A history of BlackBerry in nine iconic handsets (and one 'meh' tablet): Photos

A history of BlackBerry in nine iconic handsets (and one 'meh' tablet): Photos

Summary: BlackBerry 10 is just around the corner, but before it arrives take a look at the handsets that made RIM a titan in the enterprise space. Will its next batch of handsets be enough to get businesses and consumers back on side?

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  • Blackberry 7210

    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.

    Image: CNET

  • Blackberry 7100t

    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.

  • Blackberry Pearl 8100

    In September 2006, RIM introduced the BlackBerry Pearl 8100, its first real effort to attract consumer attention to its wares after dominating the business market.

    Alongside its SureType keyboard, 64MB of memory (with support for microSD expansion), 2.25-inch colour screen and integrations of RIM's now notable enterprise features it was also the first BlackBerry handset to offer a camera (1.3-megapixel!) and a media player application.

    It also replaced RIM's well-worn thumbpad with a trackball for more precise operation for the first time; a feature that would become a staple of other RIM devices.

    A later model (the 8120) was the first Pearl to offer the option of Wi-Fi. Another model, the 8220, was called the Pearl Flip (perhaps a response to the success of the Razr V3 the previous year) and was the first of RIM's clamshell chassis handsets.

    The day before the 8100 was announced, RIM's stock price stood at $81, and it actually had a small decrease on the 7 September, but by the end of the month, on 26 September, RIM's shares closed above $100 for the first time: $102.65, to be exact.

    With staple consumer features like a camera and media playback functionality, RIM started to make headway in the consumer market thanks to the Pearl, which remains one of the company's bestselling handsets of all time.

    By the end of December the share price had reached around $128 as RIM continued to show a dominance and understanding of the business handset and services market, as well as increased success with consumer buyers. However, Apple's iPhone was yet to launch.

Topics: BlackBerry, Mobility, Smartphones

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

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16 comments
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  • Are you for real?

    The PlayBook outperformed all iPads up to the iPad 3. Obviously you know next to nothing about the PlayBook.

    Ease of use on the PlayBook has long been heralded as better than all comers, and a lot of that ease of use is baked into BB10 and helping fuel their stock surge and preorders selling out at some carriers...
    sagec
    • @sagec

      Exacta-mundo sir!!! A "meh" tablet?? The Playbook is arguably the most productive tablet on the market. Forget how it was first released...I'm talking about after their 2.1 update. It's been a magnificent tablet since...and for an extremely cheap price at that. And when BB10 is available for it, it will almost be like having a new device altogether. Do your homework, you're supposed to be teh "professional" smh
      Kess So Harlem
    • Aside from opinion

      Do you have anything to back this up?

      As far as I remember, the Playbook released to a pretty tepid response, and lacked key features (like email). Between the rather anemic ecosystem and the limited launch functionality, I'm not sure how you can say that the Playbook outperformed the iPad. And I'm not sure who it was that heralded it as being better than all other tablets.

      I think people tend to forget that hardware is really only a small part of what makes a tablet work. Without seriously polished user interface and functionality, a tablet is simply a nice toy.

      I'd love to see RIM produce a hot tablet, but the Playbook just isn't it.
      lapland_lapin
  • BlackBerry envy

    I remember wanting the BlackBerry Bold 9000 even though the iPhone was out. I liked the Playbook when it came out. I hope it gets a new lease of life with BB10. I have a soft spot for BlackBerry even though I'm a massive Android fan right now. I hope RIM's future is a bit brighter if the new batch of devices shine.
    Chris 'Ichi'
  • BB PlayBook

    Granted the original Playbook was a bit low on features, but the current 64GB Playbook 2.0 is feature and performance rich. It has native e-mail (among many other things), a very snappy interface, a real HD dsiplay, and I love it. It a productivity tool that I use every day.

