Under the Zeis Lens: Examining the BlackBerry release timeline

BlackBerry Release Timeline
By Adam Zeis on 7 Jul 2011 02:04 pm EDT
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Let me preface by saying that, although I wish it were easier to compare, any of these numbers can't really go head to head for various reasons. The fact that the devices may be held up for one reason or another on various carriers means that there is not "set in stone" reason as to why some devices take longer than others to hit their release date. Obviously any company always wants to announce their product and push it out as soon as possible. The BlackBerry Torch release is a prime example. RIM announced the device and made is available in just 9 days, the quickest of any recent BlackBerry device launch.

This can't be done in all cases however and is noted by the BlackBerry Bold 9900. RIM had to announce a device at BlackBerry World and the Bold 9900/9930 just happened to be the chosen one. It makes sense that they would only announce one device so as not to kill off any sales of existing devices in the process. If the new Torch or Curve line were also announced, there would be no incentive for new users or those looking to upgrade to get a new device, and instead they would wait for these to hit the market. Any remaining stock of current devices would just sit and wait and that would be a bad thing for RIM. That being said, lets take a look back at some of the more popular devices and the time it took them to hit the market after being officially announced by Research In Motion.

Examining the BlackBerry release timeline

Let's start from the bottom and work our way up. Obviously one of the most recent releases, the BlackBerry Torch 9800, was a much anticipated device that had a fairly smooth launch overall. We heard endless rumors about the Torch but for the most part there weren't too many leaked devices floating around prior to the device actually being released. RIM held a launch party (if you could call it that - it was more of an announcement party) for the Torch in New York at which they showed off their first touchscreen/QWERTY combo as well as announced an AT&T release date of just 9 days later. This is the quickest announcement to launch of any device in recent memory and was helped out by the fact that AT&T was the exclusive carrier at launch.

Next up the line is the BlackBerry Curve 3G which comes in with just 11 days between announcement and launch. While not the most talked about device, the Curve 3G (as well as the entire Curve series) is still one of the best selling BlackBerry Smartphones. We seem to not get too excited when it comes to Curve talk for the most part, but with the next generation Curve and Curve touch on the way, the series should get a bit of love in the coming months.

The BlackBerry Bold 9650 was a big step for CDMA users as it brought a much needed upgrade to the BlackBerry Tour 9630. While many users (myself included) thought the Bold 9650 was what the Tour should have been, it was still a pretty big device for RIM. The Bold 9650 took 20 days from announcement to launch as many CDMA users waiting anxiously for their much needed device upgrades. Sadly this was the last "big" CDMA device we've seen in over a year from RIM.

The BlackBerry Bold 9780 was the followup to the much loved BlackBerry Bold 9700. While the 9700 was (and still is) a well loved device all around, the Bold 9780 was a welcomed upgrade for users all around. The Bold 9780 took just 21 days to launch as it made its way to Rogers in Canada followed a few days later by T-Mobile in the USA. While we've yet to see it come to AT&T (as we originally thought it would) we've now turned to new devices for the carrier.

Rewind now to 2008. The elusive Bold that Kevin managed to snag off eBay became a huge hit before it even hit the market. The "Cadillac of BlackBerry smartphones" was all over the place and everyone was anxious to get a look at the sexiest BlackBerry to date. After the rumor buzz died off, the device was announced on May 12th 2008, but it wasn't until August (102 days later) that the Bold 9000 finally made it's way to Rogers in Canada. If you remember it took even longer to hit AT&T in the states as it was held up for various reasons. The Bold 9000 didn't land until mid-November, putting it close to the 200+ days (here in the US) that it took the PlayBook to see the light of day. This also puts it at the top of the list for the longest announcement to release of all devices - sans PlayBook of course.

The BlackBerry PlayBook is the "exception" in the sense that it was RIMs first tablet entry and there were no other device like it from RIM already on the market. The PlayBook took a whopping 204 days from announcement to hit store shelves. There was no fear of announcing the device early as RIM had no other tablet sales to worry about. In the case of phones there is always the need to unload the current devices before introducing new ones, however for the PlayBook this was not an issue as they had no other tablets at the time. RIM again had to announce a device at their BlackBerry Developers Conference and surprised everyone with the BlackBerry PlayBook and not a new handheld device. 204 days later we finally saw it available to consumers, making it the longest announcement to launch in RIM history.

So here we are now, anxiously awaiting the release of the BlackBerry Bold 9900 and 9930 (and a few other devices that haven't yet been officially announced) and we're already 66 days since the official announcement and still not one step closer to having the devices. The original press release did say "summer" regarding a release, but unfortunately we don't have much else to go on here. Historically we can't really compare one device launch to another since there are so many variables in each situation, but the Bold 9900/9930 is shaping up to be one of the longest yet. Granted when the devices finally do see the light of day and make their way to consumers, the other next-gen devices like the BlackBerry Curve 9360, Torch 9810 and others will surely be following very quickly. All of these devices will need to hit market before the end of the year, so the longer we wait without hearing about them, the closer we get to an actual release. In an ideal world devices would be pushed out as quickly as possible after an official announcement (yes like Apple products) but sadly we don't live in an ideal world.

So my fingers are crossed that we'll see the latest BlackBerry devices hit the street before too much longer. RIM has taken a beating as of late, but I'm hopeful that they'll get their stuff together and do things right now. There is a lot more life left for RIM but they need to starting cranking out the hardware. Once we see the full spat of OS 7 devices we'll be holding out for the QNX superphones we're told are on the way.

