RIM Bold 9650, Pearl 3G Smartphones Replace Tour, Lose Trackball

Research In Motion unveils the BlackBerry Bold 9650 smartphone and the petite BlackBerry Pearl 3G handset at its Wireless Enterprise Symposium in Orlando, Fla. The first Bold mobile device to support CDMA networks, the 9650 works worldwide, supporting EvDO Rev A in North America and 3G UMTS/HSPA and quad-band EDGE/GPRS/GSM networks in other countries. The BlackBerry Pearl 3G is the smallest BlackBerry smartphone ever made and comes in many colors and two versions. Like its Bold 9650 brother, the Pearl 3G smartphone is expected to launch supported by various carriers beginning in May.

ORLANDO, Fla.-Research In Motion April 26 unveiled the BlackBerry Bold 9650 smartphone and the petite BlackBerry Pearl 3G handset, both geared to help the enterprise phone maker expand its smartphone lead in North America.

Unveiled at RIM's Wireless Enterprise Symposium here, the Bold 9650 offers built-in GPS and WiFi and includes a full QWERTY keyboard as well as an optical trackpad, which is officially replacing the trackball with which BlackBerry users are so familiar.

The first Bold device to support CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) networks, the 9650 works worldwide, supporting EvDO Rev A networks in North America and 3G UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System)/HSPA and quad-band EDGE (Enhanced Data for Global Evolution)/GPRS/GSM networks abroad.

Alan Brenner, the senior vice president of BlackBerry Platform who oversees the 6,500 applications in Blackberry App World, told eWEEK RIM is bringing the Bold brand to CDMA, thus abandoning the Tour line of high-end BlackBerry devices.

"We're just trying to position Bold as the flagship product line across both technologies," Brenner said.

ComScore said RIM's mobile OS leads the U.S. smartphone market with 42 percent share, followed by the Apple iPhone OS at 25 percent and Windows Mobile and Google Android at 15 percent and 9 percent, respectively. RIM clearly hopes the 9650 will help build on its lead, particularly among enterprise users.

The Bold 9650, which measures 4.4 by 2.4 by .56 inches and weighs 4.8 ounces, also includes 512MB Flash memory and an expandable memory card slot that supports up to 32GB MicroSDHC cards, with a 2GB card included.

The high-resolution display is 480 by 360 pixels and measures 2.44 inches. In early tests, pictures, video trailers and multimedia-intensive Websites such as ESPN.com looked crisp. The device employs a 3.2-megapixel camera with flash, variable zoom, image stabilization, auto-focus and video recording.

For a look at these new BlackBerry smartphones, click here.

BlackBerry Media Sync syncs photos, iTunes and Windows Media Player music. The removable and rechargeable battery offers 5 hours of CDMA talk time.

During a question and answer session with the media, Mike McAndrews, vice president of product marketing for RIM, said the phone would be available in May, but declined to discuss carrier availability or price points.

However, Sprint April 26 said it would begin selling the Bold 9650 smartphone May 23 for $199 with a two-year contract and $100 mail-in rebate. Verizon Wireless is also expected to begin selling the device in May, but a spokesperson said Verizon had nothing to confirm about the device.

The BlackBerry Pearl 3G, meanwhile, feels like half the size of the Bold 9650 in the palm of one's hand, even though it's technically not that small. At 4.25 by 1.96 by .52 inches and 3.3 ounces, the Pearl 3G is the smallest BlackBerry smartphone ever made and comes in many colors and two models.

Calling the Pearl 3G the sports car of BlackBerry smartphones, McAndrews said the Pearl 3G 9100 features a condensed QWERTY keyboard (20 keys).

The 9105 sports a traditional phone keypad (14 keys) to accommodate the 75 percent of mobile phone consumers who are still buying handsets with a traditional alphanumeric keypad. Both use RIM's SureType software for accurate text messaging.

Despite its small size, the Pearl 3G supports high-speed 3G (UMTS/HSDPA) networks, WiFi (b/g/n) and GPS, and has dedicated volume and media keys, a 3.2 MP camera with flash, a 624MHz processor with 256 MB flash memory, and storage for up to 32GB of personal content. Pictures and video on the 360-by-400-pixel display seemed of high quality in limited testing.

The Pearl 3G also supports BlackBerry Media Sync for easy syncing of photos and music from iTunes and Windows Media Player. The Pearl 3G supports tri-band UMTS/HSDPA and quad-band EDGE/GPRS/GSM networks and boasts a removable, rechargeable battery with 5.5 hours of talk time on 3G networks.

Like its Bold 9650 sibling, the Pearl 3G smartphone is expected to launch with various carriers beginning in May. However, it is not clear yet who is supporting it.