    I use it for e-mail (hotmail, yahoo, and corporate), texting, web browsing, video, audio, reference, ebooks, creating spreadsheets, two cameras, photo editing... and on and on and on. I have many apps that I use often for music, medical, and other purposes.
    bb_apptix
  • Playbook

    The Playbook was an excellent tablet, with no apps to speak of. RIM did not understand the market at all. The hardware and the OS were excellent, but you could not do that much with it.
    hayneiii@...
    • Really?

      I can do every task on my PlayBook you can do on an iPad or Android Tablet. My playbook goes everywhere with me. My iPad 3 sits on the coffee table used mostly by guests. My android (ICS) sits in a dock collecting dust.
      mkelley65
    • PlayBook has changed

      Since its release, the PlayBook has changed quite a bit with the OS updates, and while not every major app is available for it, there are quite a few great apps and games now. I use my PB all the time, but even at release, it did a fantastic job at what a tablet really was made for: web browsing. Really a great browser with Flash support that really is important if you want to view most online video content. I actually have a quite a few apps and games on my PlayBook. I take it with me everywhere (great portability being 7"), and I also can get online anywhere even without wifi, just due to seamless bridge connectivity to my BB phone (without needing to pay for tethering). So I think the PB is very underrated and gets a lot more slack than it deserves. It will also be getting BB10 too. Well worth the price for me (I bought at launch), but I've also bought a few others at the lower prices that made it a great gift too.
      Preston Scheuneman
    • Developer support

      RIM has worked tirelessly to fix the lack of Apps issue. They were at the game developer's conference last year pushing the Playbook. They've thrown a lot of money at developer to get them to port games to the Playbook.
      Charles Doty
  • PlayBook bashing has to stop!

    We use PlayBooks between two prototype workshops about 30 miles apart. Concept 3D CAD drawings are speedily e-mailed to the remote workshop and the techies begin building the physical prototypes. Detail conflicts are highlighted via VideoChat and a customized grid and scaling system.
    A pair of them were bought for the price of one I-Pad, and we are saving time, money and frustration because the shop floor guys get prompt response via the Playbook facilities.Since we don't play games, we don't miss the I-Pad apps.
    ScotCan
  • Love seeing the old models

    While its great seeing my old 5810, 7210, 8800 (museum pieces!) the images are missing all the new models with the trackpad, for example the curve, bold & torch (my current model). I don't think the Playbook is "meh" we use ours all the time! Looking forward to the new tens.
    rezcowgirl
  • PlayBook VS iPad

    PlayBook - stereo speakers, iPad - mono speaker.

    Yes, in 2013 the iPad has the same speakers as some 1960s transistor radio from Japan.
    Susan Antony
  • PlayBook with BB10

    The PlayBook will be great with BB 10 on it. I think people should go and get one now while they are available so they can use the new BB10 ecosystem while they are still on contract with their phones.
    Of course, after going Black, they may not want to go back (to their other OS).
    Susan Antony
  • Not meh for me

    I got the Playbook about a month after launch and have never regretted it. For the first few months I will admit it gathered a fair amount of dust as I tried to figure out exactly where a tablet would fit into my life. It has worked its way into my day to day quite nicely now where I find I'm rarely without it.

    I haven't found anything yet I wanted it to do that it couldn't. So, it's very far from meh in my opinion. What gathers dust now is my computers, which only get powered up to record and edit video.
    stiney20
  • can't put mine down

    I got the Playbook at launch, I also have a BB so the no native email, calendar was no problem for me but can see how it was a problem for many. I hope someone got waterboarded for releasing it that way (Jim Balsille probably) but since 2.0 there is no reason for folks to at least check it out, its a sweet tablet, can't put the little ba$tard down
    gordongr
  • Late to the party!

    Well I was going to say something in defense of the Playbook; which I use more and like WAY more than my iPad 3. But you guys have done a pretty good job of that. The only thing the iPad has on the Playbook is screen size, which, oddly enough, is a reason why I like the Playbook better. Not to mention the OS is 10X better.
    IM4CHRST