The BlackBerry Bold’s Keypad
For all the talk of the Bold’s screen and 3G capabilities, we know that the hearts and minds of the BlackBerry Nation are won by a single and definitive feature: the keypad. Notably, as the first screenshots of the Bold were leaked, many BlackBerry users were aghast that RIM had seemingly chosen to copy the keypad design of the almost universally reviled BlackBerry 8800 over the more popular BlackBerry Curve. After spending extensive time with the Bold, we can put those fears to rest: RIM has improved upon the basic 8800 design so significantly that it narrowly surpasses the BlackBerry Curve, resting comfortably as the second-best BlackBerry keypad ever (sorry, but the BlackBerry 7290 still holds a special place in our hearts).
Like the BlackBerry 8800, the Bold eschews the rounded, separated-key design of the Curve in favor of a compact, square-tile design. However, while the 8800 keypad seemed like a never-ending mass of sharp keys that made it difficult to accurately hit the desired letter, significant adjustments have been made to the Bold keypad to improve both speed and accuracy. First and foremost is the inclusion of guitar-like fretting between key rows, which provides much-needed vertical separation. Secondly, RIM has made the curved ridgeline to each key far less pronounced, offering a gradual decline rather than a sharp drop-off. This may seem like a minor adjustment, but offers a significant speed advantage to the Bold over the BlackBerry 8800. Whereas before, your fingers would often get caught up on the 8800’s ridgelines, on the BlackBerry Bold you will slide quickly and with grace from key to key.
Beyond salvaging the defective 8800 design, the Bold keypad also wins out against the BlackBerry Curve. With the improvements mentioned above, the Curve can no longer claim the significant speed advantage it had over the 8800, allowing other Bold design features to stand out. For example, the larger but clearly defined Bold keys make the ‘hunting and pecking’ necessary for texting on the Curve seem passe. Also, unlike the the Curve, each key on the Bold also feels like its own separate entity when pushed, making the keypad as a whole feel like a collection of finely crafted dominoes rather than one interlocking piece of plastic. The BlackBerry Bold’s keys are also softer to the touch, eliminating the annoying clicking that takes place on the Curve. While the Bold’s softer keys are also slightly ‘stickier’ than the Curve’s, forcing your finger to remain in place just a millisecond or two longer, I didn’t find that this impacted my texting experience in any significant way.
In sum, the the BlackBerry Bold’s keypad is of a quality that will cause you to run your hands along its keys for sheer pleasure. BlackBerry 8800 and legacy 8700 users should come running to the Bold, while BlackBerry Curve users will be hard-pressed to refute the Bold’s keypad as the pound-for-pound champion.