4 of 10Image
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.
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.