BlackBerry maker Research in Motion unveiled several new smartphones with improved specifications that the company hopes will enable it to better compete in an already crowded market.
BlackBerry smartphones, which were creating waves before the introduction of Android phones and Apple's iPhone, have weathered a slow slump in market share. Currently, BlackBerry commands a 14.8 percent share of worldwide smartphone sales, ranking it the fifth most-popular device manufacturer after Nokia, Samsung, LG and Apple.
The launch of these new devices comes as reprieve for RIM, which had a challenging quarter in North America, where its market share slipped to 12 percent, down from 33 percent a year ago. But RIM's global shipments grew 11 percent year on year, keeping it the number one vendor in Latin America with a 28 percent share.
According to research firm Canalys, Google's Android easily dominated the worldwide smartphone OS market in the second quarter. During that quarter, 107.7 million smartphones shipped worldwide, growing 73 percent year over year.
A recent Nielsen report showed that Android reigns as the top smartphone OS in the U.S., with a 39 percent slice of the market. Second place is occupied by Apple's iOS with a 28 percent share followed by RIM's Blackberry with 20 percent.
The slide in market share has taken a toll on RIM, as the company plans to cut 2,000 jobs, or about a tenth of its workforce, as sales slow amid market share losses to the iPhone. RIM predicted last month that sales this quarter may drop for the first time in nine years.
“This is the largest global launch of BlackBerry smartphones in our history,” said Mike Lazaridis, President and Co-CEO of Research In Motion.
Additionally, RIM also recently introduced a new version of its instant messaging system that will let consumers use the software within their own applications as the BlackBerry phone maker looks to revive slowing sales growth. Alistair Mitchell, Vice President for BBM (BlackBerry Messenger), said there are about 45 million users, with 2 million more added each month. “This is opening up the crown jewels in terms of BBM and allowing developers to be able to leverage that growth," he said.
With its Internet Service available in 91 countries worldwide on over 500 mobile service operators, BlackBerry expects a surge in days to come. The new models include BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930, BlackBerry Torch 9810 and BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860.
Here is a look at their specifications:
The BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930 (9930 is CDMA version of 9900) has dimensions of 115 x 66 x 10.5 mm and weighs 130 grams. The BlackBerry Torch 9810 is 111 x 61.9 x 14.5 mm and weighs 161 grams. The BlackBerry Torch 9860/ 9850 (9850 is CDMA version of 9860) measures 120 x 62 x 11.5 mm and weighs 135 grams.
The BlackBerry Bold 9900 and 9930 are the thinnest Blackberry smartphones yet, and come with a large keyboard. But the Samsung Galaxy S2 is only 8.5 mm thick, the Apple iPhone 4 is 9.3 mm thick and the HTC Sensation measures 11.3 mm. As the iPhone 5 is expected to be thinner than the iPhone 4, BlackBerry phones will face a very stiff challenge.
The BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900 (9930) has a 2.8-inch 640 x 480 pixels TFT capacitive touchscreen display, the Torch 9810 has a 3.2-inch 480 x 640 pixels TFT capacitive touchscreen and the Torch 9860 (9850) has 3.7-inch 480 x 800 pixels TFT capacitive touchscreen display.
The 9860 (9850) model features the largest display on a BlackBerry smartphone to date: 3.7-inches, but Android smartphones exist in the 2.8-inch to 4.5-inch range, and the iPhone 4 has a 3.5-inch screen. The ideal display size for a smartphone is generally assumed to be 4 inches. With the iPhone 5 expected to feature a 3.7 or 4-inch display, the new BlackBerry Torch may just have touched the perfect line.
The common input features found on all these BlackBerry smartphones include Optical trackpad, multi-touch input method and proximity sensor for auto turn-off. Accelerometer sensor for auto-rotate is found in Torch 9860 (9850) and Bold 9900 (9930) models while an external QWERTY keyboard is found in Bold 9900 (9930) and Torch 9810 models. The Bold 9900 (9930) models will also have touch-sensitive controls.
All the new BlackBerry models are equipped with 768 MB RAM, but the Torch 9810 and Bold 9900 (9930) comes with 8 GB internal storage compared to Torch 9860 (9850) which has 4 GB internal storage capacity. But all the phones have microSD support up to 32 GB.
All the BlackBerry models have HSDPA 14.4 Mbps and HSUPA 5.76 Mbps support .
