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Summary:

Research In Motion announced five new BlackBerry 7 handsets, which will start to arrive in stores by the end of this month. BlackBerry faithful will be happy, but the handsets still represent a transition for the company, which will use QNX software to power newer phones.

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Reminding everyone that they’re still in the mobile game, Research In Motion announced five new BlackBerry OS 7 handsets Wednesday. Actually, of the five, two were previously introduced: RIM showed off the BlackBerry Bold 9900 and 9930 in May, but those models haven’t arrived in stores yet. The BlackBerry Torch line will see three slightly upgraded models: The 9810 includes a slide-out keyboard, while the 9850 and 9860 are touchscreen only with the largest displays on a BlackBerry device yet at 3.7-inches.

All five handsets run on BlackBerry 7 OS, which is a stop-gap platform until RIM transitions its smartphone lineup to the QNX-powered operating system it uses for the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. That means for most, these new handsets are incremental upgrades in terms of software, because a new generation of BlackBerry handsets running a completely different operating system will be forthcoming. RIM expects carriers to begin selling the new handsets by the end of this month. AT&T has already announced it will offer the 4G BlackBerry Torch 9810 this month and later follow with 4G versions of the Bold 9900 and Torch 9860.

 

In terms of software, RIM is touting a speedier Internet experience with an improved WebKit browser that’s 40 percent faster than BB 6 devices and twice as fast as older BB 5 smartphones. Helping to boost performance is RIM’s Liquid Graphics technology. The latest BBM client and voice-activated universal search add to the experience. On the hardware side, RIM is using 1.2 GHz processors to boost performance and high-resolution displays to improve the user experience. The new 3.7-inch screen of the Torch 9850 and 9860, for example is 800×480 resolution. The two Bold models include support for near-field communication (NFC) chips that could be used for mobile payments. And high-definition video recording is a staple on the handsets as well.

Still, when RIM announced the two new Bold devices in May, I said the upgrades weren’t aggressive enough. And although the new handsets show positive evolution and will surely sell to the BlackBerry faithful, I keep coming back to one thought: RIM is trying grow its smartphone business in 2012 with phones and a platform that evokes thoughts of 2010. That doesn’t mean these handsets will flop. Some will buy them and be happy — but not enough to counteract RIM’s slowing sales figures in a market that’s growing overall — but I say 2012 because we’ll be entering the final third of 2011 when the first of these new BlackBerry devices arrive. They’ll power sales (or not as the case may be) at least through the first half of 2012.

Remember that RIM purchased QNX in April of 2010, mainly for the platform and strong Adobe Flash operation in the QNX operating system. Instead of building a new smartphone platform with the sale, RIM spent a year building a tablet, which in hindsight, may not have been the best approach. The tablet market is only just beginning; there’s time to build a solid product there and still compete. But the smartphone market is RIM’s bread and butter. The company should have made a fast transition to QNX on the handset where it would have benefitted faster from the tens of millions of smartphones sold every quarter.

Ultimately, the problem for RIM’s handsets comes down to 2007, however. Apple introduced the iPhone that year, and only Google responded by creating a solid touchscreen experience and growing Android ecosystem in 2008. We’re closing in on 2012, and RIM’s best response is still in the works.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Flickr user americanistadechiapas

  1. Google didn’t create Android in 2008. It was actually started in 2003 by Android Inc., which in turn was later bought by Google in 2005, made it’s debut (so to speak) in 2007 with the founding of the Open Handset Alliance, and was commercially available for consumption on an actual device in 2008.

    1. Very true and good listing of Android’s history. Android devices didn’t debut until the end of 2008, which is why I used that date. Thanks, Will!

  2. LockoftheDay.com Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    RIMM is run by a bunch of morons. The article is correct, Blackberry is bringing out a phone that’s already behind its competitors, way behind.

  3. John Harrington, Jr. Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    As you mentioned, the limited improvements to their new line of devices demonstrates BlackBerry is playing a 2010 smartphone game heading into 2012. Watch this webinar recording to find out why forward-thinking organizations are embracing the app-enabled smartphone revolution and how this will impact the BlackBerry workflows enterprise IT has grown accustomed to: http://bit.ly/mRS0dk

  4. Does anyone have link to a good article that details the shortcomings of BBOS, maybe relative to iOS or Android? From an uninformed outside perspective it looks like it does the basics (phone, calendar, email, internet) reasonably well, so I’m honestly interested in the drawbacks.

  5. Last I checked Aug 3, 2011 is only 8 months removed from 2010. Nice try on spinning it to make it sound like a 24 month difference but unfortunately some of your readers can do addition/subtraction.

    40% performance increase is incremental? 1.2ghz is sooooo last century. Biased piece of crap excuse for journalism.

    1. You can certainly read a calendar, but I question your math skills. ;)

      In January of 2010, I bought a 1 GHz handset with 3.7″ 800×480 touchscreen. That’s about a year and half ago… and these new BlackBerry devices aren’t for sale yet. It will take a few months before widespread availability in the retail channels.

      Regardless, the improvements are nice. If you read the article, you’ll note that I said some will be happy with these new BlackBerry handsets. But not enough to turn around RIM’s relative decline compared to other handset makers. That was my point; not a lesson in math. ;)

      1. You are biased. There are many Android phones that are still coming out with those or much lower specs.

        The next generation of Windows Phone will have the same resolution for all the devices and almost the same SOC speed.

      2. Ricardo, you’re correct that there are many Android phones coming out with these and much lower specs. But that’s irrelevant: these new BlackBerry devices aren’t meant to compete against those low- to mid-end devices. They’ll likely be priced in the $150 to $199 range (with contract), meaning they’ll be competing against the 16 GB iPhone and higher-end Android devices.

        If these new BlackBerry devices appeal to you and meet your needs, by all means buy one. I’d say that’s the right choice for you. But my point is that in the overall market, RIM didn’t push the envelope much here… and they need to. If you don’t agree with me, no worries! :)

  6. @commenter #4

    I can summarize for you: apps apps apps apps apps apps and that it’s the “same old design every time”. That’s pretty much all you’ll find about why BBs suck now that touch screen BBs are out.

    On the other hand, strengths: you don’t have to charge it 2-3 times a day unlike most Androids, and security. Did you hear about the latest security hole that allows hackers to record your phone conversations? And remember the bug that sent texts to the wrong people in your phonebook? Yea… Andoid ftw!

    1. Consumers are fickle and care about app quantity.

  7. @heyhey Thanks, after some more reading I take it I should read ‘Apps apps apps games games games’. And apparently the browser is improving but not great. Still seems like a good option for people who do not play or tinker.

  8. Ormy Underhill Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    Wow what a tough crowd. I don’t know but the demos I have seen of the 9810/9860 looked pretty sweet. Some say the Androids are too common, and iPhones too trendy…..perhaps the lads at BB are on to something. In any case I shall plod forward with my E-71 for a bit longer.

  9. you are all insane!!!! RIM does smartphones properly they focus on the core functions (phone, email and SMS) every thing else is just gravy. My humble old 8330 is two years old and still goes 2-3 DAYS not HOURS on a charge can you do that with your IPhone or Android NO WAY.

  10. The reason I came to visit was because of his biased heading. One of the things that Blackberry stands from the everyone is the Qwerty Keyboard and now that they have been able to combine the touch screen with the KB. What a match made in heaven. I have been asking for this since Iphone3 first came out. Now I have that and the speed is incredible to boot. RIMM for the win!

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