updated 10:45 am EDT, Tue May 13, 2008
BlackBerry Thunder Rumor
The first early details have surfaced regarding Research in Motion's first touchscreen device and position it as a direct answer to the iPhone, according to a rumor launched by BGR. Tentatively labeled as the BlackBerry Thunder for the public and the 9500 with its model number, the device bucks earlier expectations by dropping any signs of a physical keyboard in place of an almost entirely touch-driven interface. Only the call, answer, BlackBerry, and escape keys survive the transition, according to the claim.
The device may also have the most technically advanced cellular wireless support ever, according to the claim. If accurate, the Thunder would include both CDMA and GSM support for world roaming, and would also handle 3.5G or pre-4G data: it may support up to Ultra Mobile Broadband (also known as EVDO Revision C) on CDMA networks, downloading up to 280Mbps in peak conditions, while adding full High Speed Packet Access support on GSM services. This support would allow the new BlackBerry to operate in nearly any country with 3G or better Internet access.
This dual-mode operation will be key to the launch strategy, the report states. Both Verizon and its European stakeholder Vodafone will allegedly share the device as perpetual exclusives in their respective service areas and are counting on strong sales for the hardware in the US as part of the deal; a sales shortfall at Verizon would end the exclusivity arrangement and allow other carriers such as Sprint to offer the Thunder.
An announcement of the phone may occur as early as summer of this year, according to the rumor, putting the handset in competition with the 3G iPhone. The apparent leak is nonetheless labeled as early information that may be subject to change.
Electronista readers should note that the reported launch information also conflicts with some of Verizon's existing and future plans. The company today operates a relatively slower EVDO Revision A service for data and has already announced plans to switch to Long Term Evolution for its next-generation wireless network, dropping CDMA entirely in favor of a 700MHz 4G standard that it will likely share with AT&T, Vodafone, and other carriers that today use GSM.
Verizon hasn't announced plans to upgrade its EVDO support beyond Revision A and says it will launch LTE by late 2009, with wider service most likely available by 2010. Vodafone already supports HSPA but itself says it will switch to LTE in a similar timeframe.
Thunder mockup (unlikely to represent the final model)