RIM continues its reach to consumers with new Blackberries

New Pearl and Bold models to go on sale in May

The smallest BlackBerry Pearl smartphones yet, the 9100 and 9105, will go on sale in May on various carriers, Research in Motion Ltd. announced today.

RIM introduced the new Pearls with a strong emphasis on a consumer market it continues to work to win over, even as it dominates the mobile device market for enterprise users.

Mike Laziridis, co-CEO of RIM, in a statement, noted "the fast-growing consumer interest in smartphones," and how 75% of customers globally still buy mobile phones with traditional alpha-numeric keypads.

In that spirit, RIM seems to be covering all its bases, announcing a 20-key version, the 9100, with a condensed Qwerty keypad and a 9105 model with a 14-key traditional alpha-numeric keypad. Several colors will be available.

"We have the CIO and the IT department but we have to be appealing to the consumer market," said Alan Panezic, RIM's vice president of platform product management in an interview.

RIM didn't announce specific carriers or pricing for the Pearls, but said the phones will support HSDPA and GSM networks.

RIM also announced a high-performance BlackBerry Bold 9650 smartphone with a CDMA radio. Sprint Nextel separately announced it will offer the new Bold on May 23 for $200 after rebate and with a two-year service commitment.

Both new Pearls are the first BlackBerry smartphones to support faster Wi-Fi with the 802.11n specification. They will be slightly smaller than existing Pearl smartphones, at 4.25 in. x 1.96 in. x 0.52 in. in size and weighing 3.3 ounces.

RIM has also incorporated the optical trackpad in the new Pearls that has been using in newer BlackBerry devices instead of the well-known trackball.

Other features include a 3.2 megapixel camera, a 360 x 400 display, a 624 Mhz processor with a 256MB flash memory and support for up to 32 GB of storage.

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