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8/13/2013
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BlackBerry 9720 Smartphone Debuts With Older OS

New 9720 looks like aging Curve devices, provides mid-range specs and outgoing BlackBerry 7 platform. Here's how it fits into the line.

BlackBerry 10: Visual Tour Of Smartphones, OS
BlackBerry 10: Visual Tour Of Smartphones, OS
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
BlackBerry on Tuesday announced a new smartphone, the 9720. The 9720 carries forward the look and feel of BlackBerry's aging Curve line of devices and features a QWERTY keyboard. The device runs BlackBerry 7, the smartphone-maker's outgoing platform.

Key features of the 9720's hardware include a 2.8-inch touch screen accompanied by a handy trackpad for easier on-screen navigation. The smartphone has a 5-megapixel camera, which can capture video, and an FM radio. BlackBerry claims the 9720 offers stellar battery life.

BlackBerry OS 7.1 has a slightly updated user interface that BlackBerry says incorporates some elements of today's more advanced touch-based platforms. For example, it allows owners to unlock their device by swiping on the screen, or launch the camera directly from the lock screen. BlackBerry 7.1 includes BlackBerry Messenger (with its own dedicated hardware button), the company's vaunted messaging platform. On the 9720, BBM is able to connect voice calls over Wi-Fi for free. It also includes BBM channels, but doesn't include video chatting or the ability to share screens, which require BlackBerry OS 10. The device has access to thousands of apps in the BlackBerry World app store.

[ What does the future hold for BlackBerry? Read Will BlackBerry's Future Be A Piecemeal Sale? ]

The device comes with BlackBerry Multicast, which is a social networking tool that lets owners type messages and easily post them to BBM, Twitter or Facebook -- or all three at once. Multicast also includes support for sharing images captured by the camera.

BlackBerry calls out the 9720's enterprise acumen, as well. The device is compatible with both BES and BESX, which allow businesses to manage every aspect of the device, its settings, apps and user permissions. BlackBerry OS 7 has been approved for use by governments around the globe.

The BlackBerry 9720 will be available in the next few weeks in select markets across Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Latin America. Exact pricing and availability will vary by region.

Because the device is running an older operating system, it is missing many of the features available to BlackBerry's other modern smartphones, the Z10, Q10 and Q5, all of which run BB10. The most significant difference is the lack of BlackBerry Hub, which is a central repository for all the messaging features of the smartphone. It is also lacking BB10's touch-based user interface that lets owners easily swipe to recently-used applications.

The BlackBerry Z10, Q10, and Q5 are available in many of the markets in which the 9720 will be sold. The 9720 should have a price point similar to that of the Q5, which has the superior operating system and other improved features. The Q5 is not quite as high-end as the Q10, but also has a QWERTY keyboard and touch screen. The Q5 might be a better pick than the 9720 based on the operating system alone, but the 9720 will be competitively priced.

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