RIM has unveiled a set of sleek BlackBerry models running an updated version of BlackBerry OS, in what the firm is styling as its biggest launch ever.
The company announced on Wednesday the BlackBerry Torch 9810 slider phone, the BlackBerry Torch 9860 touch-screen handset, and the BlackBerry Bold 9900 with a Qwerty keyboard, all based on the new BlackBerry 7 OS which includes a number of user interface and performance enhancements.
All the models boast a beefier 1.2GHz processor, HD video recording and new high-resolution screens, with HSPA support up to 14.4Mbit/s plus Wi-Fi and GPS as standard.
Set to ship in the UK later in August, the Bold 9900 (or Bold Touch) is claimed to be the thinnest BlackBerry ever at just 10.5mm. It boasts a sculpted keyboard, like existing Bold models, but also has a 287dpi touch screen, 768MB RAM and 8GB of storage.
The Bold 9900 is also the first BlackBerry to support near-field communications technology, and RIM said that it is working with partners to enable applications for contactless payments and pairing with peripheral devices by simply touching them to the handset.
Due in September, the BlackBerry Torch 9860 is an all touch-screen device, and again one of the thinnest BlackBerry models available at 11.5mm.
It features a "spectacular" 3.7in display, claimed as the largest ever on a BlackBerry, plus accelerometer and digital compass. It has 768MB RAM with 4GB storage, expandable to 32GB.
The BlackBerry Torch 9810, also due in September, updates RIM's slider phone line with double the processing power, offering "the best of both worlds" with its Qwerty keyboard and touch screen, RIM said. It features 768MB RAM plus 8GB storage.
New features of the BlackBerry 7 platform include support for augmented reality applications, an overhaul of the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) app, enhanced browser, and more responsive "liquid graphics" support using hardware acceleration.
Augmented reality support is delivered via the Wikitude augmented reality browser, which supports over 150 million points of interest globally and "opens up a whole world of new possibilities", Orr said.
The new BBM 6 includes the ability to link to other applications to make them "socially interactive", according to Orr, including support for developers within the BBM SDK.
Ovum principal analyst Tony Cripps said that the success of the new platform could prove crucial for RIM.
"On the face of it, the new Bold and Torch models look competitive. However, the real proof of the pudding is whether their software-driven experience captures the imagination of third parties who might wish to write and deploy applications or content to those devices," he commented.
BlackBerry 7 OS also includes the full premium version of the Documents To Go app suite, following RIM's acquisition of developer Dataviz earlier this year.
Summing up, Orr said that the new portfolio offers "unparalleled choice for users in form factor and design", and promised further new handsets soon.
In addition to the three models announced here aimed at the European market, RIM unveiled the Bold 9930 and Torch 9850, CDMA versions of the Bold 9900 and Torch 9860 respectively, for the US market.
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