A decade (or so) of BlackBerry smartphones (pictures)
BlackBerry's fortunes continue to slide and time is running painfully short for the company. Join CNET for a look back at the great, and not so great, phones that BlackBerry produced.
Editors' note: This gallery was first published on August 5, 2011, and was updated on May 13, 2013, and again on September 20, 2013.
It's been a decade and a year since the first BlackBerry phone went on sale. But now after months of troubles, the company formerly known as Research in Motion shows no sign of reversing its misfortunes. Just today, BlackBerry said it expects to lose $950 million to $995 million in the fiscal second quarter and that it plans to cut 4,500 jobs. What's more, it plans to shift its focus away from general consumers in favor of the business market on which it built its foundation.
The reasons for BlackBerry's decline are many, but it's a sad state for a mobile device pioneer that gave us the word "crackberry." Though it set an early standard for how to bring e-mail to a smartphone, it couldn't compete in an iOS and Android world. Still, it had its share of notable devices since 2002. Keep clicking to see some its highlights, and where it missed the target. Note that I skipped the early pagers to concentrate on phones.
The very first BlackBerry device with a phone, the boxy 5810, wasn't a looker even at the time. Sure, you got enterprise e-mail support, text messaging, and a WAP browser, but without an integrated microphone or speaker, you had to attach a headset to make calls. Needless to say, that was a drawback.
Thankfully, the 6210 put the microphone and speaker inside the device. The new hardware style eventually continued through a series of models that came both in blue (as pictured here) and basic black, though a color display was still a few months off. These early devices also popularized the nifty scroll wheel.
Coming a few months before the 6210, the 6510 was the first BlackBerry to run on a network other than GSM. Naturally, with its iDEN support and push-to-talk features, this device ended up at Nextel (still three years from its merger with Sprint). All early Nextel BlackBerry handsets featured the stubby external antenna.
The design remained about the same, but AT&T Wireless' 7210 and T-Mobile's 7230 were the first BlackBerry handsets with color displays. And at the time, the 240x160-pixel, 65,000-color screens were considered high-resolution. The 7210 and 7230 lacked a speakerphone, but they won CNET's Editors' Choice Award.
CNET review bottom line: If you can find decent AT&T Wireless coverage in your area, the BlackBerry 7210 is an admirable and functional smartphone.
The 7100t broke new ground by offering a slimmer design and the 20-button SureType keyboard. Later models in the series were the first devices to support 3G out of the box. Yet, we still didn't get up and coming features like Bluetooth. Instead, that feature would come later the same year with the BlackBerry 7290.
CNET review bottom line: Though the BlackBerry 7100t is a great option for RIM newbies, we were hoping for more consumer-friendly Bluetooth functionality.
After first broadening its reach beyond from the corporate market with the 8700, BlackBerry went after the average consumer again with the Pearl 8100. In addition to the smaller design and the SureType keyboard, it was the first BlackBerry with an integrated camera, video and music playback, and expandable media. Wi-Fi, however, was not an option and a trackball (hence the Pearl name) replaced the popular track wheel.
CNET review bottom line: Though nothing revolutionary, the addition of multimedia features and the already solid e-mail capabilities make the RIM BlackBerry Pearl an attractive device for business users and consumers alike.
The "smallest and lightest" full-QWERTY BlackBerry yet, the 8300 also started the Curve series. We got a few new features, such as a refined spell-checker for e-mail and memos and audio technology that automatically adjusts call volume in noisy environments.
CNET review bottom line: Though it doesn't bring Wi-Fi or 3G support, the BlackBerry Curve offers a best-of-breed design and a well-rounded set of features to make it an attractive device for consumers and mobile professionals alike.
It was called the Bold for good reason, as the 9000 offered a brilliant half-VGA display and an updated OS. The design was sleek, the back cover had a soft-touch texture, and the multimedia performance was excellent.
CNET review bottom line: For those who waited, the RIM BlackBerry Bold won't disappoint. The Bold impresses with its brilliant display, enhanced productivity tools, and excellent multimedia performance, delivering a more powerful and well-rounded smartphone to mobile professionals.
As the first touch-screen BlackBerry device, the Storm marked the biggest change from RIM in years. Excitement was palatable when it debuted with Verizon Wireless, but the SurePress technology proved to be clunky and the virtual keyboard was cramped. It was sluggish as well, and call quality was uneven.
CNET review bottom line: The RIM BlackBerry Storm may blow in a frenzy for Verizon Wireless subscribers wanting a touch screen similar to the Apple iPhone's. However, there are bugs and performance issues that prevent the Storm from delivering its full potential.
Fortunately, BlackBerry offered improvements on the Storm 2. Though still not perfect, the SurePress interface was more precise, with key rollover and limited multitouch capabilities. It also added Wi-Fi, more memory, and an updated operating system.
CNET review bottom line: The RIM BlackBerry Storm 2 brings some welcome additions, such as Wi-Fi, updated software, and a better touch interface, but it's going to face some serious competition from Verizon's upcoming touch-screen smartphones.
The design gets yet another makeover with a touch screen, a physical keyboard, and a slider design. What's more, the Torch was the first device with the new BlackBerry OS 6, which brought a better user interface, universal search, and an improved browser and multimedia experience.
CNET review bottom line: Though performance could be better and the phone could stand to get some hardware upgrades, the RIM BlackBerry Torch 9800 and BlackBerry OS 6 offer much-needed improvements to stay in step with the competition and keep BlackBerry enthusiasts happy.
Born to much fanfare and high expectations, the PlayBook was the company's first attempt at a tablet. The operating system was smooth, pretty, and efficient, but the device was hampered by its small display and frustrating controls. And even worse, some stalwart features were available only when pairing it with a BlackBerry phone.
CNET review bottom line: The BlackBerry PlayBook ably showcases RIM's powerful new mobile operating system, but its middling size diminishes many of its best features.
One of three OS 7 devices introduced in August 2010, the 9900/9930 combined the signature keyboard with a touch screen. It had pinch-to-zoom touch gestures, decent graphics and media features, and a 1.2GHz processor. What's more, BlackBerry positioned it as the thinnest (0.41 inch thick) BlackBerry to date.
CNET review bottom line: The BlackBerry Bold 9930 is the best QWERTY BlackBerry to date, but should be priced lower.
It was back to a full touch screen after the uneven fortunes of the Storm and Storm 2. Fortunately, this was a better effort. Besides OS 7, features included a 3.7-inch display (the largest yet on a BlackBerry), a 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video capture, and a 1.2GHz processor.
CNET review bottom line: With its full touch screen and fair price tag, the BlackBerry Torch 9850 shows that RIM is ready to compete with others in Sprint's lineup, although it's not without its flaws.
The first device with the long-awaited BlackBerry OS 10, the Z10 also delivered a sleek, appealing design with trendy, must-have features like a lovely HD screen, a fast processor, and a powerful camera. The OS brought some frustrations, but the Z10 was the step that finally brought BlackBerry into the modern smartphone era.
CNET review bottom line: Though it's not quite enough to draw committed iPhone or Android owners, the BlackBerry Z10's modern design and features give BlackBerry fans what they've hungered for.
The newest device, the BlackBerry Z30, was introduced just two days ago. It has a 5-inch AMOLED screen, updated BlackBerry 10.2 software, and a high-capacity battery. BlackBerry hasn't announced availability yet, but we hope to review it soon.