ORLANDO, Fla. — Research in Motion May 2 at its unveiled the Blackberry Bold 9900 and 9930 smartphones, the first smartphones running the company’s new Blackberry 7 OS, slated for a summer release from various carriers worldwide.
RIM is under significant pressure to have a good showing here at its Blackberry World developer conference. The mobile device maker launched its PlayBook April 19 to largely lukewarm reviews and followed it up 10 days later by announcing an earnings shortfall for its first quarter.
RIM Co-CEO Jim Balsillie blamed in part an aging high-end Blackberry handset line for the company’s financial woes. That is exactly the sort of condition RIM aims to cure with its sleek new Bolds’ hardware and software.
At 10.5 millimeters and powered by a 1.2GHZ process, the new Bolds are the thinnest, most powerful Blackberry smartphones ever, Jeff McDowell, senior vice president of business and platform marketing, said in a press briefing here.
The Bold 9900 and 9930 feature the classic Blackberry QWERTY keyboard and a new Liquid Graphics touchscreen, powered by Blackberry 7 0S. Liquid Graphics supposedly enables better panning and zooming among the Web browser, pictures, video and games, offering up to 60 frames-per-second performance.
The new Bold handsets also support 4G networks, with the 9900 supporting HSPA+ connectivity and its 9930 sibling supporting CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and HSPA+ global roaming on GSM/UMTS networks.
In a key development, both the Bold 9900 and 9930 smartphones include native support for near field communications (NFC), a wireless communications technology that will eventually be use to enable mobile payments.
Currently, NFC in the Bold 9900 and 9930 will read information such as a Web link from smart tags by tapping it against an object with an NFC sensor. Google’s Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” operating system also supports NFC, though the technology has been slow to catch on.
RIM Trots Out Most Powerful Bold Lineup Yet
The BlackBerry Bold 9900 and 9930 smartphones also include a 5 megapixel camera and a built-in compass to support location-based services and augmented reality, which like NFC is a highly-hyped technology that has yet to live up to its promise.
Augmented reality apps overlay contextual information atop real world camera footage. RIM is integrating one of the leaders in the space in Wikitude, an augmented reality browser, into the phones.
Andrew Bocking, RIM’s vice president of handheld software product management, said new APIs will allow third party developers write augmented reality apps.
Underpinng all of these features is Blackberry 7, an OS that appeared to be an incremental upgrade to Blackberry 6 in a hands-on test here.
However, when it is finished, Blackberry 7 should sport a browser that is 1.6 times faster than its predecessor and will enable voice-activated searches, Docs To Go to let workers work with Word, Excel and PowerPoint files from the smartphone.
BlackBerry 7 also integrates BlackBerry Balance, which separates personal content such as Facebook, Twitter and games from corporate content such as Exchange e-mail on the Bold 9900 and 9930.
EWEEK will show off the Bold 9900’s physical characteristics, including a brushed stainless steel frame and glass-weave backplate, in a slideshow later today.