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BlackBerry WES

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Apr 26, 2010, 9:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman
updated Apr 29, 2010, 8:32 AM

Phone Scoop is on site in Orlando at RIM's Wireless Enterprise Symposium event. RIM introduced two new BlackBerries -- Pearl 9100 3G and Bold 9650 -- and BlackBerry 6.

Part 1

Pearl 9100 3G 

The Pearl 9100 3G from RIM is a big improvement in the Pearl line of devices. The form factor hasn't changed overmuch, but the guts of the device sure have. Phone Scoop spent some time with it at RIM's Wireless Enterprise Symposium event.

The Pearl 3G feels great in the hand. It's solid, compact, and RIM has manufactured it with high-quality plastic and metal materials. It feels every bit the business phone it is intended to be. There are two versions of the new Pearl, a 20-key variant and a 14-key varient. The 20-key is similar to what the Pearl has always been available with. The 14-key is new for the Pearl line.

 

Pearl 9100 3G

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The new display (for both variants) looks great. RIM has packed in extra pixels, and its extremely bright and colorful. It is by far the best display available from the Pearl line.

The 20-key version will continue to be controversial. The Pearl 9100 3G offers the best version of a 20-key keyboard with SureType, but it still manages to be a bit mushy. The keys have a very distinct shape to them. In fact, they probably have too much shape to the point that they are almost point. There are deep valleys and peaks on the keyboard. The SureType predictive text entry works as well as it always has. Some times it works great, some times it is really annoying.

The 14-key is new. It goes with a standard phone dial pad, but still uses SureType (instead of T9). From left to right, the rows are one solid piece rather than individual keys, so the "1", "2", and "3" buttons are one large button rather than individual. Same for the "4", "5", and "6" and "7", "8", and "9" rows. The smooth shape actually feels better under your thumb than the 20-key version, and the peaks and valleys are less defined (and less pointy).

Here's what the keyboards look like side-by-side:

 

Pearl 9100 & 9105

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The two new Pearls are identical in every other way. The 3.5mm headset jack is on the left side of the Pearl, and the microUSB port is below that. There is a smooth application key that can be customized to the user's will.

The volume toggle and second application key are placed on the right. All these buttons are easy to find and easy to use. They have good travel and feedback.

 

Pearl 9105

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

As for the operating system, the Pearl 9100 3G runs BlackBerry OS 5.0. It looks identical to what's been offered on the Bold 9700 and other devices for some time. I will say this, however. The Pearl has a 624MHz processor in it, and it FLIES. It is the fastest, most responsive BlackBerry I have ever used. In short, it's amazing to use.

Here's a video of the device in action:

Bold 9650 

The Bold 9650 is the first CDMA variant of the Bold, but if you've used a BlackBerry Tour, you've seen the Bold 9650 before.

The 9650 takes the guts of the Bold 9700 and stuffs it into the body of the Tour. The Bold 9650 is bigger than the Bold 9700 in every dimension, and has a slightly different shape to the phone. It feels excellent in the hand. Again, RIM goes all-out with quality materials with this phone. Everything about it feels top notch. It does feel a tad on the heavy side, but it is not a bulky phone at all.

 

Bold 9650

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The keyboard is identical to the Tour's and has the scallop-shaped keys. I found the keyboard to be solid and each of the keys offered good travel and feedback. I was able to peck out a few test messages with no problem. The keys aren't very big, but the slightly larger layout (when compared to the 9700) are enough of an improvement that the typing experience is good.

The 9650 also has an optical trackpad for on-screen navigation. So far, no one makes trackpads as good as BlackBerry. The trackpad is lightning quick and very responsive. The fact that users can customize its sensitivity helps out. I like it much better than the trackball.

On the left side you'll find only an application key. No other controls are placed there. The right side of the 9650 houses nearly everything else. At the top is the 3.5mm headset jack. Below that is the volume toggle. The volume toggle feels pretty good. It is small, and easy to accidentally press up when you mean down and vice versa, but the action is good. An application key is below the volume toggle. It, too, is hard to find, but the action is spot on. Last you'll find the microUSB port.

The 3.2 megapixel camera and flash are on the back, where RIM has always placed them. It is a bit of a disappointment that RIM didn't upgrade the cameras on either the 9650 or the 9100 3G.

The user interface is identical to the previous Bold and Tour, using BlackBerry OS 5.0. I bounced around inside the OS for a while and didn't notice anything new or exciting.

In all, these devices are evolutionary in the strictest sense of the word and not revolutionary at all. Despite their "wow" factor, they are solid upgrades.

Part 2

OS 6 Photos 

Research In Motion provided a video demonstration of its new operating system in action. Here's a picture gallery of what the OS looks like.

 

BlackBerry OS 6

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

OS 6 Video 

BMW & Bluetooth 

One of the cooler demos we saw at WES this year was a new application created by RIM and BMW together. The application uses Bluetooth to sync email from a BlackBerry to a BMW's iDrive dashboard.

According to BMW's engineers, the application uses a new Bluetooth protocol called MAP. Both the car (BMW 335is) and the BlackBerry were running Bluetooth 2.0+EDR. Once paired, the BMW ingests all the contacts from the BlackBerry and will also sync email.

The application lets drivers scan through email headers and subjects, but not read them (for obvious reasons). The application will, however, read emails to the driver. If there is a phone number embedded in the email, drivers can also choose to initiate a call through the software. The call will then be conducted via speakerphone in the car.

It is controlled via the BMW's iDrive knob in the center console of the car and the messages and other information are displayed where the in-car nav app is located. Using the iDrive knob, it was pretty easy to bounce through emails and a contact database.

It worked pretty well, and looked like a safer way to access email when driving in a car. But it still qualifies as a distraction in my book. Here's a video demonstration.

Part 3

Podcast 

Phone Scoop had the opportunity to sit down and conduct a frank discussion about Research In Motion with the editorial teams of CrackBerry.com and BoyGeniusReport.com. We pulled no punches. The conversation, which runs about 43 minutes in length, covers a range of topics. We spoke about the new 9100 Pearl 3G and 9650 Bold handsets; BlackBerry 6; RIM's management style; its commitment to both the consumer and enterprise customer segments; and what we all think RIM needs to do to ward off Apple, Google, Microsoft and others.

Since Phone Scoop doesn't have its system set up to host a podcast or distribute one via iTunes, you can head over to listen to our thoughts at CrackBerry.com.

Participants included Kevin Michaluk, Adam Zeis, Bla1ze, and Isaac Kendall from CrackBerry; Boy Genius (Jonathan Gellar), Michael Bettiol, and Andrew Munchbach from BoyGeniusReport.com, and Eric Zeman from PhoneScoop.com.

You can listen here.

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