NOVEMBER 1, 2008
(STAR) There is something about the BlackBerry that makes us users stay loyal.

Perhaps it’s the look. Perhaps, it’s the way it works — all the time. Perhaps it’s the predictability of its look. Whatever, I swear by my BlackBerry.

“What we at Smart Communications want to do is to be able to give our customers the best options to make connections,” says Mon Isberto, public affairs head of Smart Communications.

“We at Smart know that communication is going the way of getting the best connections, not just through calling or sending SMS but also through the Internet. Staying in touch with the office or even with important clients is one of the growing needs of our customers,” he adds.

I was informed by Smart that they introduced BlackBerry into the market a few years back — and although it has taken a little more time for their customers to see and appreciate the beauty and value of the BlackBerry device, the time has come.

I must admit that I had taken to the BlackBerry only a few years ago. I must add that I am now a BlackBerry addict.

Addict, yes. The one who goes out of her way to surf, take trips to the mall and even to the smaller shops that might carry the latest BlackBerry on stock.

I just love how I am able to stay connected always — no matter where I am and no matter how I feel.

“Did you get the column I sent?” texts a lifestyle columnist to me.

At that very moment I hear the familiar Yoda tone from my trusty BlackBerry telling me that a new e-mail has arrived.

“Got it.” The BlackBerry Bold, as it is called — or the BlackBerry 9000 — is the newest berry cool item on the block.

I waited for this unit, for what seems like forever. Of course, for us gadget lovers that could mean just a few months. Nonetheless the wait seemed to take forever and then some.

“We are currently focused on developing a good sports program for the country,” says Mon. “As you know sports is one of the greatest loves of Manny Pangilinan, chairman of PLDT and Smart Communications.”

I continue to tinker with the BlackBerry Bold as Mon shares with me more about how Smart wants to be able to bring Philippine sports to a higher level.

Mon says that sports is one way to test character — and it also helps build character, and at the end a better country, too.

The talk moves on to boxing and then of course, the recent UAAP victory for the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

“At the end, it is really the team that is hungrier, that gets the victory,” Mon quips. “The best players and coaches are a big plus. But the team that plays with its heart is what real sportsmanship is really all about.”

Part of the Smart culture, Mon says, is that the employees love to compete — in a friendly manner — with each other. He shares that during corporate activities there is always someone who wagers a bet against his co-employees as to who will win.

“And, that is what makes Smart work,” Mon adds. “People willing to work harder to get the best results. That, too, is what the sportsman in Manny Pangilinan loves.”

There is so much that can be done for sports, says Mon. He says that one of the biggest plans is to be able to set up a national collegiate basketball league, where the players from the provinces can also be a part.

“It is all up in the air now,” he adds. “But it would be good for the country if there was such a league.”

Ahhh, the Blackberry Bold is now configured to my liking. I have been able to set up my e-mail accounts and I even loaded my own wallpaper — a wonderful Warhol-type rendition of me and my Mini Schnauzer Nik done by that great lifestyle writer and resident art man, Igan D’Bayan.

Now the Bold story

I will begin by saying that the BlackBerry 9000 is really sleek. Nah, it’s not slim and sexy, it’s wide, slim and sleek.

I guess, the design of the Bold follows the Curve and then it’s even more than that. The curves in the Bold come from the BlackBerry Curve or the BB 8230 — and the brick look comes from the 8800.

The net effect of these changes is that while the Bold is larger than the Curve in almost every dimension (and a fraction heavier, at 133 grams against 110 grams). I love the way this Bold sits in my hand. I get the feeling that it was really made for me — just for me. And that, in a cellphone is a must.

The rear panel covering the battery is rendered in a soft textured “leatherette” material that enhances the Bold’s hand-friendliness. A silver-colored plastic strip runs around the circumference of the Bold, separating the fascia from the back panel.

But as I have salivated over for months to finally get to touch and see in person is the Bold’s killer screen. Big, sharp, rich, vivid, vibrant, colorful, wonderful, awesome — are just some of the adjectives that come to mind.

The Bold makes smart use of the extra screen real estate and increased resolution by revamping the UI with larger icons and a more elegant and rounded system font (you also now get a live preview of the selected font before committing to your choice).

The screen is complemented by the new look of the BlackBerry OS 4.6. This is two revision points ahead of the current 4.4x generation, and has been fine-tuned for the Bold’s higher resolution.

The Bold actually makes good use of folders right out of the box with folders for Music, Applications, Games, Downloads (where your third-party apps reside, until you move them elsewhere) and Setup (which contains the setup routines for Wi-Fi, e-mail and Bluetooth).

Time for e-mail

And, this is when the BlackBerry Bold starts to get moving. With the Bold and OS 4.6, BlackBerry takes the biggest leap ahead in the e-mail stakes. The Bold introduces HTML support in its e-mail client (this will also appear in OS 4.5 products).

I love it that the larger screen makes the Bold’s inbox easy to read at a glance.

A second part of the Bold’s winning formula is Documents to Go. This includes the most popular Office document types (DOC, XLS and PPT) plus RTF documents and the new Word and PowerPoint (but not Excel) XML-based formats of Office 2007 for Windows and 2008 for Mac. Docs to Go also includes a PDF reader, and the viewers all render documents with an exceptional degree of fidelity, although not every element on the page survives the trip: formatted Word tables came though during our testing, but not charts created from the table data.

The Bold’s faster processor and 3G speed run rings around any previous BlackBerry when it comes to downloading and displaying e-mail attachments, while the screen ensures they’re sharper and easier to read. The Bold and Curve both sport a two-megapixel camera, but we found snaps taken with the Bold are better than those done on the Curve. The Bold is also faster when it comes to writing images to memory, while the built-in GPS radio adds the option to “geotag” your photos.

Don’t you just love it when gadgets go bold — so that they can get better? The BlackBerry Bold has done just that — and better it definitely is. Having that extra grunt up your sleeve is also handy when a wonderful load of new messages is pushed over the air — where the Curve may falter, the Bold doesn’t even strain.

I love the Bold. The bolder, the better. Now, what will they think of next?

Rumor has it the newer BlackBerry is already on the drawing board.

Can’t wait. – Kathy Moran

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved