BlackBerry Bold 9650 : Specs | Price | Reviews | Test. BlackBerry Bold 9650 is the first global-ready smartphone to support. refurbished blackberry 9650 sprint review blackberry bold 9650 sprint no contract. I recently ordered a Barely-There case for my BlackBerry Bold 9650. From the pictures and reviews, I was very excited because the case looked great. The BlackBerry Bold 9650 is the follow-up device to the Verizon Wireless (and Sprint) BlackBerry Tour 9630 smartphone. The BlackBerry Bold 9650 is a high-end smartphone that is the successor to the BlackBerry Tour. Shaun Mahal brings us a review of a model.
Much of the device remains very similar, including many of the specs and overall design, but the Bold 9650 also offers twice the memory of the Tour, adds WiFi support, and also includes the optical trackpad that's also found on the Verizon Wireless Curve 8520 and on the BlackBerry Bold 9700 available on AT&T and T-Mobile USA.
The Bold 9650 is the best BlackBerry smartphone available on Verizon Wireless, and its solid battery life and good voice quality make it an attractive bet to those that want, or require, a BlackBerry. However, the phone's relatively poor web browser and feature set may make many other devices, such as more powerful Android phones, seem more attractive.
Most everything you read here, apart from things related to Verizon specific services like V CAST, will apply to the Sprint version of the BlackBerry Bold 9650, too.
You'll find a video from the BlackBerry Bold 9650's launch event after the Table of Contents, below.
Additional system memory helps general performance; trackpad and Wi-Fi are also welcome improvements.
More of a revision than an entirely new model. it's also way too expensive.
As BlackBerry smartphones go, the Bold line is at the top of the non-touchscreen heap. RIM briefly played with the Tour line on CDMA carriers (that means Sprint and Verizon) as another high end line but in the end, the Bold name has more traction. Like the appropriately named Tour, the BlackBerry Bold 9650 is a CDMA phone that works on Sprint's network in the US and it has a GSM radio for use overseas.
The Bold offers a few key improvements over the BlackBerry Tour, and they're likely good enough reasons to upgrade from an older BlackBerry. However, if you're a Tour owner, the improvements probably don't warrant an out of cycle upgrade. New goodies in the Bold 9650 include an optical trackpad, double the RAM and the addition of WiFi. The added RAM makes for a speedier 'Berry, even though the CPU isn't any faster. The optical trackpad means no more worrying about balky trackballs that fall prey to pocket lint and dust.
As we noted with the BlackBerry Bold 9700 on T-Mobile and AT&T, the slightly higher than iPhone 3GS resolution crammed into a tiny 2.8" display makes for tiny text, particularly in web pages. We found we had to zoom in at least 2 levels before we could easily read text on non-mobile sites and that our eyes were feeling mighty tired after a half hour of casual web surfing.
The keyboard is the standard Bold style with the wave-sculpted keys vs. the flat keys on the Curve line. I do find it easier to type quickly on the wave keyboard since it prevents finger slips and provides superior tactile feel.
Much ado has been made of the raised buttons above the keyboard for call send, call end, back and the menu key. Instead of sitting lower than the keyboard keys as they do on the Bold 9700, they're the same height as the key tops. Honestly, it's caused me no problems but from a tactile standpoint, the raised buttons do make it harder to sense where the keyboard ends.
In contrast, the trackpad is a definite improvement over the trackball: it's equally as responsive and an extension of your mind as was the trackball but it doesn't get stuck or mucked up.
The Bold 9650 for Verizon Wireless is black in color and has a sharp silver chrome accent around its front face. Its back cover has an attractive faux carbon fiber etching and a matte black border. It is corporate looking with a hint of style, and would seem right at home in at any board room in corporate America.
The BlackBerry Bold 9650 measures 114 x 66 x 15mm (4.48 x 2.6 x .59in) and weighs 136g (4.8oz). That's just a hair taller, wider, and deeper than the original BlackBerry Tour. The face is home to a 2.44-inch 480 x 360 pixel display, which is the same as the one available on the BlackBerry Tour. I've always found that the latest generation of BlackBerry smartphone displays were easy to view under direct sunlight, and the Bold 9650 was no exception. I had no trouble viewing the screen even out in the park during a sunny summer day.
Below the screen there are four buttons, including send/end, a return button, and the BlackBerry menu button, and they flank a square-shaped optical trackpad controller. I've found that the optical trackpad is a great deal easier to use than the trackball, primarily because it can't get jammed with dust or pocket lint. The buttons and trackpad offered a good amount of travel and felt solid to the touch. A full QWERTY keyboard is located below the controls, and, as a BlackBerry Bold 9700 user myself, I was very pleased with the keyboard. It was a breeze to type quickly and accurately on, and it remains one of my favorite smartphone keyboards.
