Research In Motion's BlackBerry family has set the bar, in many ways, for other enterprise smartphones. In particular, the BlackBerry Bold 9000 has attracted executives, and business users at all levels, with features such as push email, a well-designed keyboard, WiFi support, internal GPS and big-screen browsing.
In this article:
- Key Features
- Build Quality
- Personal Appeal
- Enterprise Application Support
- Availability and Price Plans
- Comparative Tests
The Bold 9000 is designed for larger enterprises, while the 8520 Curve is more aimed at smaller businesses with tighter budgets, explained RIM. As such, the Bold has a more corporate look and feel than the other handsets in the range.
Its main features are a Qwerty keyboard, WiFi, GPS, a 2MP camera, media and video player, and Bluetooth 2.0.
The Bold also comes with business applications such as WordToGo and PowerPointToGo, and has a battery life of 13 days standby, or five hours talk time.
Rob Bamforth, principal analyst at Quocirca, said that overall the BlackBerry family has been incredibly successful, becoming the mobile email device of choice for many organisations.
Along with other technology analysts and business users, Bamforth praised the Bold's build quality, recognising it as a robust and user-friendly mobile device.
Its main strength is in its emailing capability, explained Gartner principal research analyst, Roberta Cozza. "Generally we advise users who are heavy on messaging and email to get a device with a physical Qwerty keyboard. As such, the Bold is still the strongest on Qwerty design," she said.
Bamforth said, "The early BlackBerries were poor quality phones, though RIM has addressed this over time. It has also become acceptable to hold a slab to your head, which helps smartphones of this size and form factor."
As a result, the BlackBerry has helped other platforms, mainly the older, larger Windows Mobile devices, to gain acceptance amongst business users, he said.
Steve Broadhead, founder of Broadband Testing Labs, commented, "It's fair to say the primary association with BlackBerry is email on the go. However, with the Bold, BlackBerry has looked to move on by piling just about everything possible into one smart phone. As such, the BlackBerry Bold is described by many as a 'super phone'."
"As RIM's first move beyond EDGE to 3G/HSDPA, as well as GPS and WiFi, the Bold is a clear statement of intent by RIM to get away from the "email" image and into hardcore smart phone territory."
RIM has successfully encouraged the business software development market to create a large number of web and client business applications. These include minor but essential tools such as currency calculators, said Bamforth.
BlackBerry mobile phones support Microsoft Exchange, Outlook and Active Directory synchronisation; as well as Lotus Domino, and Groupwise, through the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) platform.
BES also provides enterprise-class security for smart phone deployments, through AES and triple DES security.
The BlackBerry Bold 9000 is available from the main service providers including BT, 3, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone, as well as many resellers. New Bold 9000 handsets cost upwards of £355 per unit. Monthly contracts vary greatly but are around the £25-£35 mark.
The cost of a BES implementation has been considered high for some organisations, but it varies greatly depending on the server software and hardware elements required.
Analyst firm The Tolly Group gave BlackBerry a favourable comparison in 2007 compared with a fully Microsoft push email deployment.
In comparative tests with the other handsets we looked at for this feature, Broadband Testing Labs found that the Bold 9000 handset had an overall score of 6.9 out of 10.
This placed it below the Apple iPhone 2.2, but above the Nokia E71.
Performance tests examined how well 3G calls were set up, the call drop rate, and call handover failures, among other things.
"The BlackBerry Storm struggled to cope with many of the conditions when mobile, while the Bold's overall performance profile was quite different - and mostly better. However, none of the handsets came close to exhibiting perfect performance, so there is a big improvement opportunity for all the handset vendors whose products are featured in this report," said Broadhead.