by Al Sacco

RIM BlackBerry Bold “9700:” T-Mobile USA’s First 3G BlackBerry?

Aug 11, 20093 mins
Computers and PeripheralsData CenterMobile

While Research In Motion (RIM) has not yet officially announced the successor to its BlackBerry Bold 9000 smartphone, the Bold "9700" or "Onyx/Driftwood," pre-release users continue to leak device information and pictures. Just yesterday, an image of the new Bold with T-Mobile branding popped up, suggesting that the Bold 9700/Onyx could be the first 3G BlackBerry to grace T-Mobile's U.S. network.

Much to BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion’s (RIM) chagrin, very few details on the company’s still-unannounced BlackBerry Bold “9700/Onyx/Driftwood” smartphone remain unknown. Due to high interest in this replacement for RIM’s current high-end Bold 9000 device, early device evaluators, AT&T field testers and other tipsters have been slowly dropping hints including specifications and images for months.

image of RIM BlackBerry Bold
RIM BlackBerry Bold “9700/Onyx/Driftwood” with T-Mobile Branding

(Check out BlackBerry Bold 9700 technical specifications, images and release date rumors here.)

In fact, the first picture of the device codenamed Onyx/Driftwood and now thought to be RIM’s BlackBerry Bold 9700 first hit the Web back in May. At the time, the device was thought to be headed to both AT&T and T-Mobile. And recent events–namely a leaked AT&T pre-release device list and a picture of a T-Mobile branded Bold 9700–lend further credence to this theory.

If everything pans out as predicted, the BlackBerry Bold 9700 will be T-Mobile USA’s very first 3G BlackBerry.

The T-Mobile device, which will presumably differ from AT&T’s Bold 9700 because it will support UMA, or VoWi-Fi calling, and employ T-Mobile’s unique 1700 MHz 3G band, was reportedly codenamed “Driftwood.” AT&T’s new Bold is thought to have been codenamed “Onyx,” and it will likely use AT&T’s 1900 MHz band for 3G.

While it seems certain that the BlackBerry Bold 9700 will land on T-Mobile USA at some point, T-Mobile customers anxious to get their thumbs on a 3G smartphone from RIM would be wise not to get their hopes up quite yet.

All signs seem to point to the Bold 9700 coming to T-Mobile USA some time this year or early next. But T-Mobile users had also hoped the 3G Bold 9000 would make its way to their network last summer…but it never did and they’re still waiting for a 3G BlackBerry. T-Mobile Germany was one of the world’s first carriers to release the BlackBerry Bold in 2008–before Canada’s Rogers Wireless and months before AT&T–but an AT&T exclusivity deal kept the first Bold from landing on T-Mobile’s North American network.

RIM BlackBerry Bold
RIM BlackBerry Bold “9700/Onyx” Rear View

It seems unlikely that this would be the case once again–T-Mobile must be anxious to offer its first 3G BlackBerry and the Bold 9700 would be a great option. Yet it is possible that the device pictured on is a T-Mobile Germany unit running an English version of the BlackBerry OS. If that’s the case, T-Mobile BlackBerry users may have a bit longer yet to wait for some 3G goodness from RIM.

Note: As mentioned above, RIM hasn’t announced the new Bold just yet, so much of the above information is conjecture at this point. It’s certain that this new device is the Bold 9000’s replacement, but the model number “9700” could potentially change.



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