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    BlackBerry Bold is the BMW of smart phones

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business in Vancouver October 7-13, 2008; issue 989

    High Tech Office column

    The summer release of Apple’s iPhone in Canada got most of the attention, but other smart-phone manufacturers haven’t just rolled over and surrendered. Ontario-based Research in Motion upped the ante on its business-friendly BlackBerry series with the release of its most powerful model, the BlackBerry Bold 9000. Reversing typical product launches, where Canadians often wait and watch while new technology debuts in the U.S., the Bold is initially available only in Canada, from Rogers/Fido.

    At first glance, the Bold looks a lot like RIM’s 8300 Curve models, sporting a full QWERTY keyboard, unlike RIM’s Pearl models with their phone-like keypad or touch screen models like the iPhone that offer a virtual keyboard on a larger screen. Slightly larger than the Curve, the Bold’s screen offers double the resolution – 320 x 480 pixels – which is the same number as the iPhone, though packed into less space. The screen is very crisp, with brightness that responds to outside light levels. The downside: it can sharply display text that’s too small to read.

    The processor is twice the speed of the Curve’s as well, handling the increased screen size with ease. The Bold starts up and runs quickly. Like the Curve (and unlike the iPhone), there’s removable storage. And unlike the Curve, you can access it from a slot on the side – no need to open it up and remove the battery to get at the microSD card. One gigabyte of onboard storage is built-in, with additional microSD easily added. Also unlike the iPhone, it has a removable (and user-replaceable) battery.

    Like other BlackBerry models, users can sync contacts, calendars and tasks with Windows and Mac systems and can connect to corporate e-mail, supporting multiple e-mail accounts. DataViz Documents To Go software is included to display and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. (To create new Office-format documents, users will need to upgrade to DataViz’s $70 Premium version.)

    I’m not a fan of RIM’s web browser. I prefer the Opera Mini browser – a free download from Opera’s website – but neither are as usable as the iPhone’s Safari browser. The Bold includes 802.11 WiFi wireless, allowing faster Internet connections without eating into your Rogers data plan. Built-in GPS, which works with the included BlackBerry Maps application, for no added-cost location and driving directions, (but not voice prompts, which require an additional $10/month service from Rogers).

    Like other recent BlackBerry models, the Bold includes multimedia support. There are built-in stereo speakers and support for Bluetooth wireless stereo headphones. Media Sync software connects with Mac or Windows iTunes playlists, which allows users to import iPod-style music and video files. The Bold includes a two-megapixel camera and can use the built-in GPS to add location information to snapshots. You can easily e-mail photos or send them to Facebook. Unlike the iPhone, you can also shoot video clips.

    While the latest iPhone release promises support for business-friendly Windows Exchange servers, enterprise IT departments have been generally underwhelmed with Apple’s management tools. RIM’s products remain best-of-class for working with corporate e-mail systems. And while I prefer the iPhone’s web browser, for typing anything more than a few words, the Bold’s physical keyboard is my clear favourite over the iPhone’s virtual one.

    iPhone versus BlackBerry? The short answer: if you expect to do more web browsing than e-mail, the iPhone may be your best choice. But if e-mail is what’s pushing you toward a smart phone, and particularly if you want to connect to a corporate e-mail server, BlackBerry remains the way to go. And the new BlackBerry Bold is the BMW of Blackberries.

    The downside: the Bold is priced like the BMW of smart phones. The BlackBerry Bold 9000 costs $400 with a Rogers contract, double the $199 cost of an iPhone. (The older BlackBerry Curve can cost as little as $149 with plan.) Without a plan, the Bold will set you back $650. •

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
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