In a market where touchscreen smartphones have more or less taken over, the new BlackBerry Style 9670 for Sprint is quite the breath of fresh air with its flip form-factor and glossy exterior. The Style also sports both an external display for message previews, and a larger internal display that is complimented by a full QWERTY keypad and optical trackpad. Under the hood, the BlackBerry Style is running the new and improved BlackBerry OS 6.
The BlackBerry “style” really is the right name for this device with its glossy exterior and flip form factor. RIM gets props for trying something not exactly new, but definitely out of the box in today’s smartphone scene. We’ll admit that not everyone is going to like this design, but we imagine that a lot of women are going to be quite taken with its compact-mirror like form-factor. The fact that the Style also comes in purple adds to its feminine appeal and charm. The steel grey version will probably resonate better with dudes - we just can’t imagine too many men wielding the purple version, that’s for sure. The Style 9670 measures 3.78″ closed (or 6.91″ open), 2.36″ wide, 0.73″ thick and it weighs 4.62oz. That is a little on the tall side when open, but it’s still comfortable enough to hold in your hand when making calls . Like most BlackBerry handsets, the build quality of the device is super solid and its overall looks is business-like but with a touch of class. Unfortunately the 9670′s glossy finish picks up smudges and greasy fingerprints very easily, but overall that alone doesn’t stop the device from still being quite charming and despite the new “Style” moniker, we cant help but feel like in many ways this device is an updated version of the BlackBerry Pearl Flip from 2008.
Both internal and external displays on the 9670 support over 65k colors, with the 2.7″ internal display having a 360×400 resolution, while the 2″ external display has a smaller 240×320 resolution. The internal display is able to get very bright, and is also able to produce sharp vivid colors. Unfortunately the resolution and size of the internal display is much smaller than what we’re used to on a smartphone nowadays. Still, videos do playback very nicely on this display, but because the display is portrait, that means that playing most videos results in seeing annoying black bars.
The external display on the other hand has just a few primary functions. It offers a quick glance of the time and date along with an analog clock. It also offers you a quick glance of the battery, signal strength and the number of new messages waiting in your inbox. When new messages come in, the display will light up and show you a preview of the message. You can also scroll through new messages and their previews by using the volume up/down button that is located on the right side of the device.
The BlackBerry Style 9670′s QWERTY keyboard keys are a bit flat and squished together, but they are still easy enough to type on comfortably. That said, if you have big fingers, this is probably not the best handset choice for you. The keyboard is also backlit, which is always a nice touch. We really like the device’s optical trackpad which is located on top of the keyboard. We found it to be very responsive and easy to use, if not a tad bit too sensitive. It makes navigating the device very pleasurable, and also helps aid us in feeling like we aren’t missing all that much by not having a touchscreen.
Although we tested it in New York City, we never seemed to get full signal bars – rather just 2, 3 or 4 bars on Sprint’s network. But in any case, call quality is great on this phone anyway. Our guess is that the signal bars are inaccurate. The speakerphone also works very loudly and clearly. Callers said that they could hear us well too – even when we used the phone on a busy New York Street.
The Blackberry Style 9670 is running on a 624mhz processor with of 512mb on-board memory, plus an 8GB memory card is included. The device can support up-to a 32GB memory card. The 9670 does experience occasional lag but it mostly has shown good multitasking performance and multimedia performance. As a matter of fact, videos playback without a hitch.
Just like with all BlackBerry devices, its messaging prowess is one the device’s strengths. But new to OS 6 is the unified inbox which brings together not just emails and text messages, but also social feeds- that includes Twitter direct messages, Facebook messages, BlackBerry Messenger messages and instant messages. The web browser has also been improved and is now based on WebKit, unfortunately it just hasn’t improved enough.
Unfortunately, BlackBerry OS 6 can’t quite compete with the likes of Android and iOS, but it has provided users with many welcome refinements over the previous BlackBerry OS 5. Some of the new features in BlackBerry OS 6 include a universal search feature – the search button is accessible at the top right of home screen and above menu screens. Speaking of the home screen, it’s the home screen that really shines in OS 6. Scroll up to the time and date area at the top of the home screen and select it and you are greeted with a drop down for managing your connections (mobile network, WiFi and Bluetooth) as well as having quick access to set your alarm clock, and an option to jump to more options for the phone’s settings. Below the time section is an area where you can view the number of new messages you have – this includes Twitter messages, etc. Selecting this section brings up a drop down which lists all of your new messages, as a well as what is on your calendar agenda for the day.
