BlackBerry Curve 3G Is RIM's Low-End Smartphone Offering

Research In Motion's new BlackBerry Curve 3G version is a lower-priced complement to the company's new flagship Torch 9800, as RIM seeks to compete against the iPhone and Google Android.

Research In Motion and Verizon have unveiled the new BlackBerry Curve 3G, 9300 model. Costing $30 with a two-year contract through the carrier, the device seems intended as a low-end complement to RIM's other new smartphone, the Torch 9800, which retails for $199 via exclusive carrier AT&T.

Unlike the Torch 9800, which runs RIM's new BlackBerry 6 OS, the Curve 3G ships with BlackBerry 5 installed. However, RIM promises that the device is "BlackBerry 6 ready." In addition, the Curve 3G includes a 2-megapixel camera with zoom and video recording, built-in GPS, a microSD/SDHC card slot for expandable memory up to 32GB, and access to BlackBerry App World.

The Curve 3G is slated for release Sept. 16, available in either charcoal or "fuchsia red."

BlackBerry 6 OS emphasizes consumer-friendly features such as unified social-networking feeds, wireless syncing with DRM-free (Digital Rights Management-free) music on a user's PC, and a new Universal Search application that allows users to scan both their device and Websites such as YouTube. RIM intends the operating system to compete against both the rapidly evolving Android platform, as well as Apple's iOS4.

"In order to create a bulwark against incursions in their market from Apple and Google, RIM needs to expand its footprint," Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, told eWEEK in an Aug. 3 interview. "RIM became the device of choice in the business market because they represented the cutting edge of that market five, six, seven years ago."

The Torch 9800, with its sliding keyboard and touch screen, was meant to become RIM's new face of cutting edge. According to analysts at RBC Capital Markets and Stifel Nicolaus, however, the device sold only 150,000 devices during its first weekend in wide release; for its part, Morgan Stanley estimates a total of 600,000 shipped. In turn, those numbers have led other analysts to suggest RIM has a problem on its hands.

"RIM is beginning to repeat many of the Palm mistakes, one of them being hard-to-follow advertising campaigns," Rob Enderle, principal analyst with the Enderle Group, wrote in an Aug. 17 e-mail to eWEEK. "And the brand was clouded by the Saudi Arabia and Indian news that the security in it was being compromised."

In sum, Enderle added, "They didn't execute well and they had to overcome a lot of negative reviews at the same time." The combination "damaged their launch significantly as a result."

Unlike Palm, though, which placed all its proverbial chips on the success of two devices, RIM seems determined to maintain its family of smartphones as it seeks to regain competitive momentum against the likes of Apple and Google Android.

RIM will announce its quarterly results Sept. 16. "A lot of people are stepping back and trying to figure out-given the timeline it's probably a tough call for this quarter," Matthew Thornton of Avian Securities told Reuters Sept. 14. "The overwhelming opinion is looking for evidence of cracks."