Review: BlackBerry Style 9670

In the hopes of expanding their well-known success from the business sector, RIM has revisited the clamshell design and combined it with their latest software offering, OS6, in order to release their newest CDMA device, the Blackberry Style 9670. Unlike RIM’s initial attempt at a Blackberry flip phone (Pearl Flip), the Style has a full, QWERTY keyboard, which is designed for heavy messaging users. The Style sports a 2.7” internal screen with a resolution of 360 x 400 pixels QVGA, and a 2″ external screen with a resolution of 240 x 320 QVGA. The Style is approximately 96mm (tall) x 60mm (wide) x 18.5mm (thick) when closed, and expands to 175.5mm (tall) when opened, all while weighing around 131g.

I started this review with low expectations since I am not a fan of “clamshell” smartphones, let alone a flip Blackberry. However, I quickly realized that this phone is not for me, or other loyal Blackberry users, but geared more towards potential new customers looking for a messaging-friendly phone. The Style has a somewhat square shape, due to the full QWERTY keyboard and is enclosed in a glossy exterior. At 131g, this device weighs slightly more than your typical Blackberry device, but surprisingly less that I first expected/anticipated.

The front of the Style 9670 houses a 2” color LCD external screen with 240 x 320 QVGA, as well as the classic small, LED notification light. This display summarizes the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and messaging notifications (can customize to show caller ID, message previews). This screen also helps eliminate the need to constantly flip open the device in order to check the time, new messages, etc. The left side of this device sports a microUSB port for charging/PC connectivity, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a microSD slot for up to 32GB supported expandable memory (8GB microSD card included). The right side of this device reveals volume rockers, and RIM’s “convenience key”, which can be programed to act as a shortcut for any program/action. The backside of the Style reveals a 5.0MP camera with LED Flash (capable of auto-focus, face detection, image stabilization, scene modes, 2X zoom, video recording). Removing the back cover also reveals an 1150mAh lithium cell battery, which advertises 270 minutes of talk time, and/or 252 hours of standby time

Once you flip open this device, you will be greeted with a 2.7” color LCD internal screen with 360 x 400 QVGA. This screen is very similar to other Blackberry devices, as images and text appear very clear and sharp on this display. Located underneath this bright screen is a full, QWERTY keyboard, as well as navigation area. The top of the keyboard contains a flat navigation area with buttons for Send, Menu, Back, and End/Power, which is separated by a raised, optical trackpad in the middle.

SIDE NOTE: As with other Blackberry devices, the optical trackpad works quite well on this device, and also works well with OS6, which was thought to be more of a touchscreen friendly OS.

The keyboard on this device is very thin and flat (similar to Torch), but is also sloped and angled to allow for quick typing (similar to Bold). It should be noted that when you flip open the device, there is lots of noticeable room for moving fingers, resting thumbs etc.

SIDE NOTE: The hinge of this device is very critical to its design and seems very strong and durable. The glossy finish on the inside of this device allowed for many visible fingerprint/oil markings. The keyboard is also backlit for times of low visibility.

The Blackberry Style is powered by a 624MHz processor, with 512MB internal flash memory, and comes preloaded with the newly released OS6. This device is Dual-Band 800/1900MHz for CDMA/EVDO Rev A networks. The phone is powered by an 1150mAh battery, with up to 270 minutes of talk time, and/or 252 hours of standby time. The Style supports GPS, +AGPS, and Bluetooth 2.1, while housing a WiFi 802.11 b/g/n card for WiFi support. The Music player supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, WAV, M4A, MP4, MIDI, while the Video player supports MPEG4, H.263, H.264, and WMV.

Making/receiving phone calls, text messages, and emails are very pleasant experiences on this device. Calls sounded loud and clear through the speaker on both ends of the line, with minimal complaints of background noise.

The newly designed WebKit-browser, which is now included and preloaded with OS6, is a large step in the right direction for RIM and Blackberry. This revamped browser provides a cleaner and more organized experience with the use of “tabs”, and also loads web pages much faster due to the increased HTML and JavaScript rendering.

