Back in Black(berry)


Greetings, comrades. I just got back from China (if you count 'just' in Jim Blog years). Some of you may recall that my blog was banned the last time I was there. This time, I couldn't use that convenient excuse to let this blog lay fallow. Apparently, BusyDad has been deemed fit for the People. Or, I've gotten soft (or more Proletarian) in my old age. Given this fact, in conjunction with the fact that Twitter was blocked (unlike last time), I committed to blogging from China every two days.

It's the thought that counts.

China was indeed a thrice in a lifetime (so far) experience, and even though it was for a work conference, I loved every minute of it. Well, except for the minute after I landed (at midnight, after traveling for 20 hours) and was told that my boss had booked me for a speech at a university in eight hours. Come to think of it, the next few hundred minutes writing a speech weren't so fun either. Aside from that, it was a blast.

But this post isn't about China. That post is coming after MrLady and I sort through the 900 or so pictures we collectively took and create the super-mega narrated slideshow of glory.

This post is about cell phones. Namely this baby right here:

That there is the new Blackberry Bold 9900, running on the new Blackberry 7 OS. I'm supposed to tell you that Blackberry sent it to me in exchange for my honest opinion on it, but I hate dry disclosure statements. So instead, I'm going to tell you how I got to this point.

It was 1992-ish. I was at my girlfriend's house one night and her little brother stumbles into the living room, blood spatter all over his shirt. He proceeds to tell us about this fight he just got into, and how his cell phone saved his life. How? He beat the guy with it. Better than bricks, those old cell phones. Just as heavy, but more ergonomic for maximum bludgeoning comfort.

I stayed away from hoodlums with calling plans for the next few years and finally broke down and got a cell phone after I graduated from college. I told myself it was only for emergencies. I actually kept it in the glove compartment and only used it for emergencies.

Then I moved to Califormia and got a job in music PR. Well of course I needed one then. I still smile when I think about that Star Tac. You know, the one that P. Diddy always had in his videos when he was still Puff Daddy? Pimpin.

After that, I just went with the free ones because I drive with the phone in my lap and always forget that fact when I get out of the car, which later became a tall truck. I must have broken at least a dozen or so phones during this era.

One day, I discovered that Casio made a virtually indestructible cell phone (G'z One). Waterproof and shock resistant? Sold. I used to drop that thing in my beer at bars, and huck it against the wall during work meetings for emphasis. I loved that phone. And people thought I was weird.

As resistant as I was to the whole phenomena of the smart phone (I was one of those "cell phones are for talking!" people), by 2008, I broke down and got a Blackberry because I traveled a lot for work. Before long, I too was was walking into trees on the sidewalk (that really happened).

One day, a cleverly named Motorola phone entered the market. One with a Star Wars tie-in. While I could resist the iPhone because I cannot function without a real keyboard, the Droid actually had a keyboard. Also, I could write "This is the Droid you're looking for" in my email signature because no one else would ever be so clever as to do that! I strayed. And I hated every minute of it. I will Droid-bash (catharsis is healthy) when I do my comprehensive video review later this month. This post is already too long and I haven't even gotten to the point, which is that I switched back. Loudly. And Proudly.

I. Am. The. Blackberry. Army.

So yes, they sent me this phone to review (and keep), for which I just wrote the longest disclosure known to the internet. Militant loyalty (and a well-indexed blog) has its privileges. I've had it about a week and here are my initial thoughts, in no particular order:

Looks: Nothing says "like a boss" like a Blackberry. Period. Even though the Bold has maintained its iconic look, they've added a few cool touches to it, the most signigificant being the beveled brushed steel casing. Brushed steel! Just hold it next to your face and it automatically chisels your jawline and makes your eyes more piercing. Then flip it over and look at the battery cover: carbon fiber (or something that resembles it). Is this a fine tuned performance vehicle, or a phone? A phone, but it looks fast and furious.

Web Browsing: I'll admit it. I never surfed the web with my previous Blackberrys (Blackberry is a proper noun, which is why I didn't write Blackberries). Surfing the web was futile. However, the new OS claims to be 40% faster with a liquid graphics touchscreen that makes web browsing a breeze. I ventured onto the web a few times this week, and while it still doesn't match the browsing capability of the iPhone or Droid, it is indeed much much better now. Navigating a website no longer makes me kick puppies.

Apps: Apps aren't really my thing. However, I will tell you this: you know how Twitter is blocked in China? You cannot access it from any computer. You cannot access it via any iPhone app, either. But the Twitter for Blackberry app? It totally flies under the Communist Party radar (as does the Blackberry Facebook app). The only reason I was able to tweet from China was because I had my Blackberry Torch with me. Authoritarian regimes got nuthin on the BB! Also, Blackberry IM totally rules. In fact, I would go Blackberry for that app alone.

Battery Life: I need my battery to last throughout the work day. The Blackberry is the only major smartphone with any respectable battery life. On an average workday, my Bold 9900 can go from 6:30am to 6:30pm before I have to stick it on a charger. My Blackberry Torch went a few hours longer, but then again, it doesn't have brushed steel.

Email: I have to keep track of a dozen email addresses (and secret identities). The Blackberry handles email like no other smartphone. This is why I went with it in the first place. I will go over this in more detail in my formal review, but I will point out that I love how emails are organized by thread (like Gmail) in the new OS. It threw me off at first, but once I figured out what it was doing, I loved it.

Overall, I'm really impressed with the Bold 9900. I only have one issue with it so far, and that is the fact that it occassionally hangs up (not in the phone call sense - but in the "in limbo" sense), forcing you to wait a couple seconds before you can do anything, but I've learned to just admire the brushed steel when that happens. Much better than kicking puppies. When I do my video review, I will do side-by-side comparisons with a Droid, as well as my old Blackberry Torch, so you can view empirical evidence instead of reading my hyperbolic propaganda.

Until next time, Party people.