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RIM Launches New Blackberry Bold 9700

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Less than a week since announcing the Storm 2, the company's touchscreen only consumer handset, RIM has revealed its follow up to the very popular Bold 9000.

Like it's predecessor, the new Bold 9700 features a full QWERTY physical keyboard that sits below a wide-aspect screen. It also has the same premium features of a leather back and metal trimmings. However that's where most of the similarities end. Its dimensions have shrunk, bringing it closer to the Curve in stature, and its design is pretty similar as well. Even the leather back has been reduced to just a token patch. 

Features wise, though, there's little to leave us wanting. The screen looks as good as we've come to expect from Blackberrys and has a resolution of 480x360, up from 480x320 on the original. The keyboard likewise feels very nice and the new optical trackpad replaces the infamously problematic trackball. All the latest connectivity options are inculded, so 3G, Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth are all there, but there's no on-board compass for the best sat-nav experience. Battery life is supposed to be better than ever with 37 hours continuous MP3 playback quoted and anecdotally we were told three days of fairly heavy usage should be doable between charges.

And, while the camera is only 3.2 megapixels, it does have autocfocus and an LED flash. All of which should put it a notch above the camera on the iPhone 3G, which I've unfortunately had to resort to for these hands-on shots due to a hardware failure. Hopefully I'll be able to get you better hands-on shots later, but until then apologies for the blurry photos.

One feature RIM is highlighting with this new model is its new contact exchange system. This uses a 2D "barcode" to uniquely identify your Blackberry messaging account. Another user can then come along and, using their phone's camera, recognise the barcode and instantly link with your new contact. We reckon the iPhone's 'Bump' contact application is probably a better solution overall, but it's still a welcome addition.

Pricing and availability are yet to be announced, being somewhat carrier dependent, but we would be surprised to see this available for free on 18 month contracts of less than £35 per month.

Excited by the new announcements? Disappointed by the change in design and size? Let us know in the comments.

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