Round Robin: BlackBerry Bold Q&A!

[This is an official Smartphone Experts Round Robin post! Every day you reply here, you're automatically entered for a chance to win an iPhone 3G, Case-Mate Naked Case, and Motorola H9 Bluetooth Headset! Full contest rules here!]

Fair enough, the CrackBerry's didn't smack me around as badly as the WinManiac -- those who bothered to read the context disclaimer and understand the point of the Round Robin at least! Ha! And along with the awesome forum members who tried to help a poor iPhone n00b out, the commenters added many useful insights and a tip or two to boot! Still some questions were asked and that means there are answers to be attempted... after the break!

Rey Says: Could you compare video quality on the two screens? Same resolution but does it look better on one than the other?

Better is subjective. Due to it's much higher pixel density (217dpi vs. 160pi) the Bold looks sharper than the iPhone, but because of the much smaller physical size, you may or may not value that sharpness over the beefier screen on the iPhone. (Think iPod Nano experience). Again, it's like a 1080p LCD TV at 37" as opposed to 52".

Jhauser3 Says: How does the browser compare? I have used the black berry browser in the past and it was not even close to safari. Has RIM made steps towards a better browser?

I haven't used previous BlackBerries, so it may well be night and day better. It rendered regular pages well enough but had some problems with CSS elements, which may be due to some optimization it's trying to make. JavaScript didn't look to be very well supported, especially since RIM turns it off by default. So, steps have been made, yes, but not leaps or bounds yet. For an iPhone user, it's not quite good enough.

Touch Me Says: How does the battery hold up with heavy internet use compared to the iPhone?

Battery life was excellent! RIM really balances this well. However, I didn't enjoy the web browsing or media experience (never mind gaming) as much as the iPhone, so I didn't do those things as much. When I did, it added considerably to battery drain as happens with pretty much every device.

Tk Says: another question i’ve had was, it looks kinda big, is it heavy? or in other words, is it small/light enough to fit in your pocket without feeling uncomfortable?

The Bold was much lighter than I thought it would be, and given it's width, it's still incredibly slim on the profile, so it's very pocketable.

Bear Says: How do the speakers sound. Are they tinny sounding and are they loud enough?

The speakers sounded great! The Bold has one huge advantage over the iPhone 3G when it comes to speakers: they pump much more serious volume out of the ear speaker when playing media. On the iPhone 3G, the ear speaker is much lower than the bottom speaker. The Bold balances this better, for a nicer stereo experience. (You listening, Apple?!)

Steve Says: How many minutes does it take to figure out where things are? And does it come with a giant magnifying glass to read emails?

No UI is yet as intuitive as the iPhone's, and frankly while the neon wireframes look neat, they're not always immediately obvious. Add to that multiple email icons when you add accounts (I can hide them, I know, but they're not hidden by default) and the lack of iPhone-style text labels beneath them, along with the trackball moving too little or too much, and it took some time and practice before I was speedy with it. And no magnifying glass, as the email was easy enough to read, though the app is Spartan to say the least.

mb_iphone_fan Says: i would like to know about the typing comfort. is it more comfortable to type on that device than on the iphone? is the wifi connection better than on the iphone?

I dislike physical keyboards as I find the repetitive pressure stressful and it burns out the small muscles in my forearms. I far, far, prefer typing on the iPhone, but other people will no doubt feel the opposite way. That said, the Bold had the nicest keyboard I've used so far. I did like the sticky feel of the Treo Pro, but the Bold's width made a big difference.

Didn't try WiFi as I get really decent 3G. I did see that there was a separate WiFi browser mode, which I found strange and off-putting. UI should be UI and pipe should be pipe, and never should a user be forced to watch the sausage being made.

Deathscaller Says: Hows the internet speed and battery life compared to the iphone.

Speed is probably a function of network, but I found the iPhone on 3G rendered pages faster and better than the Bold, especially with JavaScript enabled on the Bold. I think the Bold, however, manages battery life a tad better than the iPhone, as their push solution can handle a lot of lower-power interactions (I think?)

frog Says: Is there much/any lag in the menu system?

