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New BlackBerry Bold does away with troublesome trackball in favour of touchpad

MONTREAL - Looking for an edge in its battle with Apple's seductive iPhone, Research In Motion has updated the high-end BlackBerry Bold, replacing the trackball - which has caused headaches for some users - with a touchpad.

MONTREAL - Looking for an edge in its battle with Apple's seductive iPhone, Research In Motion has updated the high-end BlackBerry Bold, replacing the trackball - which has caused headaches for some users - with a touchpad.

The new Bold 9700 was released Wednesday by the BlackBerry maker, just days after the company launched a new version of the touchscreen Storm, which also competes with Apple's touchscreen smartphone.

PC magazine mobile analyst Sascha Segan says the trackball has long been an issue for BlackBerry users.

"Trackballs, while fun to use, have been a nightmare from a reliability perspective. I know people who have had to replace their track balls six or seven time because gunk gets stuck in them," he said.

Segan said the BlackBerry also "desperately" needs a better browser.

RIM recently acquired Toronto company Torch Mobile, expected to help the company develop a new browser to better compete with the iPhone and others as more consumers use the smartphones to surf the Internet.

Segan said although the Bold's browser has improved, a new BlackBerry browser isn't expected until next April.

"The Bold 9700 is supposed to be RIM's new mainstream device," said Segan, who has tried the gadget.

He noted that, in North America, the BlackBerry and iPhone together make up more than 70 per cent of all the smartphones sold.