BlackBerry Bold is Hardly That

Handset offers welcome but incremental upgrades to earlier models

The BlackBerry Bold's biggest improvement is a sharper screen.
The BlackBerry Bold's biggest improvement is a sharper screen.

I still have a problem with "bold." After a day of playing with Research in Motion's newest phone, I have to say it's the best BlackBerry yet. But I don't see where it's bold.

Launched this week on the same AT&T network as the iPhone, the new BlackBerry Bold has a beautiful screen, great connectivity, powerful processor -- and did I say, a beautiful screen. The sharper display makes for a better experience browsing the Web, reading documents and even messaging, which is the real strength of the BlackBerrys.

The phone also comes with more software than the BlackBerry that I use daily, which is from the 8800 series that is the Bold's predecessor. Most notable are programs for editing Microsoft Office docs. The memory card slot also moves, thankfully, from behind the battery to a convenient slot on the side.

An important change is that the keyboard gets just a little more room. Just enough to make easier to type than on the 8800. Overall, the new model feels heftier in the hand, though curved edges give it a look that's a little more svelte and stylish than the 8800.

The trackball has a distinctly different feel to it. I'm not sure I like it better. It moves more slowly, or subtly might be a better way to put it. That should feel like an improvement because I've found it hard to not overshoot my target with the trackballs on other BlackBerrys. But this one feels too slow. Maybe I'd get used to it over time.

The 2 megapixel camera takes great pictures, and unlike my BlackBerry, can connect to Wi-Fi networks.

All notable changes, and most for the better. But they're incremental. Maybe that's OK, because the BlackBerry has to offer devices that cater to its messaging loyalists. That's also why the Bold was delayed for added testing. A BlackBerry could ill afford the kinds of problems reported with the latest iPhone.

A more interesting step comes later this month when the BlackBerry Storm should hit the market. That model abandons the hardware keyboard for a touch screen, while still trying to keep typists happy with interesting innovation.

That sounds daring. For now, the Bold doesn't offer me enough to make me dash out, plunk down $300, and sign a new 2-year contract.