To be honest, I was kind of nervous about August. It was the month when many of the new BlackBerry 7 smartphones would hit carriers. It was an exciting time, for sure. The spec sheets that leaked earlier in the year made the devices look promising — far more promising than any previous line of BlackBerry models. Yet at the same time I couldn’t rid my mouth of the bad taste the previous line left. Whether it was constant problems with the 9650, the unrealized potential of the Storm 9530, or the complete lack of marketing power behind the Pearl 3G, it was hard to approach these devices with anything more than guarded optimism. To be further honest, I let the review units sit in their FedEx boxes for a couple of days, for fear that I’d have to write some harsh words. I just didn’t want that.
But then I actually tried the devices, and I liked them.
For a quick reference, here is a quick list of the three models I reviewed:
In many ways the devices are similar. That is, they have the same processor, same operating system, and the same (or similar) amount of on-board memory. That made it somewhat tough to make the reviews unique. Yet each model lent something to the whole. Today I’m going to sum up my final thoughts on the newest line of BlackBerry models.
The hardware makes the difference
The original BlackBerry Torch provided a valuable lesson for RIM. It had potential, and I even enjoyed my short time with it. Yet I wouldn’t have purchased it as my personal BlackBerry. Why? Because despite all the new features of BlackBerry 6, the device seemingly could not handle them. There just wasn’t enough power behind it. As I emphasized greatly in every review, the processor was the single biggest improvement of any model.
It’s a bit frustrating, of course, because Android manufacturers were pumping out handsets with 1GHz processors in 2010. If RIM had done that, and hadn’t just gone with business-as-usual move, they might have avoided a lot of issues that they face now.
Software is no big deal
When it comes to BlackBerry, the standard complaint centers on the software. The BlackBerry OS is ancient. There aren’t enough killer apps. And so on. RIM tried to change that conversation with BlackBerry OS 6, and to an extent they did. That is, OS 6 was a far more powerful mobile operating system than anything they had previously released. But, again, the issue was that their phones weren’t powerful enough to handle it.
At this point I’m not sure what the big deal is. Sure, if you’re looking for the greatest in customization you might prefer Android. But BlackBerry 6, and now 7, offers a straight forward UI that works as well as you might imagine on a touchscreen. Again, maybe cutting edge consumers won’t love it, but business users have every reason to use and like it. It ain’t the best, but it’s not unserviceable, either.
The feel is right
The last, and perhaps most noticeable, feature of the BlackBerry 7 smartphones is that they just feel right. Whether it’s the way the Torch 9860 feels in my hand, or the way the 9900′s keyboard blows away the competition, the devices just feel right. The exception, I guess, is the Torch 9810. But on the whole these just feel like solid devices that should be able to handle the rough and tumble of my pocket and frequent drops.
My overall impression of the BlackBerry 7 smartphones is that they are perfectly usable, practical phones for a business setting. They’re not going to set the world afire with apps. There won’t be any hacking the devices to gain extra features, nor will there be a cult of RIM to go along with them. But they run properly, use adequate software, and still take advantage of RIM’s second-to-none messaging system. It’s hard to ask for more from the BlackBerry line of smartphones. RIM has certainly reached an apex with this current breed.
Thankfully, they can still go up. This line not only gave them a line of business phones that can handle anything thrown at them, but they’ve also inspired confidence in the next line of BlackBerry phones. I’m definitely psyched to get my hands on the Colt. Hopefully that happens not too long after New Year 2012.