It was just about a year ago that T-Mobile and RIM launched the BlackBerry Bold 9700 smartphone and I wrote at the time that I thought it was one of the best front facing QWERTY devices available. I had the chance to check out the BlackBerry Torch in August and was not that pleased with the dual touch screen and QWERTY keyboard experience and still thought that the Bold 9700 was the best BlackBerry device available. We now see T-Mobile and RIM following up this successful device with the BlackBerry Bold 9780. The 9780 comes with a few key improvements and also launches at a very affordable $129.99 after $50 mail-in rebate. You can check out my image gallery of the Bold 9780, video walk through below, and some thoughts on using it for the past week. The Bold 9780 is my new favorite BlackBerry device and if you are a BlackBerry fan I am sure you will enjoy this new device.
I see on the T-Mobile site that the Bold 9700 is no longer offered as the Bold 9780 takes its place and even comes in at a lower price. T-Mobile also offers the Curve 3G and Curve 8520 devices for much lower costs, but as a high end fan myself the Bold 9780 is worth the extra money and you can immediately feel it if you hold all three in your hand.
In the box and first impressions
The Bold 9780 comes in a fairly typical T-Mobile branded box with green highlights. Inside the box you will find the Bold 9780, battery, holster with belt clip, charger, stereo headset, USB cable, 2GB microSD card inserted, and some user guides and manuals.
When I first pulled the Bold 9780 from the box I thought it felt a lot lighter than the Bold 9700, but that was because it has been so long since I have used the Bold 9700 since I was corrected and learned that the Bold 9700 and Bold 9780 have the same dimensions and exterior design. I have been playing with some hefty smartphones and thus I was a bit caught off guard with the light weight of the 9780. The back cover is slightly rubberized and it feels good in your hand. The keyboard is the exact same and that is a good thing.
Let's start off by taking a look at the specifications for the BB Bold 9780:
Quad-band GSM/EDGE:1900/1800/900/850 MHz
Tri-band UMTS: 2100/1700/900 MHz
BlackBerry OS 6.0
624 MHz processor
microSD card slot with SDHC support (2GB card included)
QWERTY keyboard and trackball
Integrated GPS/A-GPS receiver
802.11 b/g/n WiFi with support for T-Mobile WiFi Calling service
Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP support
2.44 inch 480×360 pixels 65k colors display
5.0 megapixel camera with flash light and auto focus
3.5 mm headset jack
1500 mAh battery
Dimensions of 4.29 x 2.36 x 0.56 inches and 4.3 ounces
The differences between the original Bold 9700 and Bold 9780 are as follows:
Bold 9780 has double the onboard memory (512MB vs 256MB)
Bold 9780 has increased camera resolution (5 megapixel vs 3.2 megapixel)
The newer chipset gives it the 802.11n support
Bold 9780 is preloaded with BB 6 OS
So as you can see there are just acouple of improvements in the Bold 9780, but I honestly think this is all that RIM had to do to improve this device and too often manufacturers go crazy with updates that make a 2nd generation device worse.
Walk around the hardware
The front of the BlackBerry Bold 9780 is dominated by the QWERTY keyboard and high resolution display. You will also find an optical trackpad and four hardware buttons.
The QWERTY keyboard is the same as the BB Bold 9700 and is quite good. However, I still don't like that you have to press the alternate button to enter a @, period, comma, and question mark. The E73 Mode that I have is setup better for these common symbols and I wish RIM would setup their keyboards a bit better.
You will find the 3.5mm headset jack along the upper part of the left side with the microUSB port and left convenience key (setup by default for voice dialing) farther down. The right side is where you will find the volume buttons and right convenience key. These three buttons are all matte black raised bumps that work well.
There is nothing on the bottom and along the top we have the lock and mute functions integrated into the black plastic that rolls up from the front to the top.
The 5 megapixel camera and flash light are along the top of the back below the glossy black frame piece outlining the device. The battery cover is faux leather with the BlackBerry symbol in silver on the upper center part.
The Bold 9780 feels great in your hand and is a solid and comfortable device. The 4.3 ounce weight feels quite light compared to the 5+ ounce devices I have been using lately and it fits well even in a shirt pocket.
RIM BlackBerry 6.0 operating system
The Bold 9780 is an extremely fast and responsive device and I love the new setup and settings area of the BB 6 OS. The settings were the one area of the BB OS that bothered the heck out of me and now you have a visual way of managing your settings that makes MUCH more sense.
I wasn't sure how the BB 6 OS would be on a non-touch device, but I honestly think the Bold 9780 is a better device than the BB Torch with the touch screen and slide-up display. Maybe RIM should think about adding touch to this form factor device rather than one that takes away a bit from the QWERTY experience.
The new "ribbon" area/tray is easy to navigate through with the optical trackpad. The web browser is one application that was greatly improved with BB 6 and I enjoyed using it on the Bold 9780. The display feels a bit cramped and fonts can be quite tiny at times, but that is the convenience of the smaller form factor device and large QWERTY keyboard.
I highly recommend you check out what the experts at CrackBerry.com have to say about the details of RIM BB 6 since I cannot really do it justice with my limited use and background knowledge of the platform.
Other thoughts and experiences with the Bold 9780
The Bold 9780 is an excellent BlackBerry device and if you are a T-Mobile customer then it really is quite an easy choice to select this device. The BB 6 OS fixed several issues I had with BlackBerry devices, primarily with the web browser and settings area. Battery life is typical BB awesome and I have had it going for a couple of days with heavy usage.
I do like that T-Mobile doesn't cripple devices with a bunch of junk like AT&T does and the only T-Mobile things I could find were Visual Voicemail and T-Mobile My Account utility. Most of the apps I want to use on a mobile phone are found in the BlackBerry App World store too.
The BlackBerry Bold 9780 is available at T-Mobile for $129.99 with a 2-year contract and compatible Even More plan. This is $70 less than the Bold 9700 was at launch and it seems to me this is the perfect pricing level for this type of device. You can also sign up for a new Even More Plus plan (no contract) and pay $449.99. If I didn't rely on a solid Exchange connection (without a BES) then I would like to have a Bold 9780 myself since it just seems to go and go with a solid OS and smartphone experience.