BlackBerry Bold 9900 review

Finally some top-end specs. Has BlackBerry ripened with age?

The definitive BlackBerry Bold 9900 review
The definitive BlackBerry Bold 9900 review

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The big selling point of the Bold 9900 is the same as the Torch touted last year – this is the first device to offer BlackBerry's newest OS.

For weeks, every sign for the Torch we saw proclaimed it was the "only handset running new OS 6". Pah! How very last year. In fact, the Bold 9900 runs the brand spanking new OS 7. That's just as well, since as we've previously reported, OS 7's hardware requirements mean it won't be coming to older models.

BlackBerry bold 9900 review: os 7

Cosmetically, OS 7 takes its cues from the PlayBook. Gone is the standard blue-and-white grid format that we got in OS5 and, to a certain extent, an updated version of in OS6. The icons on OS7 are all very much individual. In fact, it looks a little bit of a mishmash and we couldn't help thinking of the busy look that OS4 provided when you had the app drawer open in the old days.

There's no kind of uniformity here and, while we are big fans of the clarity of icons, we have to admit we think this is where it all looks a bit cheap. We know die-hard BlackBerry fans will be left open-mouthed at that statement, but it's all about first impressions.

Aside from that, although there have been some tweaks, it doesn't feel that revolutionary. This does not look like a new OS by any stretch of the imagination. It looks like an updated version of OS6 and should probably be marketed as OS6.5 rather than getting its own new number.

BlackBerry bold 9900 review: os 7

As before, you have numerous app drawers you can swipe through (favourites, recent, downloaded and so on), although you can now manage which ones you want to see via the menu.

We found these drawers to be a bit pointless and distracting on our old 9780, so are glad this option is here. RIM has also decided to remove the option to have two rows of icons on the home screen from the preferences, so you're now stuck with one.

As before, you can search anywhere within the phone using the keyboard, which is kind of like smart dialling, but searches through more than just your phone book.

When OS7 was announced, we were told that it would be easier and faster to use. And there's no doubt that it is faster. Whether that's down to the 1.2GHz processor under the bonnet, or tweaks in the code of the OS, we don't know (probably both). But next to our ageing 9780, the Bold 9900 zips along and leaves its elderly relative barely able to keep up.

BlackBerry bold 9900: search

Also promised on the original press release was the option of voice-activated searching (the web as well as your own content.) We admit we struggled to find this option on the Bold 9900 we were provided with. It could be that it didn't make the final cut, or could be a future update - but we saw no evidence of it.

BlackBerry operating systems have always been among the more complex to get to grips with when compared to iOS or Android. Not difficult to pick up per se, but so customisable that it can all become a little overwhelming (trying to change custom notifications for individual apps can land you with a spell in The Priory).

BlackBerry bold 9900: os 7

If you're buying the 9900 just for the basics, you'll get by OK with OS 7, but then the chances are you won't be buying this phone anyway.

We imagine anybody willing to spend the cash in order to get their hands with a premium handset like the 9900 will be doing it because they want the more advanced features. Come prepared with either past experience or the willingness to put in a little effort.

Other than that, there's nothing really that different in here unless you count a few updated icons within the settings menu and tweaks to the browser, which we'll mention later.

Don't get us wrong, though – there is nothing bad about this OS. We would much rather have it than OS6. But it just feels like a bit of a let down that not much appears to have changed. Even a couple of extra themes in there would have been nice to just to whet our appetites. Alas, no.