Research in Motion has speeded up the Blackberry to offer support for tri-band HSDPA and quad-band EDGE (which means that it will support the highest-speed GSM-family data networks wherever they are available worldwide). The launch means that RIM has beaten Apple's iPhone to 3G connectivity.

The new Bold even looks a bit iPhone-esque, with its glassy display area, generally flat profile, and rounded corners, although the Bold comes configured 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 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 2-megapixel camera capable of up to 5X digital zoom.

The Bold's 624-MHz StrongARM processor with full MMX (multimedia extensions) is the most powerful CPU on a handheld to-date (the BlackBerry Curve, in contrast, uses a 312-MHz chip without MMX). The Bold's extra power enables the device to handle full-motion video on its 480-by-320-pixel, 65,000-plus-colour display (that resolution is double the Curve's at basically the same screen size): In a demo at PC World's offices 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 3.5-inch 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 touch-screen 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.

Carriers will determine pricing, and RIM said that it expected the Bold to be shipping worldwide this summer.