Blackberry Bold 9650 – global email powerhouse

With all the recent talk of the new iPhone and snazzy new Android devices, you’d be forgiven if you forgot that the U.S. smartphone market is still dominated by RIM and their lineup of Blackberry phones. For many corporate users, the Blackberry still rules, and even though it may lack the sex appeal of the iPhone 4, the newest generation Blackberry devices are still selling like crazy.

In our recent guide on how to pick the best travel smartphone, we mentioned the new Blackberry Bold 9650 as the best option on Verizon Wireless and Sprint. The reason behind this is simple – the Blackberry 9650 features the best of all networks. In the U.S., it works on the 3G CDMA network, and when you travel abroad, it’ll switch to GSM/3G. This combination means you get fantastic coverage here, and abroad.

The specifications of the Blackberry 9650 are pretty darn impressive – WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, 3.2MP auto-focus camera, 480×360 screen, optical trackpad, hands-free speakerphone, MicroSD memory expansion, quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE, dual-band CDMA/EVDO Rev. A and single-band HSDPA and up to 13 days standby time.

Now, these specifications are of course pretty weak if you plan to use it as a gaming device, but if your life revolves around email, you’ll find that very few devices on the market can compete. With a fantastic keyboard and plenty of corporate messaging features, Blackberry products are what you pick when emailing customers is more important than playing Farmville.

The Blackberry Bold 9650 comes with a full suite of office applications, allowing mobile viewing and editing of many popular file formats. The optical trackpad takes a little getting used to, especially if you are used to a trackball. That said, I did find that after about 20 minutes, I was zooming through the phone very quickly.

Travel with the Blackberry Bold 9650

The Blackberry Bold has a couple of handy tricks up its sleeve for travelers. Of course, the global network support is a fantastic feature, but when on the road, Blackberry Maps are also very convenient. Best of all, Blackberry Maps can “cache” their maps locally.

This means you can download maps over WiFi at your hotel, then head out to navigate, without using up any expensive international data.

There are also 100’s of very good Blackberry travel apps – with all the top names represented. Blackberry users can download travel apps from Kayak, TripIt, Yelp, WeatherBug, Mobiata and more.

In the coming week(s), we’ll take a closer look at some of these apps.

Where to get the Blackberry Bold 9650

The Blackberry Bold 9650 is available on Verizon Wireless and Sprint. At Verizon, the phone retails for $149.99 on a two year agreement. On Sprint, the phone costs $199 on a two year agreement, and after a $100 mail in rebate.

Even though I am guilty of ignoring Blackberry devices since my switch to Android, I’m quite surprised how quickly it has evolved recently. If your travels take you all over the world, having a phone with reliable network support is absolutely worth the investment.

Stay tuned later this week for a closer look at some of the fantastic travel applications available for Blackberry phones.

Boingo introduces Blackberry connection app and $7.95 global Wi-Fi plan

Boingo is no stranger here on Gadling – the Wi-Fi company was one of our top 25 best travel products of 2008, and they are continuously making Wi-Fi on the road easier to use.

Yesterday, Boingo announced a new plan specifically for Blackberry users. For just $7.95/month, customers with a Blackberry Curve 8320, Curve 8900 or Bold can access any of the 100,000+ Boingo Wi-Fi hotspots around the world.

This means you will no longer have to deal with pricey roaming charges or other nasty surprises when you get back home.

To make the connection process easier, Boingo has created a Blackberry connection and authentication application. This program tells you when you are in range of a Boingo hotspot, and it takes care of the entire login procedure.

You can even sign up for the service through the software, or if you prefer, you can enroll on your own PC. The $7.95 plan is only for mobile devices, but this also means anyone with an iPhone, Android powered phone or any other Wi-Fi enabled mobile device can sign up. If you’d prefer to connect using your laptop or netbook, you’ll pay $9.95/month for a US plan, or $59 for a global plan. With hotels regularly charging up to $20/day for Internet access, this can easily be a money saving product.

Gadling Gear Review – T-Mobile Blackberry Curve 8900

Last year, I wrote about the T-Mobile Blackberry Curve, and described why I was convinced that it was the best phone for International travelers.

Its combination of T-Mobile WiFi calling and smartphone features made it an absolute winner, and it was one of the 25 products featured in our “best travel products of 2008“.

As with all mobile phones, technology does not stand still, and T-Mobile recently released the newest version of this Blackberry – the Curve 8900.

The 8900 takes the best parts of the older Curve, and adds a 3.2 megapixel camera with Auto-focus and LED flash, a MicroUSB port (instead of MiniUSB), GPS, a higher resolution screen and an improved keyboard. Still inside the device is the fantastic WiFi calling feature and all the other goodies offered by the Blackberry operating system. The device also underwent a little cosmetic surgery, and is in my opinion the best looking Blackberry to date.
As a reminder – the T-Mobile Hotspot@home service allows you to use a WiFi network as an alternative way of getting on the T-Mobile network.

