Rogers Launches Blackberry Bold: More Anticipated Than the iPhone, Eh?

Building on a 10-year relationship with Research In Motion, Rogers Wireless, the pioneering (and initial) Blackberry carrier partner, launched the new Blackberry Bold at a media event at Rogers’ headquarters in Toronto this morning. As result Rogers is the first North American carrier to make available the Bold; launches are also occurring this week and next in several European and South American countries, as well as Australia.

John Boynton, Rogers Wireless VP and Chief Marketing Officer, said the Blackberry Bold launch was the “most anticipated” that Rogers had experienced. He pointed out that this is the third major “iconic” smartphone launch for Rogers in the past few months. Rogers offered the Nokia N95 8GB at the beginning of May and, of course, the iPhone 3G on July 11.

He also claimed that, through an independent study, Rogers has been determined to have the fastest 3G network in Canada –and one of the fastest in the world. (I have to confirm that I have not experienced any of the iPhone-related 3G issues on the Rogers network that some iPhone users are reporting in other countries.)

Patrick Spence, RIM’s VP, North American Carriers, followed with a claim that Blackberry Bold starts a whole new ball game, specifically mentioning how its 624 MHz processor and 3G wireless accelerates the entire user experience. He went on to discuss its half-VGA 480 x 320 display, 1GB on-board memory (expandable to 32 GB via microSD/SDHC media cards), GPS and full multimedia capability — including access to iTunes via the recently launched Blackberry Media Sync. A 2-megapixel camera with flash and zoom is embedded. Wireless access includes seven channels to make it worldwide compatible with both 3G (HSDPA) and EDGE GSM networks, as well as support for, and seamless transition to, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g access points. (Currently it lacks UMA/GAN support). Patrick pointed out that the Blackberry is the outcome of a three-year development project; the highlight of this project is the resulting display screen.

I was able to spend about half-an-hour with a unit at the event’s “Blackberry Bar.” The display was so stunning that it is still “ringing” in my head. Crisp fonts, brilliant colors — but you really have to experience it yourself to understand the full extent of its performance. And this performance impacts how you view not only web pages and media but also office documents and other email attachments. The one shortcoming encountered during this experience was the weak Facebook application, which simply does not come up to the level of Facebook support on the iPhone.

Australian APC Mag’s David Flynn has done an extensive hands-on review of the Blackberry Bold; he is more expressive about the screen:

Welcome to the Bold’s Killer Feature #1. Let’s try to get all the adjectives out of the way: big, sharp, rich, vivid, vibrant. The screen is all of those, and the next few lines of the Thesaurus as well.

Other features include MMS support for sending media directly across phones, copy and paste (both legacy Blackberry features), concurrent data activity while talking on the phone, stereo audio and a full video recording capability. A newly designed “tactile” full-QWERTY keyboard rounds out the feature set.

Overall, Blackberry Bold represents a significant improvement on the previous 8000 series Pearl, Curve and 88×0 Blackberries. It will certainly remain a leading contender in the enterprise, business and prosumer markets, while bringing along more personalization features such as the media support. (The rumored Kickstart/Pearl 82×0 will probably be targeted towards the consumer market.)

Pricing at Rogers is C$399 with a three-year contract or C$599 with no contract commitment. The previously announced 6GB data plan at a promotional rate of C$30 per month is still expected to expire Aug. 31.

Full disclosure: The author still holds some Research in Motion shares that he acquired in 1998.