Reader comments

Under the Zeis Lens: Examining the BlackBerry release timeline

25 Comments

The spy shots were on CB a year before it was ever announced anywhere. It was fully done and manufactured there was no difference from leaked one to the one that was released where was the hold up? I'm sick of waiting around for RIM to release a slightly better version of my phone.

Well this has nothing to do with leaks or "spy shots". If you get into that then you're running down a totally different road where timelines go all over the place. Here I was only looking into actual RIM announcements and official releases.

I believe Mr. Lazaridis said that the new devices will be rolling out at the same time once they are finally launched.

so we re not even close to the original bold numbers yet. since the 9000 was such a success we can only hope for the same of the 9900 except that the competition was maybe less harsh

Adam. Do you have any idea about how the other companies do it? Apple proposes a product and they clearly say 90 days and sometimes it has not even hit the FCC before the anouncement. Sony releases the S1 and we see teasers with no specs and no release dates. Get off the Negative Nancy wagon that your entire office seems to be on and start motivating this world to be buying BlackBerry's and talking up what the current models will do because in a few weeks when you have finished playing with your 4 new toys, will you be back to complaining about how long RIM is taking to deliver new products again. Start showing a strong business who supports its business partners and you will increase your readership and strengthen of your own company in time for RIM to increase with you. Open your eyes and look outside North America for a change.

"Outside North America" only reflects a time lag of approximately 6 months. Trust me, I'm outside the Americas and I feel the frustration of picking a RIM device.

And what Adam is doing is being true to its viewers. "Partnering" with RIM isn't what Crackberry is all about. Its about being true to the fans, no matter how hard the truth is to swallow. It isn't always about the money, son.

Don't think this is really all that negative. It's not meant as a complaint or rant but merely an examination of the biggest devices for RIM in recent history. Just stating facts and expressing my thoughts on the subject. Sure it may sound negative, but if we aren't being honest when we write posts then what's the point? No one wants a 100% happy go lucky fanboy site that hides behind the truth right?

We're always all about buying BlackBerry too. This doesn't really have anything to do with owning or not owning a BlackBerry, just highlighting issues with releases. I'm by no means telling anyone to jump ship and go with another platform. We're all BlackBerry lovers and its our job to write about the good, bad and ugly. So this piece is just part of the flow so take it as you will.

I don't think this was overly negative! First, it was interesting. Second, I filed it as "I can't wait for the new devices, lets analyze how long other things have taken cos Adam is excited" not "Adam is whining".

Also, you said Apple proposes and then there's 90 days? In recent times, haven't all Apple "official" product announcements been a mere week or less before product availability?

I think 2 phones that should be added to this blog would be the Storm and the Style. The only reason I bring this up is because the Torch was an exclusive to ATT, as the other devices I mentioned were also exclusives. The Storm for sure should be on that list for the anticipation and hype that device made up to it's release.

"That would be a bad thing for rim" ?? I highly doubt that it's much of a problem. Or at least it isn't for Samsung, Apple or Motorola, just to name a few.

RIM's customer policy leaves much to be desired,most ppl are already aware of products that are in the pipeline. We all have access to the w w w.

Question is however, why do they take so long to push it through? I think it's all logistical. Having 2 CEOs instead of one is a prime example of the communication inefficiency that RIM faces.

Cut red tape. Streamline the whole experience. Just the number of different software versions from different carriers is sucha headache.

I tend to think of the duration of the announcement-to-launch period is a function of RIM's marketing needs at the time of the announcement, rather than as necessarily being indicative of some dysfunction on RIM's part. The Playbook was a whole new market for RIM and one already heavily dominated by its rivals. The decision to announce 200 days before launch was to get RIM in the tablet conversation and to hold onto RIM consumers who might have opted to by a rival's tablet in the absence of an official launch date. So it isn't a case of RIM thinking he Playbook would be ready in 60 days and it taking 200 (and for all those extra days, it still launched incomplete).

With the Torch, the rumors were so persistent and widespread that the official announcement was a formality. It was, IIRC, almost 6 months after the first photos of the Torch were circulating that the Torch finally released, not the 9 days as appears in the chart. The Torch buzz was building then, without the official announcement, and RIM was in a comfortable enough position to sit on the news. When they are confident of demand, I expect the company limes to hold its own counsel and play its cards close to the vest.

But with the next slew of releases, there are obvious pressures for RIM to make announcements ahead of their comfort zone -- the stock price, the terrible press, RIM needed to get the narrative back toward the positive. Of course, once they'd announced, every day that passes without a launch is held against RIM. Regardless of what the cause of the delay is, if delay it is. I wonder how big an impact the wait will have. The duration I am interested in is how long between the 9900 and the Torch 2 for my carrier. I am a Bold and Torch user, so I know these devices will be worth the wait and I'm not going to panic and buy a Droid or Iphone if it takes a few extra weeks.

Great article Adam. I agree. Some think leaks count as "official announcements" of phones. If that was the case, the Bold 9900 was announced for 2+ years :D.

Hopefully RIM can get their act together and learn from their recent mistakes and start getting back on top.

I guess I miss the point of the article, yet so many people say "great article".

The development cycle has NOTHING to do with announcement to on sale date timing. For the story to carry any true comparison, one would need to know with certainty that each product was announced at the same point in development. There are most certainly toll gates for reviews and stages of testing, if the announcement came at the same tollgate / review point and they differed from there, that means *something*, but what that means to the end customer depends on what caused the variation in timing until on sale.

mmcpher is the only person that seems to get this. RIM announcements come based on marketing needs, not some tollgates indicating progress in the development cycle, and that's why nothing is being made official yet... it's still too far out until release for sale.