Bold by any other name

What’s in a name? As a former marketer I have learned to understand and believe the power of brands. Take away the shareholder equation ($$$) associated with brands and what you have at the very core of a brand is Trust. The old adage in IT was “no one ever gets fired for buying IBM”. While this may still hold true in some business quarters in many parts of the world, the “trust” a brand builds over time can easily be thrown out by a single, badly managed incident.

But that is not my point here. My point is that sometimes marketers can get carried away with the exercise of creating a brand name that they lose sight of a deeper goal – maintaining the level of trust a brand has established over the years.

Anyway, you’ve probably read two of my product reviews (Samsung Omnia and HTC Touch Diamond). I would not be surprised if after reading both you’d think of me as being patently pro-BlackBerry. I can assure you that while I like some of the technologies that RIM has created over the years, I am still very much not in favor of some of their current business practices. But this is a another product review so let me get that off the table and come back to my RIM issues towards the end.

I use a BlackBerry Pearl (8120). I’ve used a BlackBerry Curve (8310) earlier this year – sorry it got stolen during a holiday in Manila. Recently I was loaned a BlackBerry Bold (9000) to try out. As before, this is not an exhaustive review. If you want a technical dissertation, click on the list towards the end of this blog.

Likes about the BlackBerrys

  • Rugged form factor (I’ve dropped each model on a few occasions – unintentionally of course – and each survived mostly unscathed – yes, minor scratches – you should see what a 3 foot drop can do to an iPhone 2G – the model with an aluminum case. Imagine what would happen to the plastic iPhone 3G)
  • Simple to understand user interface plus the ability to hide functions you don’t need or don’t use. (I firmly believe that a true test of a consumer device is to use it effectively without ever reaching for the manual)
  • Syncing with MS Outlook is easy as is installing/uninstalling the software – BlackBerry Desktop Manager
  • Screen is crystal clear – but the Bold beats everyone – iPhone, all previous BBs, SonyE, Nokia, HTC, MotoQ, in fact everyone except the Samsung Omnia i900 series.
  • Power-up is almost instantaneous (except when you remove the battery)

Dislikes about tbe BlackBerrys

  • Data service plans for markets outside the US suck big time (and I can’t get a proper explanation for this from RIM either) and even more so when you do roaming – a friend paid over HK$3,000 when he went to the US on business for a couple of weeks (data service only). I believe he stopped using his BB on overseas trips after that.
  • Bold consumes more power compared to siblings plus is maybe 10-15% bigger than the Curve. Why?
  • WiFi models are not compatible with “N” or MiMos routers – Curve, Pearl 8120 and Bold. I don’t think I am willing to change my home WiFi router just because I want to use my BB at home to surf the Net. (My Apple iPod Touch does that very nicely, thank you).
  • BB trackball is not good for browsing the Internet (of course Web browsing experience on the Bold is significantly better than the previous models but the trackball leaves much to be desired). The BlackBerry Storm may fix this with its touch interface but I understand the first model to come out of RIM doesn’t have WiFi. Again, why?

Other BlackBerry Bold Reviews:

I go back to the beginning of this article. What’s in a name? Why choose “Bold”? Personally I don’t see anything that warrants the monicker “Bold” for the BlackBerry 9000.

According to Mike Lazaridis, President and Co-CEO, Research In Motion, “The new BlackBerry Bold represents a tremendous step forward in business-grade smartphones and lives up to its name with incredible speed, power and functionality, all wrapped in a beautiful and confident design.” Sounds like the marketers speaking through Lazaridis. defines “bold” as standing prominently out to view; markedly conspicuous; striking the eye; in high relief. While the BlackBerry Bold’s new screen certainly gives it a prominent position in the annals of portable devices (computing or communications), I, personally, still think the bold monicker doesn’t reflect what Lazaridis conveyed above.

What the BlackBerry 9000 does represent is positive and very welcome improvements over the previous generations of BlackBerry devices. Unlike other mobile phone manufacturers that appear to lose touch with what they aim to be, the BlackBerry 9000 continues the charge of providing reliable and efficient business smartphone sacrificing nothing to deliver better experience.

Norm Lo, Vice President of Asia Pacific at Research In Motion, says it succinctly: “The BlackBerry Bold smartphone is ideal for successful entrepreneurs and professionals, as well as consumers, looking for a high-end and aspirational smartphone.”

Well, maybe not too aspirational.

This is a lesson others might want to emulate. Now if only the data service fees can be more affordable. And yes, please fix the N or Mimos WiFi support please!

PS: If you ever have a technical problem with your BlackBerry (Pearl, Curve or Bold) as in maybe the software seems to be playing up… trying removing the battery while it is still on. This process almost always resets the device and brings it back to normal. I’ve done it several times on the models I’ve had with me, including the Bold. Works like a charm. On the Nokia and SonyEricsson, an added practice is to remove the SIM card. Don’t ask me why.