Nope. Menuing and UI systems were hecka snappy. However, once in a while the screen would flash pure white for a second then come back. Not sure what that was about?

The Reptile Says: 1) The BBB browser. How well does it work? Is it frustrating to have a good screen but no compelling interface? 2) Media capabilities. How do they compare to the iPhone? 3) Non-NOC email. Can you do this on the BlackBerry and if you can how well does it work? 4) Navigation. How long does it take to navigate to screens using the trackball? Are there other methods or is the track ball the only way? 5) If you don’t email or text much is there a compelling reason to own a BBB?

1) It works okay. The frustration was minimal, but the screen was sharp and small, and it takes a while to scroll. It's hard to use other handset browsers after MobileSafari, however. 2) It seems like RIM is trying harder with media, and the built in players all worked well enough, but again anything would have trouble in comparison to the iPhone's real strengths. 3) I tried the Gmail downloadable app, which worked well enough, but again I prefer having 1 email app to rule them all. 4) Keyboard shortcuts work, but the trackball is king. 5) Nope, other than fashion. Messaging the Bold's forte.

Glenn Says: How does the app store and browers compare?And how does apps like aim and facebook compare

No App Store yet in the iPhone sense. offers so similar services, but Apple really nailed the mobile software delivery system. I didn't try Facebook. Anyone tried them both and willing to share?

James Says: How was the Bold’s radio reception compared to the iPhones?

Good, but I've never had trouble with the iPhone's radio. Not had a dropped call yet on either device. (Knock wood).

Charlotte Says: in terms of applications, which one has better selection and more powerful/useful apps? access, costs, etc??

App Store is unmatched as of this moment, but RIM is planning to iClone... er deploy their own version(s) soon.

Jonathan Kutz Says: How is the battery case cover in terms sturdiness? I always found myself playing with the cover on my palms, taking it on and off alot.

Good! Fix it in place and forget it!

Steve Says: I was listening to the Crackberry podcast, and something Kevin said made it sound like there is more than one type of Internet browser on the phone. Is there more than one? What’s up with that? Secondly, is it possible that having more buttons on the phone make games more enjoyable than on our beloved iPhone? Finally, just to get Kevin back, can we find some excuse to come up with a good name to call the BB in retort to his “Oh Frack-phone” label….???

Bla1ze was kind enough to answer the browser question, and I bow before his crackspertise! "the “Internet Browser” the “Hot Spot Browser” and whatever lame wap browser your carrier wants to install (ie: medianet for AT&T) but essentially all function in the same way you can read a better explanation that I posted @"

Maybe a real time strategy game would enjoy more buttons, the way they do on PCs vs. consoles. Dunno. We could come up with many names, how about it, commenters?

Steve Says: Could iPhone users find any practical use for the BlackBerry Bold… like for scraping ice off of their windshields?

It scraped a scratch in my iPhone 3G glass, which nothing else had thus far been able to do, so yeah, I think it would kill at ice scraping.

Dan Hinze Says: So, if this is exclusively for legitimate questions about the BlackBerry Bold from an “iPhone” perspective, why is an iPhone being given away? Shouldn’t a Bold be given away instead since most the questions will come from “iPhone” users inquiring about the Bold???? Anyway, here’s my “Bold” question. Do third party GPS apps such as Google Maps work with the Bold yet?

Er... I'll just assume you finally read all about the Round Robin contest in the many, many links we've posted and skip on ahead... Yup, I believe the bold has Google Maps goodness. Says: I know this is pretty much a subjective question, but I watch many movies on my iphone; knowing the screen size differences, do you or anyone find watching video/movies on the bold enjoyable? Another question, will my movies formatted for the iphone play natively on the bold or do I have to reconvert them into a compatiable format?

It was about the same as watching on the iPod Nano in my experience. Super high density in a tiny little package. I'm not sure about the movie format as I didn't try moving anything over.