The phone has two buttons on its top edge that make it easy to silence or lock the device with one touch. They don't travel very far, so it can sometimes be hard to tell if the phone registered your tap, but they otherwise worked very well. The right side of the phone is home to a 3.5mm headphone jack, an easy-to-reach volume control, a quick-launch key that defaults to the camera, and a micro-USB charging port. The left side of the phone has a single silver quick-launch key that defaults to the voice-dialing application. The back of the phone is home to a single LED flash and a 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus.
The Bold 9650 comes pre-loaded with OS 18.104.22.1681. I know we were all wishing for Blackberry 6 to be loaded, but we'll just have to settle with 5.0 for a little bit longer. The Bold has 309MB of free memory out of the box, leaving plenty of room for you to load tons of your favorite applications. BlackBerry Messenger version 5.0.0 is also pre-loaded.
The device seems to be pretty snappy and responsive, and I'm sure that has to do with the extra memory added to this device. All the standard games you have come to know and love are still included also. One change in the software lineup for Sprint is the loss of the NFL Network to Verizon. It has now been replaced with Sprint Football Live. I guess time will tell when the season starts back up if this new app with offer the same value to Sprint customers as the NFL Network did. Other included Sprint specific applications are NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile, Sprint TV, and Sprint Navigation.
The Bold 9650 packs 512MB of built-in application RAM, twice the amount that's on the Bold 9700 and the Tour 9630. I noticed that the device rarely felt sluggish and was able to handle everything I threw at it. That said, the BlackBerry OS 5.0 user interface is also feeling very dated in comparison to the robust Android handsets that are flooding Verizon Wireless store shelves. The homescreen, for example, displays a row of shortcuts that you can customize, but it cannot display widgets or anything more than a background image. It's stale, even in comparison to some feature phones.
The main phone menu is home to a list of icons that you can shuffle around any which way that you like to make your most used functions most accessible. There's also the option to create custom folders. If RIM OS 5.0 is anything, it's intuitive and easy to use for the most part. The BlackBerry Bold 9650 is easy to pick up and get going with, even for many first time smartphone users.
I was able to add contacts on the fly simply by typing a number and saving it, and you can store a fair amount of information in each contact record. If you use Facebook, I recommend downloading the BlackBerry Facebook application, which will pull down contact birthdays and photos for use in your address book. When a contact from Facebook calls, their current Facebook photo will appear.
There are a host of themes available in the BlackBerry App World application store, but other than changing the theme, there isn't a whole lot of customization that you can do with a BlackBerry 9650. I'd love to see live-updating, customizable, homescreen widgets in the future, but that's not something you'll get with this operating system. If you're buying a BlackBerry Bold 9650, you're getting a first-rate push email experience, a killer keyboard, and more, but you're not getting a jaw-dropping fun to use operating system. I'll revisit the email in later sections.
Calling / Data
During my tests in New York City, call quality was generally very good and I didn't experience any dropped calls or issues. I did notice that some calls sounded a little hollow, but overall I didn't have any complaints with the quality. The speakerphone was loud enough to hear while on my desk and audio came through very clearly while placing a call to Amtrak's reservation center.
The Bold 9650 felt a bit sluggish while loading websites in terms of data speed - the mobile version of our website loaded in 18 seconds, and the full HTML one took over 45 seconds, but downloading files such as a 16MB software update finished rather quickly, in just a few minutes. Web browsing was much more fluid over a WiFi network, but we weren't able to run our standard DSLReports.com/mspeed test as it does not support the BlackBerry web browser. The phone also supports Bluetooth 2.1 for Bluetooth headsets and speakers.
With its top notch keyboard, the BlackBerry Bold 9650 was born to message. It's loaded with BlackBerry Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Chat, Google Talk, and AIM out of the box, and all of the applications are a pleasure to use. BlackBerry Messenger allows you to chat with friends and family with BlackBerry smartphones for free, and even lets you create groups for sharing messages and photos with a number of people at once. These days a large number of fellow twenty-somethings tell me they buy BlackBerry devices for this very application.
It's possible to use up to 10 personal email accounts on the BlackBerry Bold 9650, including AOL Mail, Windows Live Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and POP/IMAP accounts. The 9650 also supports Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, and Novell Groupwise accounts. I was able to setup my personal Gmail account and my work IMAP account in under 5 minutes easily, and real-time push email messages began rolling in right away.