The menu system has also been refined and reorganized into different sections. There is the “All” section which contains icon shortcuts for all your apps and folders, a “Favorites” section, a “Media” section for your media oriented apps, a “Downloads” section, and a “Frequent” section which lists your most frequently used apps. Jumping between these 4 different menu screens is as easy as swiping the trackpad to the left and right.
The device comes preloaded with a healthy selection of apps including Facebook, Twitter, Sprint Navigation software, Maps, MySpace, BlackBerry Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, AOL Instant messenger, MemoPad, a calculator, Word To Go, Sheet To Go, Slideshow To Go, a Music an video player, Sprint Music StoreSprint TV, a PODcasts app, Slacker, a Voice Notes recorder, and more – as well as two games – Word Mole and Brickbreaker, a BlackBerry staple. BlackBerry App World is also pre-installed so that you can download more apps to extend the functionality of device. The selection of apps in BlackBerry App World is very healthy, but its catalog is not nearly as robust as its Apple and Android counterparts.
The BlackBerry Style 9670 runs on Sprints 3G network, but not its 4G network. Web Browsing in OS 6 has definitely improved since OS 5 – web sites render more accurately and quicker than before. But unfortunately the web browsing experience is still not nearly as fast or as a smooth as it is on other smartphones running iOS and Android. It also showed much slower browsing speeds than the BlackBerry Torch 9800 that runs on AT&T’s network. You’ll find yourself zooming in a lot and often waiting a while for sites to load. But to its credit, the BlackBerry Style 9670 also can work as a tethered modem.
The Style’s 5MP camera features continuous auto-focus, image stabilization, a flash, and VGA 640×480 video recording.
Unfortunately, the camera is placed very awkwardly on the top of the bottom flip. But you need to use the internal display as a viewfinder. This ends up being very awkward and disorienting when trying to shoot pictures and video, and I often found myself accidentally covering up the viewfinder with my fingers. It would have been more efficient if they had made it so that at least you could use the external display as the camera’s view finder. In any case, photos produced by the camera are mediocre. Many shots end up blurry, outdoor shots taken in daylight often come out too dark, and indoor shots produce lots of noise too. Also, video recording is not HD and is limited at VGA 640×480 quality and 20fps, which is just barely acceptable by today’s smartphone’s standards. Overall, photo and video quality is just acceptable.
The built-in speakerphone is very loud and works as a powerful speaker system for playing back music. Plus the built in music player has support for MP3, AAC-LC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, AMR-NB, QCELP EVRC files, while the video player has support for H.263, MPEG4 Simple Profile 3, H.264, WMV video formats.
Battery life is rated at up-to 4.5 hours talk time, 14 hours for music playback and 10.5 days standby. We haven’t been using the 9670 long enough to test it extensively, but battery life does seem pretty good. It can make it through almost a full 24 hours with moderate use – that includes some phone calls, emails coming in, and the occasional web browsing session.
Priced at as little as $79 with a new contract, the BlackBerry Style for Sprint is certainly priced right to compete with other budget smartphones. The Style’s flip form-factor is quite the charmer, the phone offers great call quality, and the purple option should especially appeal to girly girls. This Style 9670 can be the right fit for someone who likes to standout from the norm. That said we are disappointed by the awkward positioning and quality of the device’s camera, its web browsing experience leaves much to be desired, and its display is cramped and low res by today’s smartphone standards. But overall, the BlackBerry Style 9670 for Sprint is still an enterprise class excellent messaging that is complimented by the new BlackBerry OS 6 and its efficient social media messaging integration.
The Good: Excellent build quality, charming design, excellent messaging features, great call quality, powerful speaker, bright and colorful display is easy on the eyes, affordable price tag, good multitasking performance
The Bad: Display is small and low res, camera is awkwardly placed on the device, camera shots are mediocre, web browsing can be a slow experience