BlackBerry Bold as Mobile Cloud Workhorse

Cloud computing is rising in interest even during these uncertain world economic times and AMD is taking an important leadership role in the creation of the cloud. And in opinion, smartphones are increasingly becoming one of the most important cloud clients. What makes smartphones cloud-unique is their portability and versatility. One minute a phone, the next a web browser, the next a video broadcast client. After blogging on the Android G1 and the BlackBerry Storm, and as co-owner of an iPhone (wife’s), people asked me why I didn’t blog on my personal workhorse, the BlackBerry Bold. Well, I aim to please and here it is.

Net-net, the Blackberry Bold is my preferred device for work and also serves many good consumer functions as well. At work, I live off of email messaging, then the web, then phone functionality, and the Bold hits high marks on all fronts.

What I Like

  • Physical keyboard with trackball: This is where RIM leaves everyone in the dust. I consider this the perfect smartphone keyboard, mastered over years by RIM. Whether you want to write a complete thesis of mankind or a 140 character Tweet, it’s the best, and I challenge anyone with an iPhone to a typing contest. :) I never took typing so those who did need not apply. Touch is cool and I like it on my iPod touch, but I find it so easy to screw up on long notes. With the trackball you can dart all over the screen in light speed and 360 degrees with just your thumb.
  • Email Messaging: If you have Blackberry Enterprise Server, the Bold becomes the Godzilla of messaging. Many times I will get email on my Blackberry before it even hits my desktop. Spooky. You can also easily configure accounts from Yahoo Mail, GMail and Outlook. Fast and reliable, for work.
  • Upgradeable storage and replaceable battery: Android G1, Storm, and Bold all have upgradable memory and replaceable battery. It’s kind of a pet peeve I have with the iPhone. Call me conservative, but I don’t like the thought of being on a long business trip and not have a spare battery. I carry a 16GB microSD in an externally accessible memory slot. No need to remove batteries, just a side door. It fits my documents, videos, and music quite well and theoretically limitless with every added card.
  • MS Office File Support: Built-in and free, you can download, save, view, and even edit the latest PowerPoint, Word, and Excel files. Excel wasn’t that useful given column width issues, but Word and especially PowerPoint was impressive. For an added fee, you can even create these documents.
  • Rock solid: The Storm was solid physically, but the Bold is rock-solid. I have dropped it on every axis, 25x with no issues. Whenever I dropped my Pearl, I would get a SIM card error or the battery would pop out. Drop the Bold… pick it up where you left off. I suspect my Bold could easily survive a 5′ drop onto its screen. Would you say that for your iPhone?

From an application stability standpoint, I only get lockups or issues on some of the more sophisticated video streaming apps like Qik, but for the other 99.9% of the time, rock solid.

  • Multitasking & Copy Paste: Unlike some phones, the Bold can multitask. If you are anything like me, you are bouncing between the phone, Google maps, the browser, email, address book, and want to go back at the stage where you left off, not start the app over again.

I can copy and paste literally between EVERY application on the Bold and its add-on apps. Very impressive and a huge time-saver.

  • Screen: This display is 480×320 pixels and strikingly crisp. It’s only about half the size of an iPhone, but then again it’s 100% screen, and doesn’t share it with a keyboard. The only situation I want more screen is for videos, some web sites, and maybe some PowerPoint.

On web surfing, Bold makes up for the screen size with a very ingenious toggle. If you are on a web page that is wider than the page or the text too small, just press the “z” key and the browser reorients into column mode and you can see the web site much, much better. Press “z” again and it pops into page view mode. The trackball also lets you navigate web pages in 360 degree movement and magnify the area by clicking on it.

  • Standard mini-USB port: Bold uses a standard mini-USB port and cable to charge and transfer data. I have a lot of gadgets and don’t have time for proprietary USB implementations. I can handle USB, mini-USB, and micro-USB, but have no time for Palm Centro’s or iPhone proprietary connectors.
  • Digital camera: The Bold takes decent pictures at 2MP with 1600×1200 max resolution. The built-in flash is very bright, and I always get comments from envious iPhone owners wishing they had a flash. The Bold supports geo-tagging which uses the GPS capability to log the long/lat data to use with supported photo packages.
  • Music player: Same as the Storm. I easily synched my iTunes playlists and all my non-DRM’d songs played. The album art also transferred which was a nice “extra” I didn’t expect. The speaker volume was unexpectedly loud, but not louder than the Storm.
  • Video player and recorder: I am very impressed with the breadth of video formats supported; unlike other popular phones…. uh iPhone. The Bold supports DivX 4, DivX 5/6 is partially supported, XviD is partially supported, H.263, H.264, and WMV3 are supported. For me, it did play non-DRM’d video from my iPod and Nano with no alterations, very convenient. You can reconvert loads of video which can take advantage of four processor cores. I used an AMD Phenom TM X4 9950 quad core processor overclocked to 3.2Ghz (using AMD Fusion for Gaming utility) and was appreciating all four of those wonderful cores.¹

The video recorder function is awesome, but only in medium or high lighting. It records in .3gp format in low density quality, fine for streaming real-time to the internet or even emailing. I use Qik to real-time stream video to the internet.

Improvements I would like to See

  • Faster web Java-script: Like the Storm, web surfing was fast on most sites until I hit java-script-laden sites, then the browser appeared to slow down. The default browser setting is “off” and if a site really needs Java-script to accomplish a major task, it asks you. My point of reference here is the iPhone and the Touch which has fast browsing with or without Java-script turned on.
  • Improved popular applications: I can live without iPhone “Fart” or G1′s “Level” app, but not without a better functioning FaceBook and Twitter application. What a faux pas when compared to the iPhone. It has been months and would expect more from RIM. If iPhone ever got a physical keyboard and multitasking, I could be swayed. With that said, BlackBerry has some very good and differentiated applications like Qik for real-time video streaming, Flickr for photo uploads, SlingPlayer TV, YouVersion Bible and E*Trade Mobile Pro.

Summary

Today I prefer the Bold as my cloud workhorse to the alternatives (iPhone, Storm, Android G1) and has enough good consumer features to keep me happy and interested for the time being. RIM will need to improve web Java-script execution time and up the ante on the popular applications if they want folks to continue to cheer them on. With talk of iPhone’s improved multitasking, copy-paste, and video recorder functionality, I hope this will provide impetus for some improvements. If not, maybe the Palm Pre’.