Call it a smartphone for the masses: Research in Motion Ltd. has announced a pair of new Pearl BlackBerrys, 3G versions of the gadgets that are being touted as giving consumers the power of a smartphone with the familiar look and feel of a feature phone.
To wit, the 9105 has a traditional 14 key alphanumeric layout not seen in BlackBerrys heretofore, which are known for their proprietary QWERTY keyboard. Meanwhile, the 9100 model features a 20-key condensed QWERTY keyboard.
Mike Lazaridis, president and co-CEO of RIM, seemed to warm to the theme of the unintimidating nature of the new Pearls. Pearl “allows consumers to upgrade their traditional mobile phone to a full-featured, easy-to-use and fashionable 3G BlackBerry smartphone that supports BlackBerry Messenger and many other apps while maintaining a handset design and layout that is familiar and comfortable,” he said, in a statement.
The 3.3-ounce gadgets also have the distinction of being the tiniest BlackBerries ever made, just 2 inches thick. Even so, they pack a punch in network connectivity: The BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9100 and 9105 are the first to support the new 802.11n super-fast Wi-Fi standard, and support both HSPDA and EDGE/GPRS/GSM on the cellular side.
The new models are 32GB with 256MB of Flash memory; they come with a sharp 360 x 400 pixel display, optical trackpad, 5.5 hours of talk time and a 3.2 megapixel camera with flash. The two were unveiled Monday at RIM’s 2010 Wireless Enterprise Symposium event in Orlando.
RIM has been going after the consumer market with BlackBerrys since fall 2008, with varying degrees of success. Despite a heady ad campaign showcasing consumerish apps like photo management and media playback, the brand is still more well-known as enterprise-focused, and has had trouble wooing new consumer users in the face of iPhone and Android.
Unsurprisingly, fellow Canadians Telus Mobility and Rogers are already on board to offer the Pearls beginning in May. Bell Mobility said it plans to carry it as well. All three top carriers are building out significant HSPA networks. Telus alone has announced pricing, too: $29.99 on a three-year plan.