Why the BlackBerry 9800 Smartphone Won't Slay the Mighty iPhone

Along with rumors that it'll rival the iPhone come others that say it has its own iPhone-like antenna issues.

RIM 9800

RIM is rumored to be releasing its hottest handset, the BlackBerry Bold 9800 at an event with AT&T next week. It's destined to be an AT&T-exclusive, which is also chiming with some media noise about the Bold 9800 being RIM's "iPhone killer."

Reuters is reporting a group of cell phone industry analysts are strongly hinting the Bold 9800 will launch at the upcoming RIM press event next Tuesday August 3rd in the morning, Eastern Standard Time. According to these informed folk, the timing is critical, and the sooner "they are going to say it is going to be available, the better," as the market appears primed for excellent sales. It's no coincidence that Apple's iPhone 4 launched just a few weeks ago, either.

What do we know about the 9800? It's the first device that'll be running RIM's new flavor of OS, BlackBerry 6 (bringing a faster webkit browser and new, sleeker look and feel to the UI, which has been looking clunky and old-fashioned compared to its Apple and Android rivals), and it will be similar to some previous incarnations of the BlackBerry, with a large touchscreen that slides vertically to reveal a physical keypad. Amusingly enough, given the fact that a big-shot news agency like Reuters is calling it a serious rival to the iPhone, there's some discussion online that a leaked demonstration video of the 9800 reveals that it may suffer from a similar "death grip" antenna effect like that reported to affect the iPhone 4.

Will Apple be nervous? Probably not. The iPhone has revolutionized the smartphone market, and the newest unit has been selling like hotcakes, despite the press furor around the phone's potential antenna performance issues. It's also been grabbing increasing numbers of business users (and even more so with the iPad), which is RIM's traditional stomping-ground—to such an extent that RIM's even been forced to appeal more and more to the consumer market. The 9800 is not an "iPhone killer," sorry Reuters.

Still, the market price of RIM's shares bumped up slightly today on the news, and the phone will certainly find good sales among BlackBerry enthusiasts, and consumers who are shy of Apple—assuming the 9800 hits the shelves at the right price (though its leaked off-contract retail price of $700 isn't very promising in this regard). The phone will debut on AT&T before hitting Canada and Europe later in the year.

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  • Sean

    So it seems that it was just a few months too soon that I upgraded to a Storm 2.

    Now, why is AT&T getting the exclusive on this, though? I really don't go for one-carrier cel phone plans - that's part of why I've avoided picking up an iPhone.

    It looks it could be like a fine cel phone model - I'm sure the slide-out keyboard will be much easier to use than the BlackBerry Storm 2's on-screen keyboard tends to be, at least for a fellow with stubby digits. Granted, I'm not sure about the utility of that thumb-pad quasi-track-ball thing on a touch-screen, but I guess that they must have a use for it, somehow.

    We'll see how it goes, I guess. I'm glad RIM is still in the market, at least - haven't missed their newest run of online commercials (viz a viz Hulu) either

  • Tim Jones

    The battle for smartphone dominance is between Blackberry and Android. 3 years now since iPhone launched, and Blackberries keep outselling iPhones with all the Apple overhype. 160,000 Androids vs 65,000 iPhone 4s, sold each day

    Steve Jobs is nervous, having tied Apple's fortunes to the iPhone. iPhone sales of 8.4 million are lower, compared to Q1 (8.75M) and Q4 of 2009 (8.7M). iPhone market share is down to 14% from peak in Q3 of 2009, of 17%; while the global smartphone market grew 10% over the past 6 months. And Android's assault against the iPhone is just starting. No wonder Steve Jobs' railing against Google's motto: "This don't be evil mantra. It's BS"

    Why the iPad Won't Slay the Mighty Netbook: netbooks do more and cost less than the iPad.

    Ah, Apple- that niche computer company in Cupertino.

  • Robert penn warren

    For a long time RIM has made it nearly impossible to develop creative and meaningful third party apps, in fact most good seemingly third party apps IE IM clients, and social networking clients, are actually developed in house by RIM, ifunia, who declared they are dedicated in creating affordable and easy multimedia software to simplify your Mac life, and they did, needs some help with blackberry and apple. Change the form factor again if you like RIM, but the iPhone and Android are going to keep eating your lunch until you provide something rich for developers to create for.

  • Andrew Soep

    1. It's not really amusing that the 9800 would suffer from the "death grip" considering every single phone in the history of man kind suffers from the issue. The only reason it has become an issue at present, is because Apple made such a big deal about this new antennae technology that they implemented, mixed with how horrific AT&T's service is.

    2. The iPhone Killer is another marketing term invented to generate hype, and a tremendously poor one at that. Apple is successful because it knows how to create excellent products that work well, and they then know how to market it so that people think it's the single greatest invention mankind has ever conceived. No "device" will kill the iPhone, only Apple can do that. What could kill the iPhone, is an operating system that is designed as well as the iPhone OS is; this is not BlackBerry OS 6. Android is on the way, but it needs a strong redesign of its interface in order to take the next step. Until that happens, nothing will kill the iPhone, because it's the best designed and marketed operating system, ever made.

    Apple gets where it gets to because it takes extreme risks, and executes those risks well. BlackBerry 6 is like sticking a toe into a tepid pool. RIM is worried about trying new things that will have the potential to rock the boat. Remember, BlackBerry is still the market leader out there, and people are used to their BlackBerry's. But if someone is really going to dethrone Apple, they need to take some big, unorthodox steps. Google has begun, let's see if it can finish the race.