The BlackBerry Torch 9860 (9850) and Torch 9810 have Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth version 2.1 with A2DP and microUSB version 2.0 support. However the Bold Touch 9900 (9930) comes with Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, dual-band, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth version 2.1 with A2DP and EDR and microUSB version 2.0.
There is 5-megapixel 2592?1944 pixels camera with autofocus, geo-tagging, continuous auto-focus, image stabilization and face detection in all the new models of BlackBerry. However, only the Torch 9810 and Bold Touch 9900 (9930) has LED flash support. All the new models will support 720p video capture, but there is no secondary camera in any of these models.
Today many new Android smartphones come with an 8-megapixel camera supporting 1080p video capture and dual-LED flash along with a secondary camera. Even the iPhone 5 is expected to come with an 8-megapixel camera, along with support for 1080p video capture and dual-LED flash.
All the models of BlackBerry will feature the new BlackBerry OS 7. The new OS powers all the BlackBerry models with Liquid Graphics (which will help them to deliver fast, fluid performance when browsing, accessing pictures or video, or running graphics intensive games), NFC (designed to provide a secure exchange of information between NFC-enabled devices over a very short distance), Augmented Reality applications support and HD video recording.
In fact, combined with the camera app and GPS, the magnetometer or digital compass on all the models has enabled a new class of “augmented reality” applications. One example is the Wikitude augmented reality browser, which will be available on the BlackBerry App World storefront at launch. The Wikitude browser combines real and virtual worlds via the Camera viewfinder to provide immediate and relevant data about one’s surroundings.
According to RIM, the new BlackBerry OS 7 “Combining the dramatically improved performance of the advanced WebKit browser engine together with the powerful hardware enhancements found in the BlackBerry 7 based smartphones delivers browsing results that are up to 40 percent faster than BlackBerry 6 based smartphones and up to 100 percent faster than BlackBerry 5 based smartphones.”
All the models are powered by a 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, which is a good improvement as most of the high end Android smartphones support a 1.2 GHz processor.
BlackBerry 9860 (9850) and 9900 (9930) models have Li-Ion 1230 mAh batteries, whereas the Torch 9810 comes with Li-Ion 1300 mAh.
The 9860 model phone battery life features include -- Talk time: Up to 4.7 hours (GSM®), up to 6.8 hours (UMTS). Standby time: Up to 13.9 days (GSM), up to 13.5 days (UMTS). Music playback: Up to 44 hours. Video playback: Up to 6.6 hours) and 9850 includes (Talk time: Up to 6.8 hours (CDMA), up to 6.1 hours (UMTS). Standby time: Up to 13.4 days (CDMA), up to 11.8 days (UMTS). Music playback: Up to 50.2 hours. Video playback: Up to 6.6 hours.
The 9930 model battery supports -- CDMA Talk Time: up to 6.6 hours. CDMA Standby Time: up to 12.8 days. GSM Talk Time: up to 6.3 hours. GSM Standby Time: up to 12.8 days. UMTS Talk Time: up to 5.9 hours. UMTS Standby Time: up to 12.8 days. Audio Playback Time: up to 50 hours. Video Playback Time: up to 7.4 hours.
And the 9900 model battery supports -- GSM Talk Time: up to 6.3 hours. GSM Standby Time: up to 12.8 days. UMTS Talk Time: up to up to 5.9 hours. UMTS Standby Time: up to 12.8 days. Audio Playback Time: up to 50 hours. Video Playback Time: up to 7.4 hours.
Other features of the new phones include SMS, MMS, Email, Push Email, IM, HTML browser, A-GPS support, Java MIDP, NFC, digital compass, document viewer (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), organizer and voice memo-dial.
The 9860 (9850) models have features like social feeds, MP3/WMA/eAAC+/FlAC/OGG player and DivX/XviD/MP4/WMV/H.263/H.264. And Torch 9810 has MP3/WMA/WAV/eAAC+ player, DivX/XviD/MP4/WMV/H.263/H.264 player and predictive text input support. The 9900 (9930) models have features like MP4/WMV/H.263/H.264 player, MP3/eAAC+/WMA player and predictive text input.
The BlackBerry Torch 9810 will head to AT&T and will be released in August while AT&T, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular will get Torch 9850/9860. AT&T will launch the BlackBerry Bold 9900 later this year, while Sprint is yet to announce the release of Torch 9850.