It can be a bit tricky to review a device like the BlackBerry Bold 9780. Compared to the model it succeeds, the Bold 9700, not much is changed as far as the hardware goes. But then, in RIM's defense, the Bold 9700 itself is a pretty sweet device that works really well for the market it is catered to- the corporate sector. So how do you improve upon an already successful model?
Not by much, at least as far as visual design is concerned- the Bold 9780 looks almost identical to the 9700. RIM has replaced the shiny chrome band that ran around the device by a darker version which, in my opinion, does not look as good. Also, the leather-like back cover has been replaced by a grainy back cover- again, a step for the worse. Other than that, you'd be hard-pressed to find any difference on the 9780, except that it is noticeably lighter which is a good thing for something you carry all day long.
Since the device is identical to the 9700, expect the same 2.44 screen with a resolution of 480x360 pixels. The Torch 9800 has an identical resolution but a bigger screen which is easier on the eyes; however, since the pixel density is higher on the smaller screen, things look a bit sharper. On the top you have the lock and mute buttons while the right has the volume control buttons as well as a convenience key. The left side has another convenience key along with the USB connector and a 3.5mm audio jack.
Internally, there is a new CPU, however it’s running at the same 624MHz that the older Bold 9700 was running at. RIM has upgraded the amount of internal flash memory from 256MB to 512MB. This is the storage space where your applications are installed as well as what is needed by the Operating System to run, so the bigger it gets the better it is. Finally, the camera has also been upgraded from 3MP to 5MP and you can now record videos at 640x480 resolution. What matters most for the Bold 9780 is the switch to the latest BlackBerry Operating System- OS6. RIM has promised an OS6 upgrade for the current BlackBerry Bold 9700 owners so there is little reason to upgrade if you have one of those.
On the usability side, the 9780 sports the same keyboard as the 9700 which is a good thing. Although the keyboard looks the same as the Torch 9800, the keys aren't as flat making typing on it a faster experience. Above the keyboard, you have the four standard BlackBerry keys as well as the optical trackpad for navigating.
The BlackBerry OS6 is obviously the big change and the Bold 9780 is the first non-touch screen device that I've tested the new OS on. In a nutshell, I feel that RIM has designed OS6 to be optimized for Touch screens. Gestures such as flicking the screens and pulling up the menus are a lot more intuitive on a touch device than on a non-touch one. I'm not saying that it doesn't work on the 9780, but it just doesn't feel as intuitive.
There are a few things that are easier to use though- such as Universal Search. Since you already have a full keyboard in front of you, it is easier to use this feature on a non-touch device. Also, like the older BlackBerry devices, assigning shortcuts to keys makes you work faster than having a touch screen.
One area where RIM has improved upon is the Battery life. I'm not sure if this is because of newer hardware or the new OS- my guess would be that it’s a bit of both. The original Bold 9700 has a pretty awesome battery life of two days, however, my Bold 9780 went for a full three days on a single charge which is the most I've experienced on any smartphone. To the business user, this matters a lot and RIM has done a pretty good job with that.
Overall, it’s a bit hard to recommend the 9780. It has a couple of things going for it, such as its light weight and extremely impressive battery life. The OS6 upgrade is nice but RIM has already promised that to current 9700 owners. However, OS6 seems optimized for touch screens so the Torch 9800 should be the one you should be looking at if you want a new BlackBerry device.