David Ciccone over at MobilityToday.com has a great collection of photos of an as-of-yet unreleased camera-phone version of Research in Motion's BlackBerry 8100 series. It doesn't look anything like the phone pictured in RIM's camera phone patent application that fellow ZDNet blogger Russell Shaw wrote about last month. Last year, I asked if RIM might be losing its edge, citing the absence of the multimedia features that were turning up in most other handsets. People actually do like to mix business with pleasure. I like keeping digital photos and flics of my family members in my smartphone. Now, it looks like RIM is looking to pull even with the rest of the crowd.
Shown below, with Ciccone's permission, is one of the photos that pictures a candy-bar like smartphone that's similar in design to RIM's 7100 series. Going back my review of 7100 series of smartphones, I thought the ergonomics on the T-Mobile version was better than those of the Cingular version. Based on Ciccone's photos (showing the Cingular version of an 8100), it looks like Cingular has swung completely in the direction of T-Mobile design from a keyboard point of view. Me personally? I never liked the 7100's shared-key keyboard design and prefer a full QWERTY keyboard where there's one key per letter (like the one pictured in the patent application). In Ciccone's other pictures, you can see the user interface elements for accessing still image, video, and ringtone functionality.
As a sidebar, Ciccone also has the scoop (a review) on the first ever USB-based EVDO card (provisioned by Sprint). This comes in handy for those tablets and tiny PCs that are so small that they don't have a PC Card slot.