The first few weeks of January 2011 brought forth a number of device leaks to the internet, which when combined provide relatively comprehensive insight into what we'll see from Research In Motion this year both in terms of major product launches and device software updates. As you read through this roundup keep in mind that unofficial information can always change by the time it does get officially announced. To make sure you're always up to date, you'll want to keep it locked to CrackBerry.com (follow us via RSS or Twitter) or signup for our CrackBerry newsletter and we'll keep you up to date by email. Keep reading for RIM's 2011 BlackBerry Roadmap!
It's often said that past precedent is the best indicator of future performance and over the past couple of years the varying BlackBerry device form factors and product families have become well established. The Bold, Curve and Pearl families are now staples that span both GSM and CDMA carriers around the globe, and we've seen Torch, Storm and Style devices be used as carrier exclusives in the USA and also get rolled out internationally. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out RIM's next product cycle will mainly involve upgrades within each of these existing product lines.
The main contention coming into the next generation of BlackBerry Smartphones we will see roll out in 2011 is what operating system the devices will utilize. With the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet using the QNX-based BlackBerry Tablet OS and RIM's Co-CEO saying that you will (at some point) see QNX on BlackBerry Smartphones, the hope/possibility existed that QNX could be on the next BlackBerry you run out and buy. That question has now been answered, and the answer is the traditional BlackBerry OS will endure at least a little longer in the form of BlackBerry 6.1, which brings with it a number of new features. We'll talk more on BlackBerry 6.1 more later.
On the hardware side, 2011 will finally see RIM roll out much needed upgrades, bringing forth faster processors, HD video recording, 3D graphics support to new GSM devices, higher resolution displays and memory upgrades. We'll also see the company embrace NFC this year (helping your BB work with accessories or basically allowing you to use your phone as a credit card). Good stuff all around.
So while the operating system improvements will mainly be incremental in 2011, these will by far be the best BlackBerry Smartphones ever built.
Note: Most of the following information either surfaced on CrackBerry.com or BGR.com over the month of January 2011. Info can change and is not guaranteed to be correct. As always, we do our best to provide the clear picture here... you'll want to check back often to make sure you're always up to date.
2011 will finally bring the touchscreen experience to the traditional BlackBerry form factor! Likely to launch as the BlackBerry Bold Touch (we called that name back in 2008 but of course things can change in the name game) the Bold Touch is said to be the thinnest BlackBerry ever and features a forged, machined stainless steel frame. So while the photo above looks a bit like a Bold 9000 with an optical trackpad, expect the profile and rear view shots of this one to get you more excited when they emerge.
BlackBerry Bold Touch Key Specs:
Updated: On February 20th, new REAL photos of the BlackBerry Dakota leaked onto the internet. Click the link for the story and full set of photos, and catch a couple more images below.
Following up the BlackBerry Curve 85xx series and BlackBerry Curve 3G series, the next generation of BlackBerry Curve (we're not sure on naming yet) looks to be stellar upgrade for what RIM considers to be their entry level line of smartphone, giving it a big boost in speed and a sleek new look. The new BlackBerry Curve is set to launch with BlackBerry 6.1 Lite. While no exact details have emerged as to what exactly Lite means at the time of this writing, we suspect it simply leaves out some of the functionality that's associated with the hardware specs of the new devices - the new Curve lacks the touchscreen and sensors (magnetometer, accelerometer, proximity) that its more upscale sibling the Bold Touch will possess.
Next Generation BlackBerry Curve Key Specs:
Monaco and Monza will be successors to the BlackBerry Storm2, but along with others in the BlackBerry-sphere we have our doubts that we'll see the plagued Storm name grace this next-generation full touchscreen BlackBerry Smartphone (we did see RIM phase out the Tour name, so we shouldn't be shocked to see them kill off the Storm name). Also, unlike the Storms before it, this new full touchscreen doesn't have a clickable/SurePress display and also possesses the optical trackpad for non-touchscreen navigation. In a world getting overrun with glass slabs, it could be here that RIM wanted to keep some brand identity present and provide an optional means of navigation for that so-important BlackBerry one-hand ease of use.
