BlackBerry Style Review: RIM Goes Retro

Smartphones with big touch screens are everywhere you look, but Research in Motion (RIM) has gone old-school with the BlackBerry Style. The Style is a modern adaptation of the flip phone, and given RIM’s (s rimm) attention to detail and the new BlackBerry 6 operating system, the handset works the form surprisingly well. The lack of touch operation isn’t a disadvantage as executed by RIM, and the dual displays yield a pleasant user experience.

The Style is very thin for a flip phone and fits nicely in the hand for operation. It’s small and very light compared to most smartphones, and is the first phone I’ve used in quite a while that’s actually pleasing to hold. The smooth lines and size are designed to be easy to use with one hand, and the lack of a touch screen is actually a plus for operation of the Style. The trackpad beneath the main screen is very responsive and makes it easy to operate the new BlackBerry OS.

The flip form makes it possible to see any missed calls, messages or social network status updates at a glance on the external display. There’s a clock on the display along with battery and carrier network meters. This display auto-dims after a short time to save battery life, and comes on with the press of any button on the phone.

There are volume buttons on the right side of the Style, situated next to the camera button. Pressing the camera button fires up the camera app, and snaps photos if the app is already running. The internal display is the viewfinder for the camera, and there is a noticeable lag between pressing the button to snap a picture and the actual photo capture. The 5 MP camera takes decent photos, but won’t replace your good point-and-shoot for important picture-taking.

BlackBerry is famous for good messaging capability, and the Style carries on this tradition. The unified inbox is front and center on the main screen, accessible with simple taps on the trackpad. BlackBerry fans won’t be disappointed with the Style messaging capability and the new BlackBerry 6 OS. The interface is very fluid and intuitive, and much better than previous versions of the OS. The performance of the Style is good, and operation with the trackpad is easy.

The BlackBerry Style is aimed at current BlackBerry customers, who will like the new OS and the form. I’ve been surprised at the reception folks have given the flip format; it has been universally favorable. I have been told by more than one current BlackBerry user that the Style puts an end to “butt dialing” the phone, something that apparently happens with regularity with “candybar” style BlackBerrys in the pocket.

My 17-year-old stepson is absolutely smitten with the Style, primarily due to the flip form. He has a smartphone he uses for calls, texting and Facebook, and he finds the Style to be superior at all of those functions. He’s also in love with both the web browser and the YouTube (s goog) app on the Style.

The BlackBerry Style is available exclusively from Sprint (s s) in the U.S., and is a handset with RIM’s typical attention to usability. The two displays work well together to make the flip form work, and the BlackBerry QWERTY keyboard will make BlackBerry fans happy. The Style is $99.99 with a new contract with Sprint, and there’s a “buy one, get one free” promotion for the holidays.

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