Thursday, May 23, 2024

RIM Readies its BlackBerry iPhone Killer

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The BlackBerry Storm’s arrival next Friday marks Research in Motion’s (RIM) official competitive shot against Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone and also puts two new BlackBerries head-to-head during the upcoming holiday buying season.

Exclusive carrier Verizon Wireless said today it will offer the Storm 9730, featuring the first-ever BlackBerry touch screen and 3G capability, for $200 with a two-year data plan and a $50 rebate.

The Storm’s touchscreen is viewed as a huge selling point for non-BlackBerry users who like the iPhone’s design. Experts have cited the touch screen feature as having a phenomenal impact on the smartphone market since it debuted with the first iPhone in 2007. The 3G capability, which RIM initially debuted with its Bold handset that debuted in early November, has propelled strong sales for Apple since it released its 3G handset in June.

Storm users have both a touchscreen and Qwerty (standard keyboard layout) options. Users rotate the handset to portrait mode to use the touchscreen’s SureType predictive keyboard, which emulates the feel and sound of a keyboard. The handset can then be flipped to landscape mode to use the Qwerty keyboard.

AT&T, the biggest wireless player until Verizon bought up Alltel last month, is the exclusive carrier for RIM’s Bold 3G/WiFi device.

Storm’s arrival so soon after the Bold’s debut reflects the intense competition among handset vendors and carriers for both consumer and business users wanting fast networks, richer applications and snazzier handset designs.

Carriers hoping to reduce customer churn, and sell more data services as that makes up the lion’s share of revenue, need compelling devices with unique features, according to industry observers.

Collisions and counterattacks

“Apple and RIM are clearly on a collision course in the consumer smart phone market, as the three new products from RIM get launched to counterattack the market assault from the Apple 3G iPhone,” states a recent ChangeWave research report.

“The real test is how satisfied consumers will be with their new Blackberries,” said ChangeWave.

RIM is one of the last major handset players to market a touchscreen device. Nokia, LG Electronics and Samsung portfolios all now include touchscreen handsets.

Even struggling handset maker Motorola jumped on the bandwagon in October with its Ming phone. Also, the Google-powered the G1 from T-Mobile, debuted recently with a touchscreen. HP is supposedly working on a touchscreen device as well.

In addition to touchscreens, price is also a key competitive element. The Storm sells at the same price as the iPhone 3G, and not much higher than the HTC G1, which costs $179 from T-Mobile.

And the Storm is much cheaper than RIM’s Bold which AT&T is selling for $299 with a two-year data contract agreement.

The smartphone’s price, said experts, reflects industry research that predicts handset costs to drop over the next few months as the holiday season nears and macroeconomics impact the wireless industry.

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