Blackberry flips out with new Pearl

Research In Motion (RIM) diversified its BlackBerry line Wednesday by introducing a “flip” or clamshell model, a popular form for mobile phones.

A promotional video debuts Blackberry’s Pearl 8220.

The BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220 will be available later this year exclusively through the Rogers Wireless 3G network. It will be carried by T-Mobile in the U.S., although RIM didn’t say at what price.

The Pearl Flip represents another move by RIM to widen its prospective customer pool beyond business users, with smaller and more stylish models aimed at consumers yet still retaining the core BlackBerry features.

It has an external LCD (liquid-crystal display) used to preview e-mails, text messages and phone calls. When flipped open, the phone reveals a larger screen and a Qwerty keyboard, one of the characteristic features of RIM’s larger devices.

Many wireless industry observers say that RIM now must battle Apple for market share. While the iPhone 3G is making a play for business users with its Exchange server support, the Blackberry has increasingly resembled a consumer-style phone. A comment in RIM’s press release makes it clear the company wants more of that market.

“The popularity of BlackBerry smartphones has grown tremendously around the world and the introduction of this exciting new flip phone will help extend the reach of the BlackBerry platform even further,” says Mike Lazaridis, President and Co-CEO, Research In Motion in the release. β€œThe BlackBerry Pearl Flip is a full-featured smartphone with a unique and friendly design and it is a natural choice for flip phone users who want to start doing more with their phone than just talk.”

The quad-band phone will operate on GSM networks in the Americas, Europe and Asia, and can connect to EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) data networks, RIM said.

The Pearl Flip ships with stereo headphones and, like other recent BlackBerry models, includes media player software for videos and music. It stores tunes on removable MicroSD memory cards, and will work with cards up to 16G bytes in capacity when they become available.

Music tracks without DRM (digital rights management) can be synchronized with Apple’s iTunes music jukebox software through a new software add-on, RIM said.

The phone’s integrated 2 megapixel camera with flash can shoot still pictures and also record video.

It weighs in at 3.6 ounces and its measurements are 3.9′ long by 1.9′ wide by 0.7′ thick.

The device is loaded with the DataViz Documents to Go software suite, which lets users edit Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. It has a Bluetooth short-range wireless interface for connecting to headsets and GPS receivers, and Wi-Fi 802.11b/g.

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