokia's own very credible E6, which currently doesn't command too much of the market. In this sense, RIM has much of the sector to itself.