Time Travel: BlackBerry Smartphones


Humble Beginnings: The Inter@ctive Pager

In 1996, RIM introduced its Inter@ctive Pager. This two-way device was a bit larger than a pager and included a small keyboard. Prior to this time, pagers only received one-way communications, often no more than a phone number for the recipient to call. The device could run for weeks on one AA battery, and cost about $350 to buy.

(Image via RIM/BlackBerry)


The Pager, Reinvented

RIM improved on the Inter@ctive Pager in 1998 with a sleeker design and an Intel 386 processor, the same chip which was powering many home and business computers a few years earlier. The device included some simple gadgets such as an alarm clock, calendar, and a calculator.

(Image via RIM/BlackBerry)


A Lean, Mean Email Machine

By 2000, email had become a must for anyone traveling for business, and BlackBerry had established itself as a necessary corporate brand. As email became more widely used and incorporated more features, RIM introduced a $500 model with a larger screen to make reading email easier, but otherwise, its functionality was limited. Most business people who were on the go needed to carry a cell phone as well as an email device.

At this point, RIM's products were mostly purchased by businesses for use by their employees.

(Image via RIM/BlackBerry)


Technology Calling, Please Hold

An integrated phone was introduced to the first true BlackBerry in 2002 for a mere $749. Well, sort of integrated -- an earpiece was required to use it, so taking a call quickly while juggling a briefcase and coffee was no easy task.

The model still had a black and white display while other personal digital assistants (PDAs) and some cell phones of the time boasted richer color screens.  However, the black and white screen held a significant advantage over its colorful peers in the form of very long battery life.

(Image via RIM/BlackBerry)


The BlackBerry Color Screen Arrives

In 2003, RIM upgraded the design of some of its BlackBerries to include a more functional phone and a 65,000 color screen with fairly low resolution. The resolution was a result of the limitations of the technology chosen. VGA screens were commonly used by other PDA brands, which were (and still are) difficult to view in sunlight. The BlackBerry’s transflective screen could be easily read in daylight, but resolution was limited. Some models included bluetooth and two-way radio functions. Depending on the model and features, these cost around $400.

(Image via RIM/BlackBerry)


The Consumer Era Begins for BlackBerry

The BlackBerry 7100 in 2004 was the first of RIM’s devices to look more like other smartphones of its time, but still functioned mostly as a phone and email device, but with an HTML browser. Few games were available and it did not play MP3s like some other competing products. It was also the first of BlackBerry's phones to feature a responsive keyboard and cost about $200, or about $150 less than its early pagers.

The 7100 phone was released in the same year the company brought on its one millionth customer, and it was poised to grow considerably.

(Image via RIM/BlackBerry)


A Pearl is Born

In 2005, RIM redesigned the phones entirely, and its customer base grew to over 4 million subscribers across a wide array of carriers. BlackBerry smartphones were no longer the domain of large corporations, and were now commonly used by everyday consumers. The new phones held micro-SD slots and in 2006, the BlackBerry Pearl was introduced which included a camera and trackball and came in a choice of colors.

The name of the Pearl was derived from the look of its trackball, which was a departure from previous trackpad design. The cost of the phone to consumers largely depended on contracts with various mobile carriers, ranging from $150 to $200 or free in some cases, with or without a rebate from BlackBerry.

(Image via RIM/BlackBerry)


Pushed Out by iPhone and Android Devices

In 2007, stock in the Canadian company reached $236 per share.

By 2008, consumers were using their smartphones for much more than email, including Internet banking, taking credit card payments in remote locations, and navigating with GPS.

RIM offered a wide selection of BlackBerry smartphones by this time. Some introduced touchscreens, and others had flip or fold-out designs, but the company now faced competition from iPhones released a year earlier.

Many of RIM’s 9000 series phones, first released in 2008, are still marketed today, even after the release of the BlackBerry 10 in the last quarter of 2013. However, the lack of applications readily available for the iPhone and Android devices led to poor sales. The BlackBerry 10, along with its sister tablet, were highly promoted as a sweeping new designs by the company but flopped in the marketplace.

Today, stock market shares of the company hover just over $10 each.

(Image via RIM/BlackBerry)