RIM tries a do-over of 2009 for next year

This month, Canadian smartphone leader Research in Motion has debuted two new handset "sequels," which keep the name and form factor of their 2008 forebears, but update the experience slightly with minor upgrades. Last week, RIM unveiled the Storm 2, which improved upon the original Storm's Surepress touchscreen, and equipped it with Wi-Fi.

Today RIM has debuted the Bold 9700, the updated version of the Bold 9000 which had a rather problematic launch in 2008 with battery overheating issues, purported software problems, and delays related to AT&T's 3G network.

Like the Storm 2, the Bold 9700 doesn't include any startling redesigns, instead concentrating on keeping the device as familiar as possible. The most notable change is the trackball, which has been replaced by a "touch sensitive trackpad." The camera has also been bumped up from 2 megapixels to 3.2, standalone GPS has been replaced by integrated aGPS, and AT&T Visual Voicemail is now included in the package. Battery life of the device has also been substantially improved, going from 4.5 hours of talk time or 13.5 days of standby to 6 hours of talk time and 22 days of standby time.

Other than that, the 9700 is practically the same as its predecessor. Its chassis is marginally smaller and lighter, but It features the same 624 MHz processor as the original Bold.

Though the Storm and Bold are two of RIM's flagship BlackBerrys, the Bold did not prove to be a major driver this year. The Storm was one of the four must-have smartphones this year, but outperforming it (and every other smartphone in the market at one point) was the BlackBerry Curve. That device is available on all four major carriers, and is more affordable than many of its competitors.

The Bold 9700 will be available in "the coming weeks" for $199.99 with a 2-year AT&T contract and mail-in rebate. Capitalizing on the multi-carrier availability that made the Curve and Pearl so popular, the Bold 9700 is expected to break AT&T exclusivity and land on T-Mobile's network in November. Though both AT&T and T-Mobile announced the Bold 9700 today, T-Mobile did not include its price.

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