Research In Motion's latest BlackBerry smartphone takes a cue from the feature phone with its flip form factor. Does this non-traditional smartphone still pack a punch?
Most of today's smartphones are either slabs or sliders. I can't think of one that is a clamshell. Enter RIM's BlackBerry Style 9670, which is not only a clamshell, but still manages to include a full QWERTY keyboard for messaging.
Befitting of the BlackBerry brand, the Style is very well manufactured. RIM's handsets are known for their quality build, and the Style is no different in that regard. The overall feel of the phone solid and strong. The flip form factor allowed RIM to significantly reduce the footprint of the device. It is small, lightweight, and really feels good in the hand.
The Style has two displays. The outer display has a nice clock, and can be used to cycle through messages and alerts. Using the volume keys, the Style lets users flip through the unread messages (SMS, BBM, Facebook, etc.) that are on their desktop.
The Style has a very solid hinge, and the internal display measures 2.7 inches and packs in 360 x 400 pixels. It doesn't compare to the HD monstrosities in the market, but it still looks good. Both are bright enough to be used outdoors.
The now-standard set of BlackBerry navigation keys are positioned above the QWERTY keyboard. The optical trackpad is especially important because it replaces the touch screen actions of BlackBerry 6 (as used on the Torch).
The keyboard is very good. Despite the narrower waist line of the Style, it doesn't feel cramped in the slightest. Perhaps the one issue preventing the Style's keyboard from being fantastic is that the keys have less shape to them -- they have to be flatter to fit well under the top half of the phone. They still have some shape, but more would be better. The feel of the keys, and travel and feedback, are quite good.
How does the Style perform as a phone? Well, the Style is running on Sprint's 3G network. Signal quality was on par with other devices that I've tested in the metropolitan New York City region -- which is to say good. Battery life was fantastic. The Style lasted for days. Phone call quality was good, though the earpiece and speakerphone weren't as powerful as I'd like.
The Style ships with BlackBerry 6 on board. The new operating system from RIM translates well from the touch-based Torch to the non-touch Style fairly well. There are a few navigation issues I've found on the Style that weren't a problem on the Torch at all. It takes some fine-tuning of the trackpad's sensitivity and has a bit of a learning curve.
In all, though, it is nice to have the added features and functionality of BlackBerry 6 on the Style. The notification drawer is great, and having five home screens to personalize with shortcuts and applications lets users make the Style their own.
The WebKit browser is speedy and works well. The camera and media software is good. The social networking integration -- especially Facebook -- is excellent.
Would I recommend the Style to anyone? Sure. It doesn't skimp on features at all, sticks to RIM's high quality standards, and has a certain appeal all its own.
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