SIDE NOTE: Flash support is still missing, and I would have liked to have seen it included, since it was the only flaw with the new WebKit-browser

RIM has also made large improvements to their multimedia experience with a “Cover Flow” music player, which supports a wide range of music files (see extensions above). Blackberry Desktop Software 6 allows the user to sync media libraries from Windows Media Player or iTunes, and also provides a Wi-Fi Sync feature, in order to sync music wirelessly over Wi-Fi.

Although the camera included is 5.0MP, and comes with many different features and modes, the resulting photo quality felt short of my initial expectations. Images seemed grainy and dull at times, and did not provide a sharp, clean image that many other 5.0MP cameras on the market produced.

SIDE NOTE: When trying to take a picture, you must hold the device from the bottom, or else you will block the camera on the back. This makes for an awkward grip and increases fears of dropping the phone. I wish the camera had been placed in a better location

The battery for this phone performed very well for its size, and I was able to use the phone for a just over two full days before recharging (light calls, text messaging/emails/BBM, browsing). Battery life is especially important with a Blackberry since you are always waiting for new emails, BBM messages, etc. and the performance I experienced seems typical of an average Blackberry.

The Blackberry Style comes preloaded with RIM’s recently designed OS6, which was initially seen on a touchscreen device, the Blackberry Torch. This OS seems to work very well on a non-touchscreen device, as the optical trackpad is well utilized.

The home screen has been redesigned and now includes a Quick Access area, navigation and notification bar. The Quick Access area provides instant information regarding the date, time, connections, etc. and can be expanded to change various settings. Underneath this area is a notification bar, which displays missed calls, messages, and appointments and can be expanded to reveal more details. At the bottom of the screen is a navigation bar, which contains shortcuts for various programs/apps. This bar can be slide across the screen horizontally, to present five separate navigation bars for All, Favourite, Media, Downloads, and Frequent.

Another welcomed addition to the new OS is the universal search. Once you start to type a word/phrase, the OS will immediately begin searching the device for relevant keywords from documents, messages, and programs (can also make universal search extend to Google, YouTube, App World, 3rd party apps, etc.).

As with all Blackberry devices, the Style handles emails and messages quite well. There is corporate support for BES, Microsoft Exchange, and BES Express, and personal support for up to 10 individual email accounts (either separate or combines inboxes). Text and multimedia messages can be viewed in a threaded conversation view, and collected in one inbox for easy sorting. In order to appeal to the average consumer, OS6 includes a “Social Feeds” function for quick and easy social networking access. This function has a built-in RSS news feed in order to provide up to the minute updates from your Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and YouTube accounts.

The Blackberry Style also comes preloaded with the following apps:
− Facebook
− MySpace
− Twitter
− YouTube
− DataViz Documents on the Go
− Memo Pad
− Calculator
− Password Keeper
− Voice Dialing
− Visual Voicemail

Overall, the Blackberry Style is a fresh and different expansion of RIM’s already strong Blackberry line of devices. With a larger focus on the business sector, it is nice to see that RIM is still aware of the generic consumer market, and looking to expand to the average messaging and smartphone user. This device will gain popularity with the middle-aged population looking for a new phone that is durable and user friendly, and easy to type on. The only complaints I have with the Style 9670 are the pricing structure (phone is expensive unless you sign agreement for 3 years), and the lack of support for GSM (CDMA device).

The Blackberry Style was recently released by Bell Mobility under the following pricing structure:
• $399.95 (no term contract)
• $374.95 (1 year contract)
• $349.95 (2 year contract)
• $49.95 (3 year contract)

The Blackberry Style is also available with TELUS Mobility under the following pricing structure:
• $399.99 (no term contract)
• $349.99 (1 year contract)
• $299.99 (2 year contract)
• $79.99 (3 year contract)

The Blackberry Style is also available with MTS under the following pricing structure:
• $424.99 (1 year contract)
• $199.99 (2 year contract)
• $99.99 (3 year contract)