RIM (Research In Motion), the Canadian company that makes the popular BlackBerry handset, yesterday announced another model.

The 7130g is marginally longer than the classic BlackBerry model, the 8700, which is currently on the market. However, the 7130g, which is available via 02 from today, is lighter and a lot less broad than previous BlackBerry handsets and has a SureType keyboard that is more like a mobile phone keypad. Other BlackBerries have sported qwerty keyboards.

What the 7130g doesn’t lose is the scrollwheel on the righthand side with which users can quickly jump to their email inbox, web browser, calendar, message pad or one of the additional applications that RIM has supplied with this model.

Useful add-ons include Google Maps and fun items such as a Texas Hold ‘Em poker game. Aside from the handset’s trim design, software is what marks out the 7130g from its predecessor.

European vice-president Rick Costanzo told PC Advisor that "RIM is seeing a growth in interest in third-party applications" of which a number are available for download. However, this is the first BlackBerry PC Advisor has seen that includes third-party software as part of the off-the-shelf package, albeit only on a trial basis.

Users will now be able to view PDFs and PowerPoint presentations, create and edit a range of word-processed documents and spreadsheets via a mini suite called eOffice.

Although not as neatly executed as office productivity software on other smartphone handsets - notably those that use Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system - the inclusion of DynoPlex’s eOffice extends the BlackBerry to be more like a PDA, which makes a lot of sense given RIM’s focus on business users. Those for whom this is a boon will, however, have to shell out $150 (about £80) for the Standard version.

Costanzo refused to confirm or deny questions over whether RIM would eventually take the BlackBerry concept in a more consumer direction with items such as a camera, multimedia messaging or a removable memory card for MP3 playback. However, it’s clear that the company is keen to extend its range rather than simply supplanting existing handsets as new ones are launched.

02’s Peter Rampling, though, said he won’t be ordering any more of the current handsets and will, instead, be stocking the 7130g. "It does everything a BlackBerry does and doubles as a stylish phone."

Aside from the skimpier design, the specifications of the BlackBerry are the same as those of the 8700 with a 312MHz Intel XScale processor, 64MB of RAM, GPRS and Bluetooth connectivity as well as a web browser and email client that supports up to 10 email accounts.

As with other BlackBerry handsets, there will be an internet version that enables access to any web-based email account and an Enterprise version for corporate users needing secure access to their company network and email.

Peter Rampling of 02 told us that the 7130g will be available on a Best for Business 250 contract for £39.75 per month with 5MB of data costing a further £12.77 a month. The BlackBerry itself would be supplied free.

Neither 02 nor Research In Motion were keen to elaborate on how long 02 will be the sole worldwide operator for the 7130g.

The last BlackBerry launched in the UK, the 8700 which came out in late January, was initially available only on a T-Mobile contract but has since been offered via 02 and Vodafone too.