What's hot:Solidly built, good screen and excellent audio.
What's not: Shows fingerprints like crazy, a bit long when opened.
Reviewed November 14, 2010 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
The BlackBerry Style 9670 is a new BlackBerry smartphone in every sense: it’s the first full QWERTY clamshell BlackBerry and it has the new BlackBerry OS 6 software with modern visuals and a new web browser. It’s a shame that it took RIM so long to offer a clamshell BlackBerry with a full QWERTY keyboard (rather than the Pearl Flip’s abbreviated SureType keyboard) but when they finally did, RIM turned out a winner. The BlackBerry Style looks gorgeous, has a solid build and is reasonably fast. The Style has a 528 MHz processor, 512MB internal flash memory, a 5 megapixel autofocus camera with flash, built-in Wi-Fi and a GPS, and a microSD card slot that supports up to 32GB cards.
The BlackBerry Style is a dual band CDMA phone that’s currently available on Sprint and has fast 3G EVDO Rev. A for data. The smartphone comes in two colors: Steel Grey and Royal Purple.
Design and Ergonomics
The aptly named BlackBerry Style indeed looks stylish and feels incredibly comfortable in hand. Measuring 3.78 x 2.36 x 0.73 inches with the flip closed, the BlackBerry Style is perfect for those who want to put their Berry in a back pocket or a shirt pocket. When the flip is open, the phone feels quite long measuring 6.91 inches in length, which might be too long for some users with small to average size faces. That’s the price you pay for a 2.8” 360 x 400 resolution display, a 240 x 320 resolution external display, a trackpad with four menu keys and a full QWERTY keyboard. Both displays look good. The external screen shows the time, incoming calls and alerts for messages, missed calls and updates from social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. The main internal screen is sharp and bright with saturated colors. The new BlackBerry 6 UI looks great on the screen, so do videos, pictures and web pages. Neither of the displays is a touch screen.
As with all the latest BlackBerry smartphones, you get an optical trackpad for navigating menus and screens. The trackpad on the Style is very responsive and the usual four keys flank the trackpad: call send, BlackBerry menu, back and call end/power on/off. These menu keys aren’t discrete buttons but when you press them they click. The full QWERTY keyboard has “waterfall” style keys like those found on the BlackBerry Torch and Bold line of smartphones. The keys aren’t very big, but as with most BlackBerry keyboards, you won’t make many mistakes typing on the BlackBerry Style keyboard. A loud speakerphone sits just below the QWERTY keyboard that’s convenient for conference calls. The phone is a bit top-heavy due to the flip design, and it takes more effort to hold the phone securely when typing vs. standard candy bar BlackBerry smartphones. We noted the same problem with the BlackBerry Torch, whose vertical slider adds weight to the top end of the phone.
Deals and Shopping:
The BlackBerry Style has a shiny cover and top that give the phone a chic look, but the shiny surface also attracts hand grease and fingerprints like crazy. So if you want your phone to look presentable at all times, bring a cleaning cloth with you. Thankfully the back cover and the sides of the phone aren’t shiny or slippery, making the phone easy to handle. One nice thing about the BlackBerry Style is that you don’t need to take the battery door off to access the microSD card slot. The charging port and microSD card slot live on left side of the phone along with a standard 3.5mm audio out jack, and the volume buttons and the camera launcher button (programmable convenience key) live on the right. If you like to use Blackberry Charging cradles, the Style has cradle contacts.
Here's our video review of the BlackBerry Style on Sprint:
Phone, Web and Social Networking
The BlackBerry Style has decent reception on Sprint, not super strong reception like many GSM BlackBerry smartphones. Voice quality is very good and volume is loud on the Style. The BlackBerry has an excellent Contacts app that has smart integrations with phone, messaging and GPS. You can also put any contact on the home screen for fast access. The BlackBerry also comes with Nuance voice command software that works very well for voice dialing among other functions. Messaging and email are the usual excellent BlackBerry experience including push email, SMS, MMS, BlackBerry Messenger and web-based IM including Windows Live, Yahoo!, AIM and Google Talk.
If this is your first BlackBerry OS 6 phone, you’ll enjoy the much more intuitive UI and sharp looking icons on the BlackBerry Style. The smartphone not only comes with Facebook, Twitter and MySpace apps, but also a Social Feed app where you get all your updates from these social networking sites as well as your RSS feeds in one app. BlackBerry 6 also offers a cool alert strip right on the home screen that notifies you of any new messages, new Tweets and new Facebook entries. With the new version of Facebook 1.1 released for the BlackBerry, you also get Facebook Places that shows your friends’ locations.
