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RIM unveils Bold phones with new BlackBerry 7 OS, augmented reality, and NFC


Kicking off its BlackBerry World conference, which opens tomorrow, RIM today officially unveiled the BlackBerry 9900 and 9930. Part of the Bold line, the phones are the first to run BlackBerry 7 OS, a redesigned version of BB 6 that appears to look more like the PlayBook’s Tablet OS.  The two phones, which were leaked earlier this year, feature a 1.2GHz processor, a “Liquid Graphics” touchscreen, HSPA+ support, 720p HD video recording, 8GB of storage, 768MB of RAM, near-field communication (NFC), and augmented reality support.  They are also thinner than usual, at only 10.5mm and RIM pointed out the “premium materials” they are made out of, like stainless steel.

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The new features

Liquid Graphics: The touchscreen should be faster and more responsive, offering “up to 60 frames-per-second.” The screen is 2.8 inches and capacitive with a 640×480 resolution.

NFC: Both the 9900 and 9930 have NFC built in, a technology that allows you to use your smartphone as a credit card, swiping it about 2-4 inches from a receiver to make a payment. RIM did not announce any proprietary software or service to couple with the feature.

Augmented Reality: RIM points out that the two phones have a built-in digital compass to support location-based services and augmented reality. New APIs and Wikitude support (AR software) should help developers build in AR support into their apps. Microsoft recently announced a push into augmented reality as well in its upcoming Windows Phone Mango update.

BlackBerry 7 OS: The next version of RIM’s OS looks more like the PlayBook Tablet OS. It comes with an “enhanced” browser, voice-activated searching, more preloaded apps like Docs To Go (Office clone), and a new feature called BlackBerry Balance, which separates corporate content on the phone from personal content, allowing users in tight security companies to use social networks and things of that nature.

Both phones should be available this summer with the 9900 heading for GSM carriers like AT&T and the 9930 heading for CDMA carriers like Verizon (no 4G LTE support was announced).

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BlackBerry Bold 9900 and 9930 phones are bricking themselves, RIM acknowledges

RIM's problems continue. It's only been a few weeks since the Canadian company faced massive global outages of its smartphone services, but now some owners of the new BlackBerry Bold 9900 and 9930 are complaining that their phones have suddenly refused to turn on, bricking the devices. Owners have had to get the phones completely replaced to solve the issue.
A RIM spokesperson spoke with CNBC, acknowledging the problem: "A limited number of customers have reported an issue where their device does not power on," said the spokesperson. "[RIM is] actively working on a software update to resolve this issue."
The issue is believed to be related to the BlackBerry 7 operating system, but a hardware issue is still possible. This isn't the first time RIM has had issues like this. About 1,000 BlackBerry PlayBooks had to be recalled due to bricking issues like this. Our first PlayBook review unit experienced a similar issue to the one reported by Bold owners. After a charge one night, it simply wouldn't turn on again. The problems are likely unrelated as the PlayBook runs a different OS than the Bold phones, but they are both BlackBerry products.
If you've experienced problems with your Bold 9900 or 9930, please let us know in the comments below.

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RIM unveils BlackBerry Bold 9790 and Curve 9380

Research In Motion has officially revealed the latest handsets to its struggling lineup: the BlackBerry Bold 9790 and BlackBerry Curve 9380.
First up is the Bold 9790, which looks basically the same as the Bold 9780, with a full physical QWERTY keyboard. The screen is slightly larger, at 2.44-inches, with a 360 x 480 resolution. Inside, you'll find a 1GHz single-core processor and 8GB of internal storage. A microSD card slot supports up to 32GB of expanded storage. Finally, you'll find a 5MP camera on the back.
The lower-end Curve 9380 offers more of a deviation in design from previous Curve devices in that it scraps the physical keyboard for a 3.2-inch display with a 480 x 360 resolution. Oddly, RIM hasn't unveiled the guts of this device, but we hear it will have 1GB of internal storage and a 800MHz processor. It too has a 5MP camera capable of shooting video. And RIM touts its social media features, which include pre-installed Facebook and Twitter apps — something available on a range of previously-released BlackBerry handsets.
Both the Bold 9790 and Curve 9380 run on RIM's BlackBerry 7 operating system, which is an improvement over BlackBerry 7 OS, but still feels antiquated and overly complicated compared to iOS and Android. RIM has not yet revealed a release date for either device, but says both will be available from "various carriers in the coming weeks."
If you know BlackBerry, then you know neither of these devices are going to make much of a splash in the smartphone market. Our guess is that they are simply holdovers until RIM release its first BBX device — which could be just around the corner.
Late Monday, we got a glimpse of the BlackBerry London — an unconfirmed handset, which is rumored to be the first BBX device from RIM. If authentic, the BlackBerry London is a sharp departure from any previous BlackBerry handsets, with a larger touchscreen, hard edges and greatly improved internal components, which are said to include a dual-core 1.5GHz TI OMAP processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, an 8MP rear camera and a 2MP front-facing camera.
At this point, RIM needs to stray as far away as it can from its current path — and the BlackBerry London (or whatever it will be called) could very well be the vehicle to carry them towards the smartphone promised land.

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RIM vows to keep developing Flash for BlackBerry PlayBook – no joke

Since the Steve Jobs biography came out, we've heard a lot about his "reality distortion field," or how he would make crazy things happen by getting everyone to believe it. RIM may have a reality distortion field of its own right now, but it's not a good one. Despite Adobe vocally dropping support for Flash mobile and crowning HTML5 a victor over its own product, RIM is determined to keep developing Flash for its BlackBerry PlayBook.
"As an Adobe source code licensee, we will continue to work on and release our own implementations. RIM remains committed to delivering an uncompromised Web browsing experience to our customers, including native support for Adobe Flash Player on our BlackBerry PlayBook tablet (similar to a desktop PC browser), as well as HTML5 support on both our BlackBerry smartphone and PlayBook browsers," RIM told AllThingsD. "In fact, we are pleased that Adobe will focus more efforts on the opportunities that HTML5 presents for our developers, and shares our commitment to HTML5 as we discussed together at DevCon Americas."
While we don't necessarily want RIM to just drop support for Flash out of nowhere, its commitment to continuing to spend its own money developing a product that Adobe itself is abandoning seems, well, somewhat odd. Also, RIM still has not delivered on any of the promises it made on the BlackBerry PlayBook when it launched in April. There is still no Android app support, no native email client, and no native calendar, among other things that were promised for Summer 2011. Many apps, like its podcasting app, remain somewhat useless as well. A new Staples app shows the PlayBook at a discounted $200 price point, but even at that price, we would probably recommend somebody pick up an Amazon Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet or a $300 tablet. The PlayBook's app library just isn't there and we're beginning to doubt that things will get better for the struggling tablet. We love the intuitiveness of the BlackBerry Tablet OS, but RIM has a lot of issues to fix if it hopes to move forward. 
What do you think? Do you have a PlayBook and love it? Should RIM dedicate its own resources to keeping a dying platform running on its dying tablet?

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