BlackBerry Bold 9900: The swan song of a standard
The last BlackBerry using the historic OS adds touch, but otherwise is the BlackBerry you've long known and perhaps lovedFollow @MobileGalen
Text selection and copying. One area where BlackBerry OS 7 relies on touch is for text selection. You tap the target text for longer than a regular tap but shorter than a long-tap to display the text cursor, which you can then drag to the desired location. Note that a single letter is highlighted, suggesting that whole character is selected, but it's not. Instead, anything you type is inserted to the left of that character; deletes remove to its left as well. To select a range of text, tap two fingers simultaneously roughly around the text you want to select and two text handles will appear. Now drag one to the beginning of your text selection and the other to the end. You can cut or copy the text using the Menu button or by long-tapping the screen to get a grid of buttons; both methods provide the Cut and Copy options. It's not as elegant as the method in iOS or even Android, but it works.
One thing BlackBerry OS 7 could really use is an auto-correct feature for its email and other core apps as in iOS or an auto-suggest feature as in Android 4 -- it's very easy to mistype your text, but all the BlackBerry does to help you achieve correct spelling is ... well, nothing. It doesn't even indicate possible spelling errors.
Security and management
The BlackBerry is known as the most secure and manageable mobile platform available. That's true, as long as you pony up for a BES license (there are free versions for small businesses). With BES, IT can apply more than 500 policies to convert the BlackBerry into a highly regulated appliance, covering everything from on-device encryption to camera usage, from interapplication permissions to access point connectivity. Of course, that's not what users want or find productive, so most have turned to iOS and Android, whose security and management is less intrusive and constrained, though sufficient for most organizations. Of course, there's no reason BES can't be applied in a constructive way.
Without BES, IT has no ability to secure or manage email, contacts, calendars, and apps in BlackBerry, nor the ability to remotely lock or wipe a BlackBerry device. Organizations that don't need BES's high level of control can't use native Exchange policies, as they can for iOS and Android 4.
BlackBerry OS 7 has on-device encryption turned on by default, with a higher level of encryption than on iOS or Android, so a locked device is much harder to crack, such as by a thief seeking corporate secrets who gets a hold of your CEO's BlackBerry. It also supports VPNs, though the setup is nightmarish. You have to know the brand of VPN hardware, for example, so IT will have to do the work for users. That's not the case in iOS. Similarly, to connect to a PEAP-encrypted Wi-Fi network, you have to know the certificate authority in use, which means IT again must do the work or share such secrets with employees. Again, iOS automates this setup without divulging such information to the user.
The bottom line is that BlackBerrys can be more highly secured, regulated, and managed, but it takes an active effort by IT to set up each device.
Many people are mourning the possible death of RIM, as its "BlackBerry reboot" effort to reinvent itself for the modern era has been delayed, its sales continue to shrink, and investors are getting desperate enough to seek a takeover (those rarely end well). Unfortunately, there's nothing in the BlackBerry Bold 9900 -- RIM's flagship device -- to buy RIM the time it needs.
The BlackBerry Bold is better than the previous BlackBerry 9700 in its integration of social networking, and it offers a better Web browser, beefier hardware, and the partial adoption of touch. But compared to every competing mobile OS, it's an awkward, uncompelling device. If you love the old-style BlackBerry, the Bold 9900 is your last chance to maintain the tradition. It's RIM's swan song to the BlackBerry heyday of the 2000s, not the triumphant comeback anthem RIM could really use.
This article, "BlackBerry Bold 9900: The swan song of a standard," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in mobile computing, read Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog at InfoWorld.com, follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter, and follow InfoWorld on Twitter.
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Galen is author of iOS 7: The "Just What You Need" Book, OS X Mavericks: The "Just What You Need" Book, MacBook Pro Portable Genius, and iBooks Author For Dummies, as well as lead author of Exploring Windows 8 For Dummies. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen and at Google+.