ATandT, T-Mobile Get Competitive with BlackBerry Smartphones

AT&T introduced the BlackBerry Curve 8520, while T-Mobile launched the BlackBerry Bold 9700. Nearly identical at a glance, the smartphones differ in price, as well as features such as GPS, WiFi calling and camera resolution.

AT&T and T-Mobile have both announced new, and very similar looking, BlackBerry smartphones, scheduled to arrive in the next few weeks.

The AT&T BlackBerry Curve 8520 will be available at an after-rebate price of $100, and with a 2-megapixel camera with video recording on its feature list. The T-Mobile BlackBerry Bold 9700 will be priced at $200, and will count WiFi calling, built-in GPS and a 3.2-megapixel camera with video among its features.

(AT&T will also offer a Bold 9700, though without the WiFi calling feature. T-Mobile's 9700 is the first BlackBerry smartphone to include support for both 3G connectivity and voice calls over WiFi.)

Both AT&T's 8520 and T-Mobile's 9700 offer WiFi connectivity, as well as e-mail support for corporate and personal accounts, text messaging and instant messaging. (T-Mobile adds video messaging, while AT&T adds picture messaging.) There's a full qwerty keyboard and touch-sensitive track pad for navigation, plus dedicated media keys for controlling music and videos.

AT&T's Curve 8520 features a 512MHz processor, 256MB of Flash memory, the ability to view and edit Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint files with the Data Viz Documents to Go suite, voice coverage in 215 countries, and wireless data coverage in more than 185 countries. AT&T data plan subscribers also get access to approximately 20,000 hotspots, including the give-or-take 7,000 in Starbucks locations.

T-Mobile's Bold also comes with 256MB of memory, but features a crisper screen resolution of 480 by 360 pixels, compared to the Curve's 320 by 240. Users can also switch between WiFi calling and T-Mobile's 3G network while they talk.

"The BlackBerry Curve 8520 offers the best value by combining the essential features of a BlackBerry smartphone with access to AT&T's network, which includes best coverage worldwide, as well as the nation's largest WiFi network," AT&T's Michael Woodward said in a statement.

The statement began with a somewhat insistent reminder that AT&T is "the choice for twice as many smartphone customers than any other carrier and the first U.S. carrier to offer BlackBerry services." The tone seemed to nod at AT&T's need to bolster its image - or at least clarify its services - as it pursues a legal suit against competitor Verizon. The suit began with AT&T's objection to several Verizon advertisements, which AT&T believes may confuse customers about its coverage offerings and areas.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The text has been changed to include information on AT&T's Bold 9700.