WES 2010 is off to an exciting start following the announcement of the BlackBerry® Pearl™ 3G smartphone and the BlackBerry® Bold™ 9650 smartphone. Read on for my interview with BlackBerry Pearl 3G Product Manager Joseph Gordon, and stay tuned for my interview with BlackBerry Bold 9650 Product Manager Troy Young later this week.
Who are you and what do you do?
I am a Senior Product Manager on the Handheld Product Management team at RIM, which means I am responsible for the full lifecycle of a BlackBerry smartphone. This includes the development and launch of new products, plus the in-market activities and end-of-life plans. We interface with the engineering, manufacturing and marketing teams to help ensure that RIM is delivering the right product to the right markets at the right time. Ultimately, we are the voice of the customer to the organization.
Or, as I tell my family, we get to play with all the new toys =D.
What were your key responsibilities Product Managing the BlackBerry Pearl 3G Smartphone?
Product Management responsibilities vary widely over time, which makes it all the more exciting! Early on, I worked with our Industrial Design and Engineering teams as we focused on the best combination of design elements and features to allow RIM to bring a successful product to our target market. At the same time I participated in marketing activities to help determine just who that target market was, and had conversations with many of our carrier partners to understand their views. With this finalized, I continue to interface closely with Engineering as we bring the product and its different variations into launch. I also coordinated with our Marketing and Sales teams as we developed the messages and carrier plans that will take the BlackBerry Pearl 3G story to the public. Finally, during launch I am developing plans with our press and marketing teams on specific activities (like this blog post!) and supporting the manufacturing and supply teams to make sure we deliver a quality product on time.
What were you trying to achieve for the next generation BlackBerry Pearl smartphone?
We wanted to make a revolutionary leap the same way we did with the original BlackBerry Pearl 8100 smartphone, which at the time was our most powerful BlackBerry smartphone despite the smaller size. The same is true with the BlackBerry Pearl 3G smartphone, as we have worked hard to pack all the power of the BlackBerry platform today in a compact package, with the BlackBerry Pearl 3G being the thinnest BlackBerry smartphone to date. We didn’t want to compromise on style, and we haven’t, as the BlackBerry Pearl 3G smartphone incorporates some of the elements and design of our premium product lines.
How is the BlackBerry Pearl 3G smartphone different from its predecessors?
It’s both different and similar. This is the first BlackBerry Pearl smartphone to have both GPS and Wi-Fi® (including 802.11 n!) first with HSDPA support, it has the best display we’ve put on a device this small, has plenty of memory for downloading applications from BlackBerry App World™ , and we have added our new optical trackpad as well. The BlackBerry Pearl 3G smartphone also has more media-oriented features like media keys on top of the device, a more powerful 3.2 MP camera supporting new features like VGA recording and image stabilization, and landscape playback to provide a better video experience. The BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105 smartphone is also the first BlackBerry smartphone ever to have a traditional phone keyboard for those not as familiar using QWERTY keyboards. But it’s still recognizably a BlackBerry Pearl smartphone, featuring a similar styling and profile.
The BlackBerry Pearl 3G smartphone design seems to amalgam pieces of many familiar BlackBerry smartphones. What was your inspiration for the look of the BlackBerry Pearl 3G smartphone design?
The BlackBerry Pearl 3G smartphone had two of the best possible inspirations: the BlackBerry Pearl 8100 smartphone and the BlackBerry Bold 9700 smartphone. We wanted a handset that was true to the form of the original BlackBerry Pearl 8100 smartphone, but brought in some of the high-end styling of the BlackBerry Bold smartphone line. Also key was how it felt in the hand: we wanted something that was comfortable and easy to use, particularly in one-handed situations, which is very popular with the younger demographic. Like both products, it combines power and elegance to deliver not only an attractive smartphone but one that can handle whatever applications the customer needs.
As you noted, the BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105 smartphone has also been announced, featuring a traditional phone keypad. What was the reason for this decision and what markets is the smartphone intended for?
First, both models use SureType software – which actually refers to the word completion software that underlies both the 9100 model and the 9105 models of BlackBerry Pearl 3G smartphone. We call the keypad on the BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9100 smartphone a “condensed QWERTY”, as it takes our familiar full QWERTY layout and condenses it to only 20 keys, allowing for a smaller smartphone. And we’ve continued to grow the capabilities of SureType and it now supports both our full QWERTY smartphones and the traditional phone keypad as well.
The main reason we decided to launch the BlackBerry Pearl 3G smartphone in two different models was to address the different stages of smartphone acceptance around the world. In the Americas or parts of Asia Pacific where full QWERTY handsets are very common, it made sense bring out a sleek, compact smartphone with a condensed-QWERTY keyboard. Elsewhere, such as Europe and the majority of Asia, traditional phones are still much more common than smartphones, so we decided to introduce a BlackBerry Pearl smartphone with a 14-key keyboard that customers would be more familiar with.
Oh cool, I didn’t realize SureType was so versatile. You learn something new every day at RIM I guess. =D Are there any other notable differences between the two models?
The only other difference is due to the models being targeted at different markets: the BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105 smartphone will not only support the Latin alphabet but will also have keypad versions in Arabic, Russian, Greek, Hebrew, Simplified Chinese, and other alphabets.
Are you faster on the condensed QWERTY or the phone keypad? =D
Before using my first BlackBerry Pearl smartphone (the 8100) I was a heavy texter on a traditional phone, and lightening fast. After a week using the condensed-QWERTY keyboard I was just as fast, and now when I try to swap back and forth it takes me awhile to adapt, so I spend more time on the BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9100 smartphone. It’s really about what you are most comfortable with, which is the whole reason we are supporting both model types
Ok then, talk to me about the evolution of SureType for the BlackBerry Pearl 3G smartphone.
SureType has been evolving in three key ways over the last few years. The word completion and selection functionality have continued to be expanded based on user feedback, especially as we have extended it to different platforms like the BlackBerry Storm smartphone line. Additional languages and alphabets continue to be added to the available list, allowing us to support more countries. Finally, we have now added new support for the traditional mobile phone keypad, easing the transition of feature phone users to the exciting capabilities of a BlackBerry smartphone.
When the first BlackBerry Pearl smartphone launched, there were only two types of BlackBerry smartphones. Full-QWERTY BlackBerry smartphones like the BlackBerry 8700 smartphone, and SureType smartphones like the BlackBerry 7100 smartphone (my very first BlackBerry smartphone!). Now we have touch-screen BlackBerry smartphones and the BlackBerry Curve smartphone line. Where does the new BlackBerry Pearl 3G smartphone fit into the family?
The BlackBerry Pearl 3G smartphone still fits the same two roles the BlackBerry Pearl smartphone line has had since its inception. The first is to provide a powerful, but slim and attractive, alternative to the full-QWERTY products for those who prefer a smaller device. The second is to serve as the introductory BlackBerry smartphone for people who have never used a smartphone, initiating them to the power available in a BlackBerry smartphone but in a package that is both more familiar and less intimidating.
Click the link to learn more about the BlackBerry Pearl 3G smartphone.