It's official - the BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900 is here and we got some serious touchy-feely time with it. RIM's new flagship handset launches with the new BlackBerry 7 OS - read more about it here or see below for our first impressions and hands-on photos.
BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900 hands-on
The Bold Touch is a rehash of the Bold 9780, brought into this day and age with a 2.8-inch capacitive touch-screen above the classic BlackBerry QWERTY keyboard. Under the hood, it packs a 1.2GHz processor, 768MB of RAM and a five-megapixel camera with 720p video recording. The BlackBerry 7 OS looks much like OS 6, with five different home screen-esque panels storing your apps.
The Favourites menu is where you can pop those apps you like most, but there's also a Frequent panel that automatically populates with your most-used apps. Where OS 6 felt shoehorned onto the non-touch Bold 9780, OS 7 really shines in this touch-QWERTY hybrid form of the Bold Touch. Swiping between the home screen panels feels far more intuitive than using the optical touch-pad – though there's still one here.
It's the slimmest BlackBerry ever - not that that's saying a lot - at 10.5mm. Its actually longer and wider than the Bold 9780 with a 115x66 area, but feels much sleeker in the hand thanks to the sizeable 3.5mm reduction in width. The brushed stainless steel edges are curved and in general, the build quality is high.
The QWERTY keyboard maintains the standard BlackBerry excellence, with domed keys making it easy to type quickly in the dark. Unlike many phones with a 'hard' QWERTY keyboard, there's also an autocorrect function.
Most interestingly of all is that it's the first BlackBerry to come with an NFC chip, embedded in its back cover. In fact, it's one of the first phones at all to have NFC, the technology that would make contactless payments via your mobile possible. We briefly demoed the feature by scanning the back of the phone over a barcode that opened up a link in the browser.
We didn't get a chance to test it beyond opening up a couple webpages – but we did confirm that the browser doesn't support Flash. Though the PlayBook is Flash-enabled, BlackBerry UK MD Stephen Bates said the company felt the future for smartphones was indeed in web standard languages such as HTML5.
So will this turn around RIM's reportedly flagging fortunes? We found the Bold Touch a far better implementation of RIM's new-look OS, and the combination of touching and typing was fluid and natural. It's a subtle but effective way of updating the classic BlackBerry and the RIM faithful will easily get along with this handset.
The BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900 launches at the end of the month. We'll have our hands on a review model this week, and a full review up next week.