RIM phones aim to rival Apple’s

The Bold 9900 and 9930 phones have keyboards and 2.8-inch screens. The Bold 9900 and 9930 phones have keyboards and 2.8-inch screens. (RIM via Bloomberg News)
Bloomberg News / May 3, 2011

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TORONTO — Research In Motion Ltd., maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, has introduced two touch-screen handsets it expects to begin selling in the next few months to compete with Apple Inc.’s iPhone.

The Bold 9900 and 9930 phones, the thinnest BlackBerrys yet, have keyboards and 2.8-inch screens, company executives told reporters yesterday on the first day of the annual BlackBerry World trade show in Orlando. The handsets will be based on the new BlackBerry 7 operating system.

RIM is looking to generate buzz for the devices since its new BlackBerry PlayBook tablet computer got mixed reviews last month and the company cut its profit and sales forecasts, saying new products were taking longer to develop than anticipated. The reduced outlook prompted at least five analysts to downgrade RIM shares and was followed by the stock’s biggest one-day drop in 19 months.

Co-chief executive Jim Balsillie told analysts last week that he wished RIM’s new products would come sooner to replace current BlackBerrys, which have lost market share to the iPhone and devices running Google Inc.’s Android software. RIM said the new phones will start appearing in late summer.

The 9900 and 9930 are essentially the same device, but incorporate different radios designed for the GSM and CDMA standards that dominate mobile phone networks across the globe. The announcement of just one device was “possibly less than some investor expectations for three to four device launches,’’ one analyst said.

RIM executives said the new operating system lets users do voice-activated searches and has an improved Internet browser that loads Web pages 1.6 times faster than devices running its BlackBerry 6 operating system.