What’s the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to a BlackBerry? For me, it’s Research In Motion‘s iconic QWERTY keypad, or at the very least the modified “SureType” keyboard, which crams a couple of letter keys on each number key. So it’s a little jarring to get a load of RIM’s new, pumped-up Pearl 3G — the first BlackBerry ever with a standard alphanumeric keypad, same as on many garden-variety cell phones.
Announced early Monday, a day ahead of RIM’s annual Wireless Enterprise Symposium in Orlando, Fla., the Pearl 3G 9100 series comes with two models: one with a 20-key “SureType” keyboard (same as you’ll find on earlier Pearl phones) and another with the “new” (well, new for RIM, anyway) 14-key keypad — you know, with the letters “a,” “b” and “c” on the “2” key, “d,” “e” and “f” on the “3” button, and so on.
The one slight difference between the 3.3-ounce Pearl 3G 9105 (besides the usual BlackBerry “Call,” “Menu,” “Back” and “End” buttons, of course) and your typical 12-key cell phone are the “Delete” and “Enter” keys that flank the Pearl’s “*,” “0” and “#” buttons. (Check out BlackBerry Cool’s hands-on with the new Pearls.)
Both of the new Pearls also offer a variety of improvements over the older, popular 8100 Pearl series, such as a beefier 624MHz processor, a sharper 360-by-400 display, an optical trackpad to replace the old trackball, a 3.2-megapixel autofocus camera with flash, Wi-Fi (including the new, speedier 802.11n standard), and version 5.0 of the BlackBerry OS (not so new for RIM as a whole, but new for the Pearl).
No details on pricing and availability yet, but it’s a good bet that the HSDPA-enabled phones will end up on AT&T and T-Mobile at some point.
OK, but what gives with the, ahem, “new” 14-button keypad? According to RIM CEO Mike Lazaridis (by way of ZDNet), the Pearl 3G’s old-school key layout is a nod to the “three quarters of the people in the global phone market [who] are still buying handsets with a traditional alphanumeric keypad.” Indeed, Lazaridis continues, the new Pearl is “unlike any other smartphone in the world” because of its “familiar and comfortable” keypad layout.
So yes … it’s an odd “Back to the Future” moment for RIM, which has faced an uphill battle competing in the touchscreen smartphone market with its iffy Storm and Storm 2 handsets, while the current version of the BlackBerry OS (5.0) is looking increasingly long in the tooth in the wake of the just-announced iPhone software 4.0, the latest Android OS, and Palm’s WebOS touch interface.
Anyway, this is all coming from someone who hasn’t owned a 12-key cell phone since the early oughts. What about you: Would you be open to a BlackBerry with just 14 keys?
BlackBerry Cool: WES 2010: Hands-On With the BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105 “Traditional Keyboard”
ZDNet: RIM announces BlackBerry Pearl 3G; bets consumers don’t want QWERTY
— Ben Patterson is a technology writer for Yahoo! News.
Follow me on Twitter!
Follow Yahoo! News on Twitter!
Join Yahoo! News on Facebook! (Click “Like.”)
Hi, just wandered by. I have a Orlando 4g site. Lots of information out there. Looking for something else, but very nice site. Have a great day.