Apps / App Store
BlackBerry App World is home to 7,000 applications. That's measly compared to Apple's iTunes App Store, which approves twice that number per week. There are some compelling applications available, but the BlackBerry Bold 9650 isn't a powerful 3D device so you can't expect killer games or beautifully rendered applications as you would on other platforms.
Verizon Wireless includes a few of its own applications on the Bold, including V CAST Videos, VZ Navigator, V CAST Music with Rhapsody, Visual Voicemail, City ID, Bing, V CAST Song ID, and VZW Tones. Most of these felt like bloatware that I'd never use, but V CAST Music with Rhapsody is good for loading up your phone with music, and VZ Navigator provides accurate voice-guided turn-by-turn directions for $9.99 per month. If you have family overseas, I recommend installing the free Skype Mobile application, which allows you to place free Skype calls over Verizon Wireless' circuit-switched voice network.
The BlackBerry OS default browser is stale and pales in comparison to the better WebKit browsers found on Android devices and on the iPhone. Full HTML pages show up just fine, for the most part, but scrolling around a big page is slow and tedious, and for that reason I mostly stick to mobile sites while using a BlackBerry. RIM has said that it plans to update the browser in the future, but for now you're stuck with a pretty lame one - for a smartphone, at least. Thankfully, it's easy to do a number of other things, such as saving and adding bookmarks, entering in a URL quickly, and viewing your history. Overall, the browser on the BlackBerry 9650 is one of its worst features.
The 3.2 megapixel camera on the BlackBerry Bold 9650 took pretty solid shots in the daylight around New York City. There were some overexposed shots, but I found that the camera handled movement pretty well without too much blurring. In the dark, the LED was able to light up our object enough for it to come through clear enough in the image. The device doesn't have a high megapixel camera like the DROID Incredible or DROID X, but it does a reasonable job of producing useable shots that are satisfactory for Facebook and sending to friends.
I was able to record video in a 480 x 352 resolution, and there's also a smaller 320 x 240 resolution one for sending MMS messages. The video was a bit pixelated when I played it back on my computer, but was satisfactory for viewing on the phone and showing clips to friends.
The BlackBerry Bold 9650 serves as a solid music player. It comes with a 2GB microSD card to get you started with tunes, and its music player shows the album artist, song name, and album art. It's a breeze to switch between songs and create playlists on the fly, too. Verizon Wireless' spices the device up with its V CAST Music with Rhapsody application that can be used to purchase tunes individually, or download them with a Rhapsody subscription. Using BlackBerry App World, you can install a number of other popular music applications such as iheartradio, Slacker Radio, and Pandora.
The Bold 9650 has a 1,400mAH removable battery that's rated for up to 5 hours of talk time or 13 days of standby. That's the same battery that's found on the BlackBerry Tour 9630 as well. I found the battery ratings to be true during my tests, and was regularly able to get through a full day of moderate usage before needing to charge. Generally, I've found that BlackBerry smartphones offer some of the best smartphone battery life these days.
The BlackBerry Bold 9650 is, no doubt, the best BlackBerry on Verizon Wireless or Sprint; but it's not the best smartphone. I'm a big BlackBerry fan myself and use them regularly, and the best hardware aspects of a Blackberry these days are their awesome keyboards and good battery life. Verizon Wireless throws in a solid data network and top-notch call quality as well. That's enough for many people. That said, multimedia fans may want to consider more robust Android devices such as the HTC DROID Incredible or Motorola DROID X. They offer better cameras, larger displays, and much more customizable and fun user interfaces. If you're a twenty-something, like I am, then you may be drawn to the Bold 9650 simply for its BlackBerry Messenger application. If that's the case, you won't be disappointed with the Bold 9650.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
Now has come the time where you may be looking for me to tell you that you must upgrade your current BlackBerry to the Bold 9650 because it is so great. Well I do agree it is great, but I think the necessity for an upgrade will really depend on what device you are currently using. For users with the Tour 9630, the need to get the addition of additional memory, trackpad, and Wi-Fi may not be that great. Sure we all want the newest and greatest thing, but the Tour is already a pretty great device in it's own right. You'll just need to weigh the factors out and see if the upgrade is worth it to you. Personally, I would do it, but I know not everyone will feel the same.
However for users with a 8830, 8330, or 8130; I think the time has come for you to retire that device, and move up to the Bold 9650. Not only will you be getting a newer device with all the great features we have previously talk about, but you'll be getting the best BlackBerry on the market. No other carrier can compete with the Bold 9650 at this point. Sure Verizon and other CDMA carriers will get it at some point, but for now, you can be the cool kid with the exclusive new device.