Two New BlackBerrys: Small, Feature-Packed Handheld Computers

BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion has largely taken a backseat to Apple's iPhone and Google's Nexus One when it comes sexy new phone introductions. But RIM (NASDAQ: RIMM), which has a large, loyal following of business users and is still considered a corporate standard for smartphones, came charging out with two new models this week, including the smallest BlackBerry to date.

Separately, RIM also announced it's adding Wi-Fi calling support to its Mobile Voice System (MVS), a move designed to save enterprises money on voice costs and streamline the use of a single work number among desk phones and BlackBerrys.

The new BlackBerry Bold 9650 and BlackBerry Pearl 3G models are slated for release next month.

Although the Pearl 3G measures less than two inches wide and weighs a mere 3.3 ounces, it sports the features including support for 3G (UMTS/HSDPA) and Wi-Fi networks (802.11 b/g/n) and GPS, as well as a 3.2 megapixel camera, optical trackpad and volume and media keys. A microSD/SDHD memory card slot supports up to 32 GB of storage. Unlike the iPhone's fixed battery, the Pearl 3G's battery is removable and offers approximately 5.5 hours of talk time on 3G networks, according to RIM.

"The BlackBerry Pearl 3G is unlike any other smartphone in the world and we expect a broad range of new and existing customers will be drawn to its powerful features and compact design," Mike Lazaridis, president and co-CEO of RIM, said in statement.

The other new model is an addition to what the company calls its line of premium smartphones. RIM said the BlackBerry Bold 9650 is a "global smartphone" for CDMA customers.

The 9650 supports 3G (EVDO) networks in North America and (HSPA/UMTS) abroad and has a full-QWERTY keyboard, optical trackpad and built-in Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g). Users can also multitask -- for instance, browsing the Web while talking on the phone or sending e-mail. The unit includes 512 MB Flash memory and an expandable memory card slot that supports up to 32 GB microSDHC cards. The phone comes standard with a 2 GB card.

Other features include 3.2 MP camera with flash, variable zoom, image stabilization, autofocus and video recording. RIM said the built-in BlackBerry Media Sync software allows for easily syncing photos as well as iTunes and Windows Media Player music with the smartphone. Like other BlackBerry phones, both new smartphones offer access to RIM's BlackBerry App World, an online storefront for accessing mobile applications designed specifically for BlackBerry phones.

Despite Lazaridis' words, analysts were less impressed, positioning RIM's announcement as closer to keeping pace than breaking new ground.

"In the technology arms race, you get the sense RIM isn't keeping up," Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, told InternetNews.com. "On the plus side, RIM has something most corporate customers like: a solid infrastructure and stuff that just works."

Wireless Industry Waiting for BlackBerry OS 6

Analyst Tim Bajarin said he's more interested in the details of what's in version 6 of the BlackBerry operating system. While the Bold 9650 and Pearl 3G run BlackBerry OS 5, the company is expected to release details to developers of the forthcoming BlackBerry OS6 at its Wireless Enterprise Symposium which starts Tuesday. Earlier on Monday, RIM showed analysts a preview video of the forthcoming OS6, which it said will be available sometime in the next quarter.

"You have to give them their due -- BlackBerrys still dominate the enterprise," Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, told InternetNews.com. "But they're still behind the richer, more robust operating systems that are really PCs in your pocket, like the iPhone and Android and what's coming from Microsoft, than extensions to e-mail, which they do really well.

"These new releases are a step in the right direction that keeps RIM competitive," he added.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


Blackberry, smartphone, RIM, mobile device, BlackBerry OS