At the time of this writing we haven't seen specs yet leak for the GSM version of this device, which is believed to be going under the codename Monaco, nor do we know for certain if like the BlackBerry Storm and Storm2 that this will be a Verizon exclusive in the USA. With Verizon pushing Android and now the iPhone 4 quite heavily, we're really of the mindset RIM's next full touchscreen will be available as are Bolds and Curves. With the highest resolution of any BlackBerry Smartphone to date and support for what RIM is called Enhanced BlackBerry 6.1 and BlackBerry Evolution 6, this could be the hottest BlackBerry of the year (we've even heard rumors this will be the first BlackBerry that runs apps off the external memory card - fingers crossed!).
Next Generation Full Touchscreen BlackBerry Specs:
Update: On February 17th, a video leaked onto the internet of a real BlackBerry Monaco! See video below.
Yes, this is really what the first Torch should have been. Not dwelling on the past, the Torch 2 gets a much-needed upgrade to RIM's newest hardware platform, and will be rocking essentially twice the CPU speed of the first Torch. We still haven't had any concrete word of a CDMA version of the Torch coming up the pipe, though we do know there are a lot of CDMA BlackBerry fans out there who wish there was one. It's interesting to note these initial Torch 2 specs list the RAM at 512MB, but we may see that get bumped up by the time it's officially released given that the Bold Touch and new full-touchscreen BlackBerry will be rocking 768MB (could be CDMA devices requires 768MB as GSM can get away with 512MB - time will tell). The specs on the Torch 2 at the time of this posting are not quite as fully detailed as some of the other devices in this roundup, but hopefully we'll see it launch with the same sort of capabilities as the Bold Touch and new full touchscreen (full out sensors, HD video recording, etc.).
BlackBerry Torch 2 Key Specs:
Maybe the biggest surprise of the 2011 BlackBerry Smartphone roadmap is the introduction of a full touchscreen version of the entry-level BlackBerry Curve line. The BlackBerry Curve Touch will scrap the keyboard in favor of a bigger touchscreen. Though only the CDMA version of the Curve Touch has been detailed so far, we suspect a GSM version to definitely be in the works too (and wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see the CDMA version launch prior to the GSM one).
We have yet to see any BlackBerry Smartphone 2011 information leak out onto the interwebs for updates to the BlackBerry Style or Pearl series, but it wouldn't be crazy to assume upgrades to these devices are in the works. Whether they hit in 2011 or later we don't know yet (afterall, the original Pearl went quite a long time before getting updated to the Pearl 3G), but at this time there's no information to suggest RIM would quit paying attention to these product families either. Keep it locked to CrackBerry to find out more!
Since the announcement of the BlackBerry PlayBook in September 2009, more than smartphone it has felt that RIM is all about tablets. With RIM now stretching its smartest people between pushing out the PlayBook with it's QNX-based OS and working on getting BlackBerry 6.1 out the door for the next generation of phone hardware, we suspect early 2011 to be in a bit of a phone drought. Once the PlayBook is selling, then we'll hopefully start seeing the majority of the new phones launch in Q2 and Q3.
The above roadmap is for a regional CDMA carrier, and you can see devices like the Montana and Monaco are set to launch in Q3. With bigger CDMA carriers and GSM carriers typically historically launching products sooner (regional CDMAs would be on the latter of the priority list), we really hope it will be early in Q2 when we get to start buying devices like the BlackBerry Bold Touch.
And with RIM now re-branding their annual WES conference into BlackBerry World, we're also really hoping to see them turn this event into more of a product launch show than it has been in the past. If we were to see a device like Monaco get announced here (in early May), we'd hope we'd be able to buy one by early into Q3.
If you're not familiar with BlackBerry 6, you'll want to check out our full BlackBerry 6 Review for what's in the current operating system. As for what's happening in BlackBerry 6.1 that these new 2011 devices will get to take advantage of, here's what we can expect:
You can check out the slides below for a bit more detail on these new features and for what BlackBerry 6.1 Evolution details as well.
As we said at the top of this rumormill roundup for 2011, things can always change so you'll want to keep it locked to CrackBerry.com for all the latest details around upcoming BlackBerry Smartphones. For more info, follow the links below for the latest news posts and for dicussion be sure to check out our CrackBerry forums.
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