updated 07:40 am EDT, Wed October 21, 2009
BlackBerry Bold 9700 due for AT&T, T-Mobile
RIM today confirmed early slips with a launch for the BlackBerry Bold 9700. The smartphone is a refinement of the 2008-era Bold with a more compact design but a round of improvements, including a higher-resolution 480x360 screen (up from 480x320), a 3.2-megapixel camera (improved from two), and an optical trackpad in place of the more clog-prone trackball. Wi-Fi calling is new for carriers that support UMA, like Rogers and T-Mobile.
The handset is one of RIM's first after the Storm2 to ship with BlackBerry OS 5.0, which brings a better web browser, more Exchange mail control, and other minor upgrades. Mac support should also come out of the box with BlackBerry Desktop Manager supporting the new handset. The new Bold continues to provide GPS and microSDHC storage and will come in versions that support both 850MHz 3G, for carriers like AT&T and Rogers, as well as 1,700MHz 3G for T-Mobile USA.
AT&T has already confirmed plans to carry the Bold 9700 and will sell it for the same $200 as the original Bold after signing a smartphone plan contract and getting a $100 mail-in rebate. It only describes the phone as shipping in "coming weeks," but RIM itself says the phone ships in November and that AT&T no longer has an exclusive on the phone. T-Mobile has confirmed its own version and will ship it for the same price, but will support Wi-Fi calling.
Rogers has also announced its version of the Bold 9700 for Canada but is pricing it significantly higher than US carriers, at $300 on a three-year contract; in exchange, users can use a $45 combined smartphone plan less expensive than the AT&T option. Bell and Telus have also said they will carry the BlackBerry as one of their first phones for their HSPA-based networks but will only say the phone ships in November.
The Bold 9700 will be one of RIM's most critical phones for the near future as it not only represents T-Mobile's first 3G BlackBerry but also the company's core model, likely to outsell the Storm2. Investors have fled the stock over significant doubts about RIM's ability to compete against the iPhone that gained fuel when Apple reported shipping 7.4 million iPhones, coming much closer to RIM's all-time sales high.