Research in Motion (NSDQ: RIMM) has taken the wraps off of three new BlackBerry 7 devices in addition to the two it unveiled earlier this year, announcing plans to launch all five through carrier partners later this month. AT&T (NYSE: T) will have an exclusive on one of the phones, which are later than expected after significant changes earlier in the year and have caused all kinds of financial problems for RIM.
The BlackBerry Torch model line is getting three new devices running the BlackBerry 7 operating system: the Torch 9810, 9850, and 9860. The 9810 will have a slider keyboard, while the 9850 and 9860 will be touchscreen devices. The previously announced Bold 9900 and 9930 come with an NFC (near-field communications) chip for wireless mobile payments and have both a keyboard and a touch screen.
AT&T said it would be the exclusive carrier for the 9810 when it launches in August, and that it would also carry the Torch 9860 and Bold 9900. In typical AT&T fashion, it describes the new BlackBerrys as “4G” devices without specifying in the body of the release which 4G speed AT&T means: its HSPA+ network or its nascent LTE network. In the fine print, however, it says that the 4G speeds will be provided by the slower HSPA+ network.
These devices have been a long time coming. RIM decided earlier in the year to completely change the chipset technology that powers the phones to a more powerful model, which meant it had to requalify the new design with wireless carriers and endure delays that left the company without anything new throughout much of 2011. And it’s not clear that BlackBerry 7 is all that much of an upgrade over BlackBerry 6: BlackBerry fans are really waiting for the first phones running QNX, the same software that RIM used on the Playbook tablet.
So it’s unclear just how far the new Bold and Torch devices will go toward reversing RIM’s fortunes this year. Pricing and exact launch dates for the devices were not provided beyond “this month.”
Updated 9:25 a.m. PT: Sprint announced later in the morning that it would carry the Torch 9850 and Bold 9900 with “fall availability.” Pricing was likewise not disclosed.