Amid swirling rumours about the impending announcement of a 3G iPhone, Research in Motion today introduced its answer to Apple in the form of the BlackBerry Bold 9000.


Equipped with support for triband HSDPA and quad-band Edge (which means that it will support the highest-speed GSM-family data networks wherever they are available worldwide), 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi, stereo Bluetooth, and both assisted and autonomous GPS, the Bold could prove a formidable challenger to Apple's next-gen iPhone on connectivity alone.

It even looks a bit iPhone-esque, with its glassy display area, generally flat profile and rounded corners. The BlackBerry Bold comes with a hardware qwerty keyboard, and it retains the general dimensions of its predecessors, so it's much shorter and somewhat thicker than the iPhone.

The Bold's removable back is covered in black leatherette, and you'll be able to personalise the device by buying replacement backs in different colours (blue, brown, green, grey and red).

The redesigned keyboard has guitar-inspired 'frets' - thin metal strips - between each row. The keys themselves are sculpted to help users avoid fingertip slippage. The device also carries a 2Mp camera capable of up to 5x digital zoom.

The Bold's 624MHz StrongARM processor with full MMX (multimedia extensions) is the most powerful CPU on a handheld to date (the BlackBerry Curve, in contrast, uses a 312MHz chip without MMX). The Bold's extra power enables the device to handle full-motion video on its 480x320-pixel, 65,000-plus-colour display (double the resolution of the BlackBerry Curve at basically the same screen size): In a demo to colleagues at PC Advisor's sister title, PC World last week, video clips on the Bold looked smooth and exceptionally sharp.

Of course, little commercial video content is available as yet for non-Apple media players. Further, the Bold's screen is diminutive compared to the current iPhone's roomy 3.5in display, and it isn't a touchscreen. (RIM president and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis simply smiled when we asked about reports that the company is working on a touchscreen BlackBerry).

But since the Bold's smaller display holds the same number of pixels as the current iPhone's, images look much higher-res on it than on its competitor.

The Bold's 1GB of on-board secure memory (on top of its 128MB of flash) will appeal to BlackBerry's core enterprise community, providing storage for items that companies would rather not make available for transport on a micro SD card. But users who want to carry their music and video libraries on their handsets will be able to do so via micro SD.

UK operators have yet to be announced, though we expect to learn which carrier gets to be the launch operator later today. The BlackBerry Bold 9000 is likely to launch in the UK in late June. RIM anticipates the Bold to be shipping worldwide this summer.