There’s no getting around it, RIM hasn’t had the best year ever. It's been steadily losing market share to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone 7, there's been lackluster response to BlackBerry 6 OS and the Blackberry Torch, and at best tepid reviews and sales of their first tablet, the PlayBook, have not left the company on rock solid footing. So, pardon, bold moves were a must for the company as developers and journalists gather in Orlando, FL for BlackBerry World.

 
Images of the Touch Bold leaked months earlier; yet even without the leaks it’s unlikely the reveal would have been met with much surprise. The line was launched in 2008 with the Bold 9000, which itself was no great departure in form factor with its portrait QWERTY dominating the front of the device and its 15 mm girth. In our review of the last iteration, the 9780, we mentioned the lack of innovation in form factor, and while the new phone looks mighty familiar, it is at least quite thinner, down to 10.5 mm from 14.2 mm. This isn’t 2010’s Bold, though. Indeed it’s fair to say this is the first time in a while that a BlackBerry phone will compete on specs.
 
Gone is the anemic Marvell sourced 624MHz SoC, future BlackBerry aficionados will be blessed by a 1.2 GHz single core Snapdragon variant, likely the MSM8x55. This kind of leap could bring a smoothness and performance to the beleaguered OS that has been sorely lacking. The polish is not just applied to the hardware, the software gets buffed into a whole new iteration.

BB 6 was revealed just last August and while several BB 5 devices were blessed with 2010’s finest BB OS, the same will not be true for 2011’s finest. Indeed, even the Torch and Bold 9780 will be left behind. Why the lack of legacy support? Mirroring the path of graphics in PCs, GPU's have become as important to a good user experience as the CPUs, and the dated SoCs in prior BlackBerry phones won't cut it this time. Bringing BlackBerry 7 to 2011 meant a graphics subsystem that’s tightly integrated with the Adreno 205 most likely under its hood, something that Marvell’s offering lacks.

And speaking of graphics, the Adreno should have no trouble handing just 640 x 480 pixels on its 2.8” capacitive touch screen. A pixel density of 287 dpi should provide crisp text but it remains to be seen how comfortable users will be with a small lower res screen after growing accustomed to the steady rise in screen size and resolution over the last few years. Liquid Graphics is the marketing name for BB 7’s graphics engine and it’s said to provide 60 fps and smooth scrolling and zooming while browsing or taking advantage of the device's multimedia capabilities.

And in a feint to its enterprise users, BB 7 will introduce BlackBerry Balance, which seems to bundle its most enterprise features behind a secure wall, separated from more consumer driven content like your Facebook and Twitter apps. Secure remote wiping of the phone can now be isolated to the enterprise components, leaving your Tweets safe and sound. The only application that I can imagine for this would be wiping sensitive data once an employee is terminated; not the most marketable feature, then.

An updated browser, enhanced voice search, a 5.0 MP camera that will record at 720p and the inclusion of NFC round out the new features. Not a hint of QNX, the PlayBook OS, is to be seen, but this isn’t surprising given that QNX blessed phones aren’t expected till 2012. And speaking of the PlayBook, BlackBerry didn’t leave it out of the first day of BlackBerry World. Video chat and Facebook apps will be gracing the App World this month, with the former promising one-click calling over WiFi.

All in all, a packed day at BlackBerry World. Tomorrow’s keynote by Mike Lazaridis will hopefully shed some light on the company's strategy looking forward, and perhaps give us a peek at the next wave of BlackBerry 7 OS phones.
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  • GruntboyX - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    As a BB owner, I am excited because it solves my biggest complaint. Performance. I have to problems with the UI or intuitiveness of the OS. I am a big fan of the qwerty candybar format they have. The touchscreen will be moderately useful, but the performance looks very promising. Reply
  • JasonInofuentes - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    We would love to hear more perspective from current and former BlackBerry owners. While there are some features that RIM is just not likely to become competitive in any time soon (App and Media ecosystems), lots of complaints have been pretty straightforward, performance. So do you users think that this hardware push alone could help level the playing field? Will a strong browser, strong hardware, strong (if dated) form factor and, arguably, the best e-mail and messaging experience available, be enough to bring RIM back to contention? Let us know. Reply
  • alent1234 - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    no

    when i had my iphone i used it for work email and rarely used my free work issued BB. since exchange on android is crappola i have to use my BB again. but it's such a PITA that i try to use my ipad 2 as much as possible
    Reply
  • earle36 - Wednesday, May 04, 2011 - link

