RIM Polishes Svelte Smartphone for a Face-Off With Apple

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) introduced its new high-end handset Monday, the BlackBerry 9000, a.k.a. “Bold.” Aimed at business pros and power users, Bold updates the product line with a device aimed at taking on Apple’s iPhone. It’s the first new model from RIM in over a year.

“They’re really just trying to take the BlackBerry franchise to a higher level. The impetus for this is things like competition from the iPhone, and that the market has moved in the last year since they updated their line. This is a natural and very true-to-RIM upgrade,” said Carl Howe, a Forrester Research analyst.

The Bold will be available worldwide this summer; AT&T will likely be among its first carriers. RIM has not announced official pricing.

Bold Statement

The Bold sports the most vivid display ever featured on a BlackBerry, according to RIM: a half-VGA (480 by 320 pixel resolution), 65,000 color liquid crystal display.

Greater resolution translates into less display pixelation and clearer video. That, said RIM, is the result of fusing the undersurface of the lens, which makes the image razor sharp with heightened definition and clarity.

“The display is the great upgrade to the existing BlackBerry products. It really looks like a lovely display. And at the end of the day, what people are really attracted to, are bright shiny things. This display creates a great visual impression that is good for the product,” Howe told TechNewsWorld.

The keyboard has also received an overhaul. The sculpted keys, reminiscent of the BlackBerry Curve, are separated by thin metal strips to reduce slipping while users type out a message.

“It really is the iPhone for keyboard lovers. Some people can’t cope with a glass keyboard. They don’t like having no tactile feedback,” Howe pointed out.

Beyond the screen and keyboard, the Bold also offers users an updated design. The smooth black chrome face gives way to a textured leather-esque backplate RIM will offer in a variety of colors, including blue, brown, gray, green and red.

Net Working

The Bold also includes tri-band HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) support, quad-band EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) support and integrated enterprise-grade WiFi (802.11 a/b/g) networks . Combined with its 624 MHz mobile processor, a step up from the 312 MHz processors in previous RIM smartphones, the handset is ready for e-mail, video streaming and Web surfing applications, the company said.

It also has 128 megabytes of flash memory plus 1 gigabyte of onboard memory storage. There is also a slot for a microSD card for expanded storage.

“That 3G network gives them a step ahead of the iPhone,” Howe noted.

Although he has not seen the device, JupiterResearch’s Neil Strother concurred, adding that HSDPA, the hi-res screen and the faster processor are the Bold’s most noteworthy features. The Bold represents the “first true 3G device from RIM,” he told TechNewsWorld.

With RIM’s revamped Web browser, users can opt to view a mobile version of a page or a full Web page as it would appear on a desktop. Using the track ball, users can zoom in and out on particular areas of a Web page.

The smartphone also features typical smartphone perks — a 2-megapixel camera with video recording functionality, built-in flash and 5x digital zoom, Bluetooth connectivity and an integrated global positioning system (GPS). Not so typical are the Bold’s dual speakers.

“In many ways [RIM] is delivering what iPhone users have been enjoying for a while — a big, bright screen with a keyboard. It is a worthy upgrade for the BlackBerry franchise, meant to appeal to people who want a keyboard, and it’s got 3G”, Howe concluded.

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