New flip BlackBerry takes aim at the iPhone

BlackBerry developers Research in Motion have announced the release of the BlackBerry Pearl 8220 flip-phone, a device it hopes will widen its market beyond corporate to casual users.

BlackBerry flip

BlackBerry developers Research in Motion have announced the release of the BlackBerry Pearl 8220 flip-phone, a device it hopes will widen its market beyond corporate to casual users.

The BlackBerry Pearl Flip is the first in its line to offer a slim flip format, while maintaining a full keypad and other core BlackBerry features.

The announcement follows Apple’s release of the iPhone in July and this week’s update of its iPod devices. Following the iPod developer’s popularity, the new BlackBerry also features an option to sync the device’s media player with Apple’s iTunes music software.

The device also boasts an external LCD screen which allows the user to view alerts and messages without opening the phone. Classic BlackBerry features such as email access, document editing programs, media player options, expandable memory slots and Bluetooth wireless connectivity all remain.

RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie says the release of the device is “extremely important” in the company’s attempt to capture the market beyond the mainstay of business executives.

“Seventy per cent of mobile phone users in the United States use a flip,” he told mobilitytoday.com. “There’s never been a smartphone or a BlackBerry option for that.”

Research in Motion has not released a price or a set release date, but the announcement saw the company’s shares rise 4.5%. Meanwhile, technology and gadget sites are giving the device rave reviews.

Review site crackberry.com says while the new smartphone is definitely different, there are enough new features to attract buyers’ attention.

“If you’re an existing BlackBerry user it will definitely take some getting used to. It’s not difficult to use, just different,” reviewer Kevin Michaluk says.

“If it hits store shelves at a reasonable price it should be a top pick for flip phone lovers and feature phone upgrades… and that is exciting.”

But RIM is allegedly planning to release more devices before the end of the year. “We’re far from done,” Balsillie says.

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