Not All BlackBerry Bold 9700s Run the Same OS

Research In Motion's (RIM) latest gift to "CrackBerry" addicts, the BlackBerry Bold 9700, has garnered quite a bit of attention since its launch in November.

Attention from gadget-heads, anxious to get their thumbs on the new device--and rightfully so, the Bold 9700 isRIM's best BlackBerry ever, in this blogger's humble opinion. It won the eyes of businesspeople looking to upgrade their aging BlackBerrys to sleeker, more powerful e-mail machines. And it earned attention from RIM's own software developers, who are working studiously away on new Bold 9700 operating system code as you read this.

This last fact is evidenced by the surge of both sanctioned and leaked, or "unofficial," Bold 9700 OS code that's found its way to a handful of wireless carriers and various file-sharing sites like RapidShare.com and MegaUpload.com.

It's not at all uncommon to see leaked BlackBerry operating systems hit the Web. But the frequency at which we're seeing new Bold 9700 leaks is out of the ordinary. Which brings us to the point of this particular post: Not all BlackBerry Bold 9700 operating systems are created equally.

Furthermore, there are two "flavors" of BlackBerry Bold 9700--T-Mobile U.S.A's 9700, which supports the carrier's unique 3G band (1700MHz); and the Bold 9700 sold through AT&T in the U.S. and various additional carriers across the globe, which supports the much more common 1900MHz and 850MHz bands for 3G. However, the two devices are identical beyond the difference in 3G-band support, according to RIM.

That distinction is a significant one: it means OS code that runs like a well-rested Kenyan marathoner on an AT&T Bold 9700 could be nothing but trouble for Bold 9700 owners on T-Mobile's U.S. network. This may seem obvious to experienced BlackBerry users. But I've seen a bunch of kvetching on Twitter and heard reports of performance issues from enough new T-Mo Bold 9700 users who went all willy-nilly installing those new operating systems to know some folks aren't thinking twice before installing, regardless of carrier.

In fact, I recently installed a leaked Bold OS on my own personal T-Mobile 9700 after hearing a variety of praise for the code from AT&T users, only to find my device constantly freezing and randomly rebooting.

Here's a comment from RIM PR on the subject:

"[T]he two versions of the Bold 9700 are identical other than the band support you mentioned. Because of this difference, the AT&T and TMO devices do use different versions of the BlackBerry OS - an OS created for one carrier's device may not run well on the other."

First and foremost, you should be aware that installing any unofficial, or "beta," BlackBerry OS is a risk; remember, it's unofficial for a reason, and if it was "Ready-for-Primetime," so to speak, RIM would've probably made the code official. So there's always a chance that your BlackBerry--or some app on it--won't get along with some random OS build.

And carriers also often release their "own" versions of BlackBerry OS code for the same devices, with certain network-specific optimizations or fixes, so one build may work better on the same 9700 running on AT&T in the U.S. than an identical 9700 running on Rogers in Canada.

So...as a rule of thumb for the BlackBerry Bold 9700, if you're going to install OS code from somewhere other than your carrier's download site, specifically OS code for the T-Mobile U.S.A. Bold, you should probably wait for another user on your network to give the thumbs-up. Or at least be prepared to swiftly downgrade to an earlier OS that's tested and proven to run well on your specific device and/or wireless network.

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