When you are outside their cellular coverage area, you simply get yourself on Wi-Fi, and you can make and receive calls, send and receive text/picture messages and use the web/email portion of the phone. Of course, none of this is particularly impressive if you are just sitting in Peoria without coverage, but being able to turn on Wi-Fi in your Tokyo hotel and make free phone calls without any trouble is in my opinion the best feature on any phone available at the moment.

Yes – many phones have VOIP built in (the iPhone has Skype for example), but the seamless integration on the Curve is just amazing. You make and receive calls using your own phone number, and you don’t have to screw around with any additional software.

Battery life is quite simply astounding – and is one of the few phones that actually gets close to its promised standby and talk times (5.5 hours talk time and 15 days standby). Even with over 400 emails a day, I could still get away with just one charge a week.

The Blackberry Curve 8900 is not perfect though – the device still uses the old(er) EDGE data system instead of 3G, so when you are using the cellular network, you’ll feel the pain of slow transfers.

Also, the Blackberry OS feels a tad cumbersome when compared to the iPhone or the T-Mobile G1 running Android. Simple things often take more button presses than they should.

Still, despite those minor issues, the Curve 8900 is quite simply amazing, and for anyone leaving the country a lot, a real lifesaver. To make the device even better, T-Mobile is the only operator in the country that offers an unlimited email add-on package. For just $19.95 (in addition to the normal plan costs), you get unlimited email in any country that offers T-Mobile roaming service. AT&T will charge you $60 for just 50MB of international data, and that plan only applies to a select number of countries.

One quick word of warning though – the unlimited email plan really only applies to email, in the past they would permit any data, but recently they made changes that started billing customers for web or other data used abroad.

One final major improvement I need to mention is the new Blackberry App World. This iPhone like “app store” is fantastic, and finally puts an end to the hassle that was always involved with getting applications on the device. The App World is free, and is currently filled with loads of cool applications, including Slacker for the Blackberry.

The Blackberry Curve 8900 is available from T-Mobile for $149 (after a $100 mail in rebate), or from (a T-Mobile dealer) for free (after a $100 mail in rebate). These prices require a new service plan. The price without a new plan is $500.

Rentobile lets you rent the hottest mobile phones

When it comes to mobile phones, there really are only 2 kinds of users – those that buy a phone and use it until the tape holding it together finally gives up, and those that consider their phone to be part of their fashion ensemble, requiring a new phone every 2 months.

Sadly I have to admit that I’m one of the latter – I’ll swap my phone out for a new one in anything from 2 weeks to 2 months, but rarely will I be happy with my purchase for more than a couple of months. Not because the phone sucks, but because the damn phone companies keep releasing something newer (and better) at a frantic rate.

Of course, this silly hobby is quite expensive, so when I came across Rentobile, I couldn’t help wonder whether they have finally cracked the code to keeping us phone freaks happy (and solvent).

Rentobile appears to be Netflix for phone lovers. You add a phone to your wishlist, and when one becomes available, they’ll ship it to you. You then continue to use it until you are bored with it, or until the next best super phone pops up on their site.

Rental rates are between $20 and $50 a month, and their lineup includes top sellers like the T-Mobile G1, the Blackberry Bold and Storm smartphones and the Verizon Touch Pro.

Rental rates are different for members and non members. For example; the Nokia N95 costs $42 per month for non members, or $28 per month for members. Membership starts at $5 per month when prepaid for an entire year.

The site itself could use a little polishing, and most of the bestselling phones are currently “not available”, but the concept seems brilliant so I wish them all the luck in the world in making this a huge success.

(Via Engadget Mobile)

Daily deal – Blackberry Bold for $0 with 2yr AT&T agreement

My daily deal for today is for the Blackberry Bold smartphone. This brand new Blackberry was released on AT&T just several days ago, and is already available for free thanks to an offer from Walmart!

The Blackberry Bold is the newest generation Blackberry, and offers 3G speeds, Wi-Fi, GPS, a 2 megapixel camera and a high resolution display.

The Blackberry Bold still costs $299 (after a $100 rebate) if you buy it directly from AT&T, but if you purchase it through this link, you’ll get it for $199 with a $199 rebate, making your final price $0.

As always, there is a catch to a deal like this. In order to get this price, you will have to sign up for a new 2 year AT&T wireless agreement at $80/month, and the site seems to force you to add a $20 unlimited messaging plan in addition to the Blackberry data plan.

I’m sure we’ll see slightly better deals pop in in the weeks to come, but if you absolutely must have the latest and greatest Blackberry, and don’t mind paying an arm and a leg every month, then this is the the way to do it.

(Via Engadget)