    I would say yes. This is coming from a BlackBerry 9700 Bold user. Love the BlackBerry experience as a whole but as you stated, the performance was the issue for me. One which seems a bit dated is the whole design that content from the web gets filtered down through BB servers, which compress / cache the content (I'm not sure of the details here, it was covered in an Anandtech review of a recent BlackBerry - Torch maybe) before it reaches your device. The net result is extra hops before you get your data and a slower experience. I hope they improved (or killed) this architecture. Also, the way it deals with hotmail email. To be clear - this could entirely be my own fault for missing some setting or setting up my hotmail account incorrectly, but with my hotmail account my blackberry (9700) would poll its server (BB server) to retrieve the content at set intervals even though hotmail had push available. There wasn't a way for me to use the hotmail push service directly, it had to go through BB servers, which forced polling, yuck. It also did a horrible job of rendering Email. I'd open the email, fetch the image content, wait for a long time, and then have to scroll around to see the email, and it would often render incorrectly. Hopefully this changed with OS 6 / 7.

    As far as the apps go - for me i need only a few - good IM client, a movie app (Flixster), Facebook, and a few games. I use these regularly. The rest of the crap in the App store gets installed and never used. I just don't care that much about the whole Apps angle. To me its much more important that the OS provide the majority of functionality that I actually need to use on a daily basis (email, browsing, gps, etc). And shortcomings in these areas led me to WP7 because they were simply too bad to deal with compared to every other platform.

    I love the physical phone, the way the OS navigates, the keyboard / texting / sending emails experience, but everything else needed a major uplift. And from some of the videos I'v seen on Crackberry featuring the new bold and OS improvements, it looks very promising.
    Reply
  • jcbenten - Friday, May 06, 2011 - link

    I had an AT&T Bold 9000 and loved that phone. What BB does better than the Verizon DroidX is email. I had four accounts on the BB and it worked flawlessly: separate notifications, no issues. On the DroidX, Yahoo has stopped pushing, GMail started pushing after NOT pushing (go figure!) and do not get me started on Android and Exchange server. My best solution so far is to forward to Hotmail but I Cannot reply. PITA!!! The only redeeming feature of the DroidX is the GPS/Maps/Navigation.

    The weaklinks of my Bold were memory leaks (Facebook, etc) requiring battery pulls and the trackball.

    I am waiting for the Storm 3, Torch or other new large screen to become available and I am switching back to BB (I have to use Verizon. All those who claim Verizon is better than AT&T are wrong). Email is too important for me.

    Never tried iPhone. Maybe I should check out the Dell VP
    Reply
  • SandmanWN - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    Touchscreen, plus keyboard, and a small form factor... Love it. A desperately needed speed boost and a touchscreen were the only things missing from the current Bold line. This pretty much gives you the perfect phone. What are you going to do with a million of the dumbest apps imaginable??? I got somewhere between 5-10 apps. Any more and I am probably neglecting one or I am spending way to much time on my phone. The fanboy rage fest in the smartphone arena I think has finally eclipsed both the AMD/Nvidia and AMD/Intel combined. Reply
  • vision33r - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    RIM still has the business, govt, and healthcare industries in their camp. I will continue to deploy BB at our firm because it is the only platform that allows for truly end to end IT management of the devices and it is totally robust compare to all the shitty Android device management. The iPhone is getting close but still not close enough.

    An employee loses a BB device, I can easily remote wipe the data and render the device "UNUSABLE."

    You can remote wipe with Android and iPhone but you cannot remote kill the device.
    Reply
  • Pessimism - Wednesday, May 04, 2011 - link

    If only the capabilities you speak of extended to the offending employees themselves... Reply
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  • dhfkjah - Friday, May 06, 2011 - link


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    Reply

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