GSM BlackBerry users who felt snubbed by RIM’s recent releases, like the Storm 2 and Tour 9630 on Verizon, can finally get in on the new device action. RIM took the wraps off BlackBerry Bold 9700, an update to the popular BlackBerry Bold 9000, which debuted last year on AT&T. Sporting a slimmer design, better camera (3.2-megapixels as opposed to the 9000’s 2-megapixel shooter), slightly better display, the Bold 9700 is an ideal upgrade for those looking to ditch their 8300 series Curves.
Measuring 4.3-by-2.4-by-0.6-inches thick, the 9700 is much more pocketable than the 9000. It is lighter, as well, weighing 4.2 ounces (down from 4.8 ounces). It still has the leatherette back, but it is minimized on this new version. This is a good thing; we found the original a bit gaudy due to its excess of leatherette.
Another welcomed design tweak is the addition of touch-sensitive trackpad instead of a trackball. In my short hands-on time with the 9700, I found the pad very responsive. Anyone who has owned a BlackBerry knows the issues with the trackball: It gets dirty, gets stuck, and sometimes falls out. The touch trackpad also gives the Bold the sensation of a touchscreen device, particularly when you’re using it to swipe through pictures.
The Bold 9700 has a similar keyboard as the original with sculpted keys and thin metal dividers akin to a guitar frets. This design is meant to eliminate finger slippage and enhance the keyboard’s usability. The original’s keyboard felt roomy and ergonomic, somewhat in part to the handset’s measurements. With a narrower keyboard, I am curious to see how the comfortable the 9700’s will be.
The Bold 9700 has the same 624 MHz processor as the 9000, so I can assume the Bold 9700 will be as speedy as the 9000. Like its predecessor, the 9700 has Wi-Fi and built-in GPS. The T-Mobile version supports UMA-calls over Wi-Fi-but the AT&T version won’t. RIM says the Bold will be available from T-Mobile and AT&T in the beginning of November. Both carriers are offering the Bold 9700 for $200 with a two-year contract.