3 of 10Image
Following a successor to the 850 that had a larger display came the first BlackBerry phone that was actually a phone — well, almost.
Announced on 4 March, 2002, the 5810 was the first of a generation of devices marketed as phones with email capability, rather than as pagers. Despite its exterior — it shared almost the exact same chassis as the earlier 957 — it had all new internals. It was also available in the UK on the BT Cellnet network, now known as O2, as the 5820.
The 5810 worked on a 2G network, used a Java-based platform and allowed for voice calls, except that it required a headset as it didn't have a built-in microphone or speaker. It also offered SMS, organiser and primitive browser functionality, in addition to email.
While RIM was not yet ready to square up to the consumer market (which was still dominated by what is now termed 'dumbphones', but was at the time just 'phones', such as the Nokia 3210), RIM was readying itself for a run at Palm and its devices pitched for business.
However, the clunky phone functionality and design of the device itself couldn't match up to Palm's sleek, anodised aluminium finish found on models like the Palm V.
In mid-2003, BlackBerry launched the 7210 (the 7230 in Europe); its first handset with a colour display and a (now meagre) resolution of 240 x 160 pixels. It had 16MB of storage and had 2MB of RAM.
With a Java platform under the bonnet and a browser on board, users could now open documents, PDFs, Excel and PowerPoint files, cementing its appeal to the business crowd, who sometimes referred to it as a 'BlueBerry' rather than BlackBerry due to its colour. Naturally, that QWERTY keyboard was still in place.
Battery was pretty decent too, with a charge required only every two or three days with normal use.
With the advent of colour displays, RIM was beginning to keep half an eye on the consumer world but it wouldn't be until 2006 that it really started to expand its focus to non-business buyers. Meanwhile Nokia continued to dominate in RIM's non-core business with the release of the Nokia 3100, 3200 and 2100, and Samsung's SGH-E700 also did well.
The handsets contributed to a revival of faith in RIM, and over the space of three months its stock price nearly doubled from around $15 to $28.
The 7100t (7100X on O2 in the UK) was announced for T-Mobile USA in September 2004 and was the first of RIM's handsets to slim down and use the SureType keyboard that assigns two letters to each key, thereby saving space. It also used a predictive text system that learnt from the user from the first time they began to type, giving it an edge over competitors of the time.
While it may have been the first BlackBerry device to look more like a phone than a PDA or pager, it also provided the same corporate integration of its predecessors, with access to features like push email, Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes for BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) customers. Non-BES customers could still access email through a web client timed to retrieve messages every three to 15 minutes.
It was also a quad-band GSM phone, making it truly global, providing it wasn't operator restricted.
It was around this time that RIM began to hit its stride in balancing handset features with security and reliability of its services, leading it to make big gains against competitors using the Windows Mobile platform, which, while enterprise-focused, was not without its foibles.
As importantly, it was one of the first handsets that RIM made that could realistically appeal to consumer buyers, although it failed to make much headway, as it omitted other user-friendly features like a media player or camera. Meanwhile Nokia continued to turn out new models and the Motorola Razr V3 took the world by storm.
Nonetheless, with RIM's confidence and leadership of the enterprise market starting to show through, its share price climbed steadily from October 2003 until the 7100's announcement in late September, doubling from $37.50 to $77. As a side note, it did break the $100 mark briefly during that time, but refused to close a day out at that level. Following the announcement, the price continued to rise, ending just under $83 on 31 December, 2004.