The New BlackBerry Devices

So, RIM's new BlackBerry lineup is finally taking shape.  Aside from the next generation Curve, we now know what the next generation of BlackBerry devices looks like.  The quick response to them is that they're very good….but they're still BlackBerries. There are 3 devices that will essentially run the same hardware.  The BlackBerry Bold 9900 (9930 CDMA model), The BlackBerry Torch 9810, and the BlackBerry Torch 9850 (9860 CDMA model) will all run on 1.2GHz single core processors and 768MB of ram, with 8GB of storage on the Bold and Torch 9810, and 4GB of storage on the Torch 9850.

Now, none of these devices are revolutionary.  The Bold makes a return to the form factor of the original Bold 9000, which is still the best BlackBerry RIM ever made.  The Bold is the traditional BlackBerry form factor with a 2.8" 640x480 touchscreen.  For those who need the best possible keyboard possible, the Bold 9900 will without a doubt be your device.

The Torch 9810 is basically the Torch 2, or as many say, what the first Torch should have been.  I'm personally not a fan of the Torch form factor.  I think that they keyboard is too small and stiff in use (though they may be able to fix the latter in the 9810), the screen is too small to be used as a touchscreen only device, and my biggest complaint is that the device is inexplicably heavy.  It just felt too heavy for the size, and when the keyboard was open, it just felt way too top heavy; like it would tip over if I'm not careful.  The Torch 9810 is the exact same weight, which is not good.

The Torch 9850 is essentially the Storm 3.  I think RIM folded this device into the Torch brand and retired the Storm name since the Storm and Storm 2 were among the worst devices they've ever made.  The Torch 9850 aims to fix that, by ditching that clicking surepress screen in favour of a standard touscreen, and bumps the screen size up to 3.7".  This is the most interesting device of the bunch, because it is the closest thing to an iPhone or Android touchscreen phone that RIM has.  I don't think that the BlackBerry OS makes a good touchscreen only OS, and it really felt like it was missing something without having a physical keyboard.  BlackBerry OS 7 appears to do little to change that, but with a larger screen it may be more usable.  Only time will tell.  One other interesting thing is that the Torch 9850 is being marketed as the multimedia heavy BlackBerry, with a large vibrant screen that screams to have movies on it, has the least amount of included storage of these 3 models at 4GB.  I personally don't understand that move, at all.

Now, these devices are all going to be fast, probably the first devices capable of actually running the BlackBerry OS at full speed with no lag. That will go a long way towards addressing the issues that were had with devices like the Torch 9800.  I look forward to getting one of these devices to test, just to see how good of an experience it is.  I have no doubts that these will be the best BlackBerries ever.

But at the end of the day, these are still BlackBerries, and still run BlackBerry OS, which is at this point so far behind anything Apple Google and even HP/Palm have to offer.  Again, perhaps the speed improvements will be a huge factor and make the OS feel better, but speed cannot fix fundamental flaws in the OS.  I've personally always liked RIM's hardware, but it has been about 3 years since it felt like the device software has been anywhere close to the competition, and it has really held the devices back, especially in the Bold line.

There is also an issue of these devices probably being stillborn.  They run BlackBerry OS 7, which is actually version 6.1, a marginal improvement over last year's OS release.  RIM has stated it plans to move the company's phones over to its QNX platform, the OS that runs on the Playbook, in 2012, and that it was unlikely that BlackBerry OS devices would be able to upgrade to QNX.  Selling a phone that will be a dead end in a year or less is not an easy proposition for RIM, no matter how good those phones are.

That being said, i am due for an upgrade of my BlackBerry from the original Tour, and I will probably be getting the Bold 9900 in September.  I've always been a fan of the Bold hardware, especially that of the original Bold 9000, and I am very much looking forward to the new hardware.  I just hope that the software can keep up to it, though I'm not holding my breath.

The best phone in the world, until it broke

I didn’t review it on the site, but for about the past 9 months I have been using the Palm Pre phone from Bell.  I loved that phone quite a bit.  It had the form factor I wanted, being a phone with a touch screen and a sliding keyboard, a portrait slider. It also had an innovative operating system, WebOS, that I really enjoy using.  I loved using that phone a lot. But, the Palm Pre had one fatal flaw that has proven too be too much.  The hardware had absolutely terrible quality. In a little over 9 months of use, I had 3 of them break.  On the first unit, the screen actually cracked from bottom to top, and not from being dropped. the headphone jack also stopped working.  Thankfully I purchased warranty on my plan, so I was able to take it into bell and get a different Pre.  The second one lasted another 3 months, and what happened to that was that the touch screen stopped working entirely, making the phone impossible to use.  The third problem, and this happened to me on Monday of this week, was that in the middle of the night the phone rebooted, and never turned back on.

I loved that phone so much, it did absolutely everything I wanted it to do, in the form factor that I wanted.  I’m a huge proponent of Palm’s WebOS operating system. I think it’s significantly better than the iPhone OS, or iOS as apple likes to call it, and I believe it has some great potential.  When I bought that phone I intended on it being a phone I would use for at least 2 years, maybe even 3. Palm was reliable on keeping the software updated, and adding new features, and while small, there were more and more apps being developed every day.

The Pre was plagued with hardware problems at launch. I had heard about this, but didn’t think it would be nearly as bad as it would be.  From what I understand, if you got a good unit, it was solid and never broke. Unfortunately there were far too few of those units that had no problems.  My hope with the first two broken units was that I would replace them with hardware that would not break, and unfortunately that did not happen.  I wanted to make it work, I wanted to keep using the Palm Pre

But the simple fact is that I cannot keep using a phone that dies on average every 3 months.  Especially when it breaks completely and I can’t get a replacement phone immediately. For me my phone is my central communication device. Phone calls, voicemail, email, twitter, Facebook, and pretty much any way possible to communicate with me get funneled through my phone.  I’ve become far too dependant on it to have something that breaks all the time. Whether that’s actually a good thing or not is an entire other issue for another time.

Monday afternoon I went to a bell store and purchased a Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant. This phone just came out on Bell, and is a 4” touch screen Android phone.  After 4 days of use I can say that I really love this phone. Is it as good as the Pre, I’m not sure yet.  There are a few things I miss about the Pre, and some things I really love that the Pre didn’t have.  I’m going to be doing a full review of the phone in the coming days.  The real test will be about 3 months from now. If it doesn’t break by then, it’ll be a success.