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Old 11-16-2009, 10:20 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default A (Fairly) Objective 9700 Review

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I got my BlackBerry 9700 a little over 12 hours ago. I've been playing with it all day, seeing what it can and can't do. Prior to owning the 9700, I've extensively used the 8900, 88xx, 87xx, and 7100.

First, my overall impression is that this is a very solid phone. Build quality seems to be good, call clarity, from what I've been told, is top-notch. The optical trackpad is miles better than any trackball. The device is quick...really quick. By far the fastest BlackBerry I've used and it'd give the 3GS a run for its money. It's nice RIM left about 130 megs of free space on the built-in memory after I dumped a few of the annoying built-in apps.

It's also incredibly customizable. There are setting for almost everything, I believe more than even in the 8900. The menus also seem well organized and I like the new OS 5.0 layout. This is certainly a have-it-your-way phone, a sharp contrast to the Steve's-way-or-the-highway of the iPhone.

It's also a very small phone, 8900 size, but it almost feels a bit smaller - maybe it's an optical illusion based on the keyboard layout.

Here's where this phone gets me though -- I don't think this phone is a sufficient evolution. I know I'll get some angry responses for this, but the phone is exactly what I expected, nothing less, nothing more. The iPhone was a huge leap forward. The DROID was a leap forward (have you seen the screen on that thing, holy smokes!). Even the 8700 and 8800 were reasonably big leap forwards (remember, the 8800 pre-dated the iPhone by a few months and had essentially all the features of the Gen 1 iPhone). The 9700 is a step forward, but it is what the 8900 should have been in the first place. The best way I can put it is, the 9700 is an 8900 that's about 1.5x as fast overall. Otherwise the features are so comparable and the phones feel so similar, I cannot understand why the 8900 even exists, especially since it's only $50 cheaper.

Here's what really gets me: had this phone been released a year ago, it would have rocked the socks off of anything else out there. In the face of Android phones that seem to keep on getting better and better, Apple releasing a new device every year, and HTC making some spectacular devices, is this device enough to carry BlackBerry through the Holiday season and into March-April? I honestly don't know, but I have my doubts.

If you're a BlackBerry addict or if you're like me and have an awesome T-Mobile plan, this is the phone to get. It is the best GSM BlackBerry ever made, I haven't used the Tour enough to say if this is better. It is also the best phone in T-Mobile's lineup, hands-down. It may also be the best "pro-sumer" phone out there and the one with the least amount of intrusive features. Is it a flagship device, something that can be the centerpiece for BB? I don't know, and that's the part that keeps on bothering me.

What I like:
- Build quality and voice quality
- Speed
- 3G (finally)
- Small size
- Decent enough keyboard (better than 8800, worse than Curve models and 8700)
- Optical trackpad
- Screen
- Customizability
- WiFi calling


What I don't like/what I'd like to see
- Built-in compass and accelerometer
- Bigger screen with better resolution (640x480 anyone?)
- Standardization across BlackBerry models (9630, 9700, and 8900 are almost identical, why are these three different devices?)
- Return of Mini-USB, although Micro-USB seems to be much faster
- Safari is still a better browser
- Touchscreen
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