In business the BlackBerry has a huge fan base, earning its place in the professional pocket with its strong e-mail capability. But Research In Motion (RIM) has slowly been building the platform and adding more consumer-friendly features. This is in part to capitalise on the youth market that primarily likes the BlackBerry for its Instant Messaging capability, and in part to help it compete with the iPhone and Android, both of which are making inroads into its corporate heartland. And, of course, to help it compete with Microsoft’s Windows Phone. The newest BlackBerry to arrive, the BlackBerry Bold 9780, brings all the competing strands together and shows off a new BlackBerry operating system to boot.

What is it and who is it for?

The BlackBerry Bold 9780 is ideal for professionals who need to communicate on the move. Similar to others in the Bold range it sports the traditional miniature QWERTY keyboard that defines the BlackBerry line. The keys are well made and, while small, are easy to hit accurately thanks to their good return and solid feel. BlackBerry devices set the standard for this type of keyboard and we found typing, whether for mobile e-mail, SMS, making notes or IM, fast and efficient.

However, at just 2.44” the screen simply can’t match up to the larger screens of the likes of the iPhone or a myriad of high-end Android devices. The pixel count, at 480×360 isn’t great, either, so the amount of detail being shown on screen at any one time is not high. If you spend a lot of time browsing the Web, then the BlackBerry Bold 9780 might not be for you. It is fine for viewing text, such as e-mail, though.

The BlackBerry Bold 9780 is equipped with a 5-Megapixel camera and LED flash. This may not be at the top of a business person’s list of must have features, but it can be useful in a range of professional scenarios. Geotagging using the built-in GPS could have its moments too. The camera is not the best we have seen, but is certainly a vast improvement on earlier RIM offerings. Video shooting is limited to 640×480 resolution, but that probably won’t bother business users.

Does it do it well?

The core specifications are perfectly appropriate for the needs of a business person on the move. Wi-Fi, 3G and GPS are all present, and there is 512MB of built-in RAM. You also get a 2GB microSD card with the device, so user storage is reasonable right out of the box.

As ever, the BlackBerry Bold 9780 copes well with mobile e-mail supporting corporate e-mail and up to 10 personal e-mail addresses. There are also new features to support social media with a Social Feeds application that brings together Twitter, Facebook, Windows Live Messenger, Google Talk and BlackBerry Messenger communications in one place. Separate apps for these things are also available. With social networking increasingly important to the business these are welcome features.

The standout feature of the BlackBerry Bold 9780, however, is that it runs the new BlackBerry OS 6. This looks slicker than its predecessor and includes some important new features. One we really like is the universal search capability. Type something and the BlackBerry Bold 9780 will begin to return results—the contact card for a named person, e-mails, calendar entries and more. You can even do Google searches using the tool. Up to a point, this removes the need to fiddle with menus and find apps. You just start typing.

Despite what we’ve already said about the screen being small for Web browsing, the revamped browser that is part of BlackBerry OS 6 is a real improvement on its predecessor. Text reflows to fit the screen which makes for minimal scrolling—a good thing as you need to navigate using the optical trackpad beneath the screen rather than tapping the screen which is not touch sensitive. The browser includes a handy ‘find text’ feature and you can open more than one Web page at once, flipping through them via a thumbnails screen.

Where does it disappoint?

The BlackBerry Bold 9780 is the logical successor to the Bold 9700, and if you are looking for radical changes on the hardware front you will be disappointed. The physical design is very similar, even down to the two user programmable ‘convenience keys’ on the left and right edges. There is a bit of the ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ ethos here, but if you want a radically different look you will be disappointed.

Some people may feel let down by the fact that the BlackBerry Bold 9780 does not have a touchscreen. BlackBerry traditionalists may not be too bothered about this, and in fact BlackBerry OS 6 does not really require it. If you do hanker for a touchscreen and the new OS, take a look at the BlackBerry Torch instead.

Those upgrading from an older BlackBerry device will find a bit of a learning curve to move from BlackBerry OS 5 to OS 6. This ought not to be too great, though. There is enough crossover with the older OS that you should be up and running pretty quickly.

Would we recommend it?

If you’re a fan of the traditional BlackBerry then the Bold 9780 is a real step forward. The core mobile e-mail function remains intact and the new Universal Search tool on its own is almost worth the upgrade to the new OS. Regular Internet users will also like the much improved Web browser. One word of note, however. If you’ve had trouble typing on the small BlackBerry QWERTY keyboards in the past, you may find this one similarly tricky to its predecessors. [8]