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Verizon Unveils Touchscreen 3G BlackBerry

BASKING RIDGE, N.J. — Research In Motion’s first touchscreen BlackBerry, which will be available later this fall through Verizon Wireless, will be Verizon’s first phone to operate in 3G mode in the U.S. and globally.

The Storm might also become the U.S. industry’s first BlackBerry to operate globally in 3G mode if it goes on sale before the delay-plagued BlackBerry Bold, which operates globally in 3G mode but doesn’t come with touchscreen. Bold sales are planned through AT&T.

The planned Storm lacks hard buttons for dialing and typing, but RIM is promoting the device’s “clickable” tactile-feedback touchscreen, said to be a world’s first, as solving “the long-standing problem associated with typing on traditional touchscreens,” said Mike Lazaridis, RIM president and co-CEO.

Because of the device’s built-in accelerometer, users can type on a virtual QWERTY keyboard when the screen is in landscape mode and on a combination dialing keypad/SureType keyboard in portrait mode. Either way, the “truly tactile” touchscreen “responds much like a physical keyboard,” Lazarides said.

The U.S. version of the Storm, the 9530, operates in U.S. bands in CDMA 1x EV-DO Rev. A mode, and in the foreign 2.1GHz band, it operates in W-CDMA HSPA mode. It also operates as a quad-band EDGE phone for global use. Verizon Wireless parent Vodaphone will offer the Storm 9500, which will operate in quad-band EDGE mode and 2.1GHz HSPA mode.

Pricing hasn’t been announced.

Storm’s front panel features four hard buttons, and the touchscreen supports multi-touches, taps, slides and other touchscreen gestures so users can highlight, scroll, pan, zoom, cut and paste. The Storm also supports RIM’s personal and corporate email services as well as SMS, MMS and IM services.

Other features include preloaded DataViz Documents to Go, enabling users to edit Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, along with a 3.2-megapixel camera and built-in GPS to support location-based applications and services, plus photo geo-tagging.

There is 1GB of embedded memory plus a MicroSD/SDHD memory card slot, a media player and a 3.5mm stereo headset jack and stereo Bluetooth.