The new BlackBerry Bold 9700 will replace Research in Motion’s flagship BlackBerry Bold 9000. The new Bold 9700 sports a more modern, compact form factor than the Bold it replaces. Unlike the predecessor, which was only available on AT&T’s 3G network, the Bold 9700 will be available on AT&T and T-Mobile’s budding 3G data networks. The 9700 sports a design that is reminiscent of a leaner, less wide BlackBerry Tour, currently offered on Verizon Wireless and Sprint; the device will be available on T-Mobile and AT&T later this month for $200 on contract and with rebates for AT&T.
The new Bold 9700′s compact form factor doesn’t come without a cost. The downside to the sleek build is that Research in Motion had to to trim the screen down–from 2.6-inch to 2.44-inch–and the keyboard is a little more cramped, but still very much usable and very comfortable to type on. However, like all BlackBerry, the keyboard is still the hallmark of the device and it will get you through emails and messages like a champ. The battery life goes for an astounding 6 hours of talk time and can play music for 38 hours according to RIM; in actual use, I got about two days of light to moderate calling and heavy emailing without needing a charge. The compact screen means that everything looks a little more sharp on the 480 X 360 resolution display. The speaker is loud and clear and I had no problems with call quality or signal strength on T-Mobile’s wireless 3G network.
If you’re in an area with bad T-Mobile coverage, the T-Mobile edition of the Bold 9700 supports UMA calling so you can use it with a Hotspot @Home service or your router and make calls over WiFi, like a VOIP call. Essentially, you’re using your home network as a cell tower to alleviate the signal strength issue, if any. Along with WiFi and 3G, you also get Bluetooth, GPS, and an optical trackpad that replaces the trackball found on the older Bold 9000.
Build quality is solid. One minor concern that I did have in the video, which isn’t explained, is that I thought the four navigation keys surrounding the optical trackpad were attached–the Call Send seemed to be attached to the BlackBerry button while the Back button seemed to be attached to the End button via a small plastic connector. I heard a snap in testing the device when pressing down too hard on one of the four navigation buttons. However, that had no effect on performance. Additionally, it would have been nice if RIM used a rubberized material for the back of the device–the matte plastic, although nice, doesn’t feel as luxurious for a flagship 3G QWERTY model.
A video tour of BlackBerry OS 5 will be coming out shortly to note some of the differences and improvements on the software side. Stay tuned.