This article refers to both the article BlackBerry 9000 Photos and the Video Above. Be sure to check them both out before reading ahead...
As I write this I'm 5 hours away from heading to Vegas to cover the wireless news coming from CTIA Wireless 2008. I should be sleeping, but I'm one of those people lucky enough to fall asleep on the plane (regardless of the time of day) before it even leaves the ground so I'll get my zzzz's mid-air. Consider yourself lucky I'm not a pilot.
And as I leave for CTIA, I have set a goal for myself. I want to return home in four days having accomplished ONE thing. I want to see/touch/hold a BlackBerry 9000. Maybe that's three things... Ahh well, who's counting?!
I don't expect to see one at RIM's booth - I highly doubt they will have one there for public eyes to view (but if they did that would ROCK), but I KNOW there must be one in Sin City. My eyes will be peeled wide open - at the convention center, in the casinos, on the streets, I'll be looking everywhere! Well...maybe you're safe in the restroom - I'll keep my eyes to myself there - that would be creepy otherwise.
Why do I want to see the BlackBerry 9000 for myself so bad? Because I have a feeling the images don't do it justice. Friday was an exciting day as lots of images (and even the video above!) surfaced of the device. But from reading the blog post comments and forum post comments it seems the initial reactions are really mixed. Some are loving it, while many seem to be less than impressed. I've reserved my judgement for now. I've heard from a friend who knows a friend who has a friend who has a brother-in-law who has a cousin who has actually held the device, and that person says it's "F#$*@$G Awesome!" and I want to believe that, and hence why I have a mission for CTIA.
But even though my overall judgment is still reserved until I get to hold it and use it, I thought it might be good to sum up some of the issues being addressed in the comments, and to spin a little perspective on the BlackBerry 9000. So here goes....
BlackBerry 9000 Photo/Video Reactions
Target Market - When looking at any device, the first thing to consider is "Who is this Device Built for?" Looking at the BlackBerry 9000 - especially in the image where it lines up beside the Curve and the 8800, I think it's safe to say RIM is targeting this device as the eventual replacement of the BlackBerry 8800. It's an enterprise-focused device (not to say consumers won't line up to buy it - I'm sure they will!) but I think it's a bit unfair to judge it for consumer use as I don't think that's RIM's intent. In our last podcast I mentioned a rumor I had heard about the 9000's suggested MSRP (to buy out right, not on contract through a carrier). I heard $900, which is crazy high and hopefully not true, but even the fact someone made that notion verifies we're looking at a BlackBerry that RIM has initially targeted at execs in its function and styling.
Overall Look - iPhone stylings (chrome outline), sort of Moto Qish on the face, yet to me it still looks all BlackBerry. It definitely looks like it has build quality to it, which I also equate to mean that the device will be HEAVY. That's one of the things that's so awesome about the BlackBerry Curve. During the Smartphone Round Robin the Curve made all of the other smartphones seem like big beasts, simply because of it's light weight. The physical dimensions were not significantly smaller, but the Curve feels small. The 9000 "looks" heavy, hence another reason why I want to hold it. Feel is just as important as looks.
Keyboard - This is where a lot of the initial reactions to the 9000 have been less than positive. I don't have solid stats on this, but I would suggest 7-8/10 full qwerty BlackBerry users prefer the Curve/8700's style of keyboard (small buttons, flat keys, spacing in between) over the 8800 series keyboard (big buttons, some contour, no spacing in between). At first glance, the 9000's keyboard looks very much like the 8800s, which is a turn off for many (but remember - there are also many who prefer the 8800's keyboard). Looking at the more zoomed in shot of the keyboard, I think the 9000 is a bit more of a hybrid of the two. There's some spacing between the keys (not much though), but the keys look to have a good contour to them. I know RIM is aware of our nitpicking on keyboards, so my gut tells me they wouldn't put a keyboard onto the 9000 that hasn't passed a whole bunch of user tests. I'm expecting my typing speed to be stellar on it (another reason why I must hold use one before I post judgement).
Battery - The 9000 sports a HUGE looking batter (especially when placed next to the Curve's). I don't think this means much though in terms of overall battery life - with 3G and the 9000's pumped up processor I think battery life will remain similar to where we are now. BUT..big battery = more weight, and that lends to my thoughts that the 9000 might feel like a brick.
Externals - I was hoping for a bigger screen on the 9000, which it doesn't appear to have, but the actual color on it looks pretty darn good. The center navigation controls look good - subtle and sleek, but the big buttons should be easy to hit. MicroSD card slot is externally acessible (I'm pretty sure RIM will never produce another smartphone that has it buried beneath a battery) and all the buttons/convenience keys look good.
OS - Just a new skin. Past rumors have said the 9000 will ship with OS4.6, which looking at the images/movie is probably looking to be true at this time. It's a good looking skin, but the basic OS architecture appears to be the same. I do like the fact there are two background images showing - one for the homescreen bottom dock, but when you click through to the icon view the background changes to solid black. Cool theme.
Overall Photo/Video Reactions: I think it's clear that the BlackBerry 9000 is an evolutionary device, not a revolutionary one. I never touched on the internal components at all here, as this what meant to be a reaction to the photos/video that emerged on Friday, but what's clear to me is that if you're currently a BlackBerry owner you will be able to pick up a BlackBerry 9000 and use it immediately with no learning curve. There's no touchscreen to get used to, no dramatically altered OS - it'll be faster (processing and data), have way more internal memory and probably some cooler features on the OS, but it will still be a BlackBerry through and through. And that ain't a bad thing. I have faith that the 9000 RIM delivers to the market will live up to our CrackBerry expectations.
Geez. 1am CST and I need to leave for the airport at 5:30am. I guess I'd better get packed and head to bed. Talk to ya from Vegas!