T-Mobile's 4G-capable BlackBerry Bold 9900 will make its store-shelf debut Aug. 31, with the carrier offering preorders for its business customers Aug. 17.
T-Mobile recently expanded its 4G network to Atlantic City, N.J., and Florence, Ala., for a total of 194 markets across the United States. In theory, the network is capable of 21M bps download speeds, roughly three times faster than 3G networks. The carrier claims its 4G phones can reach peak speeds of 12M bps (testing showed download speeds "approaching 5M bps in some cities," according to its fact sheet).
The BlackBerry Bold 9900 offers a 2.8-inch display with 640 by 480 resolution, 1.2GHz processor, 5-megapixel camera, integrated GPS and NFC (near-field communication, which can turn a smartphone into a sort of electronic wallet) and 8GB of on-board memory (expandable to 40GB). Research In Motion claims this new Bold is its thinnest smartphone ever.
It also runs BlackBerry 7 OS, which RIM claims offers faster browsing, smoother navigation, voice-activated universal search, and preinstalled applications such as the enhanced BlackBerry Messenger 6. Launched July 28, BBM 6 offers users the ability to chat within an application or game, as well as view lists of applications posted on BBM friends' profiles. The company has also been encouraging developers to build applications for its BlackBerry App World, which trails both Google and Apple in its number of offerings.
In addition to the Bold, RIM is offering some other devices running the BlackBerry 7 OS, including the BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860 and BlackBerry Torch 9810. The latter is RIM's newest variant on its Torch line, which features a slide-out keyboard and a 3.2-inch touch display. The Torch 9850/9860, meanwhile, relies on a 3.7-inch touch-screen and lacks a physical QWERTY keyboard-something that skews the aesthetics of RIM's device line toward its competitors, who have widely embraced the touch-screen-only model pioneered by Apple's iPhone.
RIM is releasing its new spate of smartphones at a particularly auspicious time, as the company fights for life against a raft of determined competitors. According to research firm Gartner, RIM now trails Google Android, Nokia's Symbian and Apple iOS for global smartphone share. The BlackBerry maker is hoping that its line of QNX-powered "superphones" due sometime in 2012 will help revive its fortunes.
However, some analysts seem down on RIM's current plans for a turnaround.
"We cut our estimates below consensus based on checks that handset shipments will be worse than expected in the Nov. Q despite the sell-in of the new OS 7 handsets," Peter Misek, an analyst with Jefferies & Co., wrote in an Aug. 4 note to investors. "We continue to believe the story hinges on QNX, which we believe will be delayed to [the second half of 2012] vs. guidance of early CY12."