Music and Video
The BlackBerry Styles is an excellent music phone. It has a very nice built-in speaker that sounds full and loud. The phone comes with a good quality earbud style stereo headset and audio through the 3.5mm jack using the headset is excellent. The BlackBerry Style supports MP3, AAC-LC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, AMR-NB and QCELP EVRC, and we tested audio ripped on PC and Mac via iTunes and Windows Media Player, all played nicely. You can just copy your tunes onto microSD cards to play on the BlackBerry or use RIM’s desktop software to transfer music to the phone. While Sprint is still working on reopening the Sprint Music Store, you do have access to streaming radio services. Slacker radio comes pre-installed, and we downloaded and installed Pandora radio; both worked flawlessly.
The BlackBerry Style 9670 can also play video in H.263, MPEG4 Simple P3, H.264 and WMV formats. Watching videos is a joy on the Style, despite the screen’s relatively small size. MPEG4 test videos played nicely, as did H.263 and H.264 files. Some WMV files in our tests didn’t show video but could play the audio tracks. For online content, the BlackBerry has YouTube (mobile) and Sprint TV. The YouTube mobile player performed well: most videos played smoothly and didn’t look blocky. Sprint TV is choppy even with a good EVDO signal; videos look blocky and audio often goes out of sync with video.
The BlackBerry Style has a built-in GPS that works with BlackBerry Maps, (free mapping software), and Sprint Navigation powered by TeleNav, a paid service that include maps, navigation, turn-by-turn directions, voice guidance, POIs and a lot more (included in Sprint’s Everything plans). The phone gets GPS fixes very fast and is generally very accurate. If you don’t want to pay a monthly fee, BlackBerry Maps gives you accurate GPS locations on maps and you can get on-screen directions, navigate routes and more. But what you won’t get are the POIs (Point of Interest) and voice guidance for driving.
Sprint Navigation works smoothly on the BlackBerry Style. Maps load at a good speed over 3G and trip routing and rerouting are also speedy. With Sprint Navigation you also get 3D maps, POI searches and location sharing with friends and family. Turn-by-turn directions were mostly efficient and voice guidance was spot on in our driving tests.
The BlackBerry Style has a solid 5 megapixel autofocus camera that takes very nice photos and good videos. Pictures look sharp with a generally pleasing sharpening and colors look good. You will notice some overexposure in sunlight but most pictures look natural and clear. There are options for effects, flash, autofocus settings and geotagging for photos. The camera can also take video at 640 x 480 and 176 x 144 (MMS) resolutions. Videos look sharp and audio is sync with video. The camera offers image stabilizer for shooting videos and photos, and the flash works well in low light conditions. You must have a microSD card in the slot in order to record video.
The BlackBerry Style has just OK battery life. The phone comes with a rechargeable battery that’s 1150 mAh with talk time up to 4.5 hours. If you have a heavy email load, do lots of social networking updates, talk on the phone for an hour or two each day and check out some videos over EVDO, you will likely need to charge the phone daily. In our tests with email accounts active and all social networking signed in, the phone has about 3 days of standby time.
If you’d like a BlackBerry that can survive even tight jeans pockets, or wish to have a full QWERTY BlackBerry that’s in a clamshell form, the BlackBerry Style is just the thing. Hiding underneath that pretty flip there’s a fast BlackBerry smartphone with a great screen, awesome audio, a very nice camera and the full BlackBerry messaging and app experience. Is the new OS BlackBerry 6 revolutionary or will the new web browser blow your mind? No. But the new UI looks nice, it’s easy to operate even for BlackBerry novices, and it works well on the Style 9670. The web browser didn’t make us complain, and with very decent mobile YouTube performance and surprisingly nice social network integration, the BlackBerry Style is a contender in a sea of smartphones that’s getting more crowded each day. Here’s to a no frills, sturdy build, clamshell, functional device that also happens to look good and sells for a very good price.
Pro: Solidly built, very attractive, good screen and excellent audio.
Con: Shows fingerprints like crazy, a bit long when opened.
Price: $99.99 with 2-year contract after rebate and discount. $399.99 without contract.
Networking: Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR. Profiles supported: Headset, Handsfree, A2DP/AVRCP, Phonebook Access and DUN. USB.
Software: BlackBerry OS 6. BlackBerry Messenger, Contacts, Calendar, Media Player, Social Feeds and BlackBerry Maps. Third party software include YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Slacker Radio and more. Sprint services include Sprint Navigation, Sprint TV, Sprint Zone and NASCAR Mobile.
Expansion: 1 microSD card slot. Supports SDHC cards up to 32GB cards.
In the Box: The BlackBerry Style 9670 smartphone, AC charger, 3.5mm stereo headset adapter and manuals and apps on a CD.