Cherryhead25 Says: I think I have a legitimate question. How’s the Bold sound as a phone, ya know like when placing a call? Is the sound quality good compared to the iPhone 3g, eh?

Sound was good. I'm not sure digital actually improved on analog, and everything sounds chopped off to me, but I'd say they're pretty much good all around.

iAirmanshirk Says: Why is the blackberry track ball so hard to use, why is their user interface not been upgraded since the 90’s and how are they still selling phones?

Trackballs are mechanical and hence subject to mechanical failure. Think old school ball mouse. I don't think anyone really understood mobile interfaces before Apple launched the iPhone, now RIM is struggling to adapt a last gen micro-OS to a next gen world. They're still selling phones because they took a lesson from Microsoft and managed to get a huge install base of locked-in proprietary technology: BIS, BES, and NOC.

Patrick Says: Blackberries are famous for their email capabilities. However, I’ve heard the gmail experience on a BB is not that great (e.g. no push, haphazard 2-way imap synching, etc…). How does gmail on the Bold compare to on the iPhone? I’m looking at getting one of these devices, and the gmail experience is a huge factor for me. Thanks!

Google has really poor IMAP support on any and every platform, so there's really no way to make a fair comparison. When Gmail is working, they both work.

msbaylor Says: What is the cost of the blackberry data plan? What color bit depth does use? What’s the picture resolution (talen from the camera) ?

Cost will vary by carrier, but I think it's roughly the same as any data plan. I believe the Bold tops out a depressing 65K colors, which is a little out dated, but again at 217dpi, I'm not sure how noticeable it would be (I couldn't see much if any dithering or distortion). 2 MP camera... but with flash!

lordzod01 Says: there are enough reviews to compare both the iPhone and bb indepth. Why do people keep blogging with stupid questions about browsers and battery life.

Anything unknown remains a question.

Kevin Nuckols Says: I would like compare the the fuze web browser and the bolds experience.

I couldn't get Opera Mobile working on the FUZE, so no comparison for me. Maybe Dieter would know.

Amani Says: Whether I get an iphone or blackberry, I won’t be using the 3G Network(I don’t want to pay for a data plan) How does the wifi compare on each?

Sorry, didn't try WiFi on the Bold, but the iPhone's is awesome.

Garrett Says: Fantastic review. I am currently on a BB and looking forward to a Bold or an iPhone. I have used both and both are great fantastic devices. There are tons of keyboard shortcuts you can look into. I stumbled across a lot of them while using mine. Having and iPhone I am sure you have a mac. Have you found any solutions to the BB syncing to mac catastrophe? If so please let me know!

Kevin swears Mac support for the BlackBerry is improving. Pretty depressing that it took them this long!

December 21st, 2008 at 9:05 pm Are there any applications that you loved on the Bold? Either on the BB OS or third-party? Did you feel like you used the Bold “on-the-go”? Or was it a “stop & use” phone?

Bold was stop and use for me. It had to be. I don't know how Kevin can handle really parsing, processing, and responding to all that push email and messaging without stopping. Then again, he's much smarter and more productive than I am. (And those were the apps I liked most).

SomeAudioGuy Says: Really after your Spazz-out review of the Fuze, I’m really curious to see how you handle a non-touch screen phone. What do you think of the total messaging package? Being able to receive IM without being IN the IM app?

Well, since you were so gracious and classy in the asking, I really enjoyed the power of the messaging, but as I said in my review, the demand of it was terrifying.

talljason Says: How do the Bold and iPhone compare for consumers not dependent on getting and sending e-mails…is there a certain feature other than e-mail that makes the Bold better than the iPhone?

The keyboard if you prefer physical keyboards?

Jrock Says: Is the bold better than the iPhone? =O

Depends on your needs and preferences.

Scotty Says: How does it feel in the hand. Too wide?

Nope, felt fine!

cole Says: how is the reception compared to the iphone after all the iphone doesn’t get good reception at all

iPhone reception has been solid for me, get a better network!

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.