The BlackBerry Bold’s Form Factor
One look at the Bold should be all it takes to see just how far RIM has come from their ‘email brick’ days. The BlackBerry Bold is sexy. From the sleek black face, to the faux-leather back, to the metallic bezel that encloses the device: everything about the BlackBerry Bold screams at once both elegance and power.
This feeling will likely hit hardest when the Bold first rests in your hand. The Bold comprises essentially the same dimensions as the BlackBerry 8800, but without the sharp angles, favoring instead the smooth arcs of the BlackBerry Curve. Rather than an ‘email brick’, the BlackBerry Bold feels like a powerful tool. I think much of the elegance to the Bold design has to do with the back casing; other than the device face and the bezel that surrounds it, the rest of the Bold body is comprised of supple the leather back.
This is more than just an aesthetic decision, however. The back casing is recessed from the bezel, making the Bold slimmer and easier to hold compared to the 8800, while the leather backing allows the device to rest softly in your hand. This new design approach also places all the weight towards the face of the device, giving the Bold a wonderful sense of balance compared to the 8800, which felt weighted towards the sides, and making the Curve feel like a cheap toy (although only time will tell if the Bold can match either device’s durability).
Beyond these broad strokes, the BlackBerry Bold also features many interesting new details. The front face soft keys are huge in comparison to every other BlackBerry, with the Back and Menu keys actually comprising one long button. While not angled like the Curves, they are depressed in relation to the keypad, making them more comfortable to press and rest your thumb upon. The Bold’s screen is repressed even farther still from the soft keys, and doesn’t feature the gap between screen and glass window found on most BlackBerrys; consider it the difference between an arcade cabinet and a flat-screen monitor. The trackball also no longer features a dip surrounding it like on other BlackBerrys, but I didn’t find that this affected my user experience in any significant way.
However, not all facets of the Bold form factor are improvements upon previous devices, and many are in fact troublesome – if not deal breaking – annoyances. Foremost among them is the extreme difficulty involved in removing a memory card from the external MicroSD slot: unless I was given a defective unit, I would need Fonzie-like skills to put the card out easily with regularity. Secondly, the right-hand-side convenience key is placed approximately one inch too low to be used effectively by any right-handed person. I had to slide the device awkwardly up with my hand to reach the key with my thumb, and would often accidentally press it with my palm. In addition, the volume control on the right-hand-side of the Bold is also awkward to use, being difficult to push with no real input feedback.
However, these annoyances only slightly mar what is easily the most wonderfully formed BlackBerry we have seen so far.