The Latest Crop of BlackBerrys

By Jonathan Spira on 1 February 2009
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BlackBerry Bold 9000

Some of my favorite mobile devices have come from Research in Motion, including the BlackBerry Pearl.  Now there are three new BlackBerry smartphones: the Bold from AT&T, the Pearl Flip from T-Mobile, and the Storm from Verizon Wireless.


The Bold is the BlackBerry that has it all: 3G, Wi-Fi, GPS, high-res display, and full keyboard.  If you liked the Pearl or 8800, you will love the Bold.  A new UI provides bolder and crisper graphics; the keyboard is even better than previous models, and the display is the best I’ve ever seen on a mobile device.  It’s bright when you need it; the auto-dim feature adjusts to your surroundings.

In the greatly improved Web browser, the pointer is a zoom-in pointer by default, which makes reading Web pages faster and easier.

BLACKBERRY PEARL FLIP 82208220_left-angle_open

I’ve always liked flip phones and loved the original BlackBerry Pearl so I was very much looking forward to the Pearl Flip.  Unfortunately, I was disappointed.  The Flip lacks the clean design language of newer BlackBerry devices and has somewhat of a cheap, clunky feel to it.  The flush keyboard made it somewhat difficult to touch type.  In its open state, it’s rather tall and the design of the hinge makes it uncomfortable to hold..

On the plus side, the Pearl Flip shares the new UI and browser with the Bold but it seemed somewhat sluggish.  The external display is versatile; you can even preview new[BA1] e-mail.  The Flip comes with Wi-Fi with UMA support, which means it supports voice as well as data over Wi-Fi, as well as quad-band GSM support and EDGE.

BLACKBERRY STORMstorm_verizon_front

The Storm is the latest smartphone resulting from the touch-screen hype that started with the Apple iPhone and it is also the first BlackBerry without a physical keyboard.

It’s also the first BlackBerry I can’t recommend.

The 3G BlackBerry Storm features a touch-screen with multi-touch, an accelerometer that will switch between landscape and portrait mode, and a virtual QWERTY keyboard.

RIM made the display into one big button so that pressing a button on the screen gives the user a satisfying click. Because it’s a touch screen you have to look at the screen to do anything, even place a call.

In using the Storm, I found that pressure from my cheek would regularly turn on the speakerphone during a call.  Also, the device would occasionally slow down or freeze and then function normally.  This happened less after a software upgrade but it was still a problem.

Web browsing was much slower compared to the Bold, due to a combination of slower entry via the virtual keyboard plus tricky highlighting.  And did I mention that the Storm lacks Wi-Fi?

Unfortunately, the phone’s glitches will keep you from using some of the best features in the phone until (hopefully) RIM fixes them with yet another software update.


While the Storm looks to have a much larger display, appearances can be deceiving: the functional height of both is about the same (when the Storm is in landscape mode) and the Storm’s display is a little over one centimeter wider.  The Bold’s browser is much easier to navigate thanks to the Pearl-like pointing device, which the Storm lacks.  It’s also easier to use on the go, thanks to actual buttons.

While the original Pearl is still a good choice, especially for business travelers looking for a small but functional device, the Pearl Flip is more of a fashion accessory and less useable thanks to the flat keyboard which is less ergonomic and not as good as the original Pearl’s.

Voice quality was excellent for all three devices with minimal background noise or distortion.  People I called frequently couldn’t guess I was on a mobile phone as calls were crystal clear.  Built-in speakerphone quality was acceptable.  All three paired easily to a variety of Bluetooth headsets and several BMW motorcars.

For international calling, all can roam outside the U.S. (the Storm uses CDMA in the U.S. but GSM outside the U.S.)

E-mail is at the heart of these devices and small but significant enhancements such as the ability to see pictures in a message, full HTML, and attachment viewing are welcome additions.

The media player supports a variety of music and video formats as well for entertainment on the go.  All three support editing Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents and include a useful alarm clock and the unparalleled BlackBerry Messenger.

The bottom line?  The Bold represents the best all-around upgrade for the business traveler/power user but all three devices have their own strong points.

–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.

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