Monday, October 18, 2010

Halloween Will Usher in BlackBerry Style Flip Phone

The new flip-style BlackBerry Style 9670 will debut on Sprint on Halloween. The BlackBerry Style will be Sprint's first phone running the BlackBerry 6 OS. Research In Motion expects the $99 BlackBerry Style's flip factor will appeal to some U.S. consumers. An analyst said navigation will be a key issue for RIM's BlackBerry Style 9670.

Sprint Nextel and Research In Motion plan to release a treat with a few tricks on Halloween: The new BlackBerry Style 9670. The first Sprint smartphone to run the updated BlackBerry 6 operating system will debut on Oct. 31.

The flip phone features an optical trackpad, a QWERTY keyboard, a 240-by-36-pixel external display and a 360-by-400 internal display, and a five-megapixel camera with flash, autofocus and video Relevant Products/Services. The Wi-Fi-compatible phone comes with eight gigabytes of storage and is expandable to 32GB with a memory card.

Expanded Messaging

The Style will be the second phone to run BlackBerry 6 after the Torch, which debuted on AT&T in August. The Style features expanded messaging capabilities with intuitive features for social networking and RSS feeds, as well as integrated access to BlackBerry Messenger and other preinstalled messaging applications. It will sell for $99 with a new two-year contract after a $100 mail-in rebate Relevant Products/Services. That is cheaper than the average smartphone cost of $200.

"The beautiful and compact flip form factor on the BlackBerry Style smartphone makes it quite unique within the BlackBerry lineup," said Fared Adib, Sprint's vice president for product development. "Customers will appreciate that the flip form factor is extremely easy to use for calls, and with a full QWERTY keyboard it provides the same attractive features enthusiasts have come to expect from their smartphone."

David Smith, vice president of product management Relevant Products/Services for Canada-based RIM, said the flip form factor, which was more popular in the earlier stages of cell-phone development, "appeals to a very distinct but sizable set of consumers in the U.S., and we're pleased to work with Sprint to bring this unique new BlackBerry smartphone to their customers."

According to Sprint, BlackBerry 6 integrates a new WebKit-based browser and features tabs for accessing multiple sites simultaneously as well as "mouse-like navigation with the optical trackpad and a zoom feature that intelligently autowraps text in a column."

Kirk Parsons, a senior wireless analyst at J.D. Power and Associates, said the new arrival could appeal to customers not yet sold on touchscreens. "Most of the feature phones are flip phones, so perhaps having a smartphone in that form factor would be appealing," he said.

The Touchscreen Advantage

"Easy navigation will be a key factor in the device's overall appeal because if users find it difficult to get to applications or to find what they are looking for, then it won't sell all that well," Parsons said. "This is why most SP devices have touchscreens, as it makes it easier to navigate."

RIM, long the smartphone leader in the U.S. market, has been losing ground to phones powered by Google Relevant Products/Services's Android OS and Apple's iOS.

A Nielsen report earlier this month found that Android had gobbled up 32 percent of the market from February to June this year, while BlackBerry fell to 26 percent, virtually tied with Apple's 25 percent.

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