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Are BlackBerry phones still relevant?

It has been two weeks since the largest launch in Research In Motion’s history in the manufacturing of mobile phones, with five handsets released at once – three of which are coming to the UK, and another two variations of those devices are heading to the USA. One of the BlackBerry phones is an update to the company’s first slider handset from last year, another is a return to an old classic design, and the third is a full touch screen model with a more standard way of operating than previously seen in BlackBerry devices. One Mobile Ring is now turning its attention to RIM in a feature that covers whether the company still has a place in today’s mobile phone world.

There was once a time when email on a mobile phone was completely non-existent, with only one company well-known for providing handsets solely for this function alone – along with the backend software, for the enterprise email servers. That company was Research In Motion, with their corporate work-horse mobile phones that contained a physical keyboard, along the bottom half of the device and a screen that occupied the top half.

These BlackBerry handsets were found as far back as 2002, where businesses could synchronise corporate email such as Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino and Novell GroupWise servers with these devices - and at a time when access to the internet on the phone was still very much a distant dream, to most.

Email was ‘pushed’ to these BlackBerry handsets instantly, at the same time as they arrived on the servers inside of the business – just as a desktop computer receives emails. The software that facilitated this delivery method is known as BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), which also synchronised calendar entries, contacts and tasks, with the handsets from the corporate email systems and over the airwaves.

The early BlackBerry handsets only contained a monochrome screen, where a colour screen was seen as not really needed just for reading and replying to emails. In fact, colour displays really only made an appearance on handsets some years later where the familiar keyboard and screen design still remained the standard template for all BlackBerry’s, where only the full-touch screen ‘Storm’ phone in 2008 stepped away.

These days every phone can have access to email. Mobile platforms such as Android use Google’s Gmail and even the lowest costing budget Nokia handsets have access to multiple-email addresses. Where the latter types of mobiles are geared up for emerging-world village to share the phone, with many using a single mobile that can house many email different addresses.

Secure access to the corporate email servers are also a standard feature now with nearly every mobile phone, with all those same features that were once found in BES are now built-in directly into the mobile phones and its email software.

Research In Motion has fallen behind the times by keeping up with and including the latest technology within their phones, as their Curve and Pearl non-flagship handsets have only gained access to 3G in the last year – although the first 3G phone, in the BlackBerry Bold 9000, arrived in 2008.

3G had already been well-established by that year, where RIM once again were slow on the uptake. But as their devices were still predominantly used for just email access, 3G was seen as not very important for just reading and receiving text.

Since late 2008 the Canadian device manufacturer has been playing catch up with the rest of the industry, with their first touch screen device in the Storm and youth-aimed handsets such as the Pearl and Curve series of phones. These mobiles have been popular with their secure BlackBerry messenger – which uses the unique ID code to communicate; the same identification number that once aided in the company in being the champion of email on the move.

Research In Motion has broken away from the basic email only devices of more recent times, to a more varied array of handsets with a slider mobile, more touch screen models and a better full-touch screen phone. Their first’ Storm’ attempt, with a movable display, didn’t really take off for them.

This move to diversify has gained some kudos for the company, but as a company solely known for offering email on a phone when email on a phone is now standard practice - RIM seems to have lost its unique proposition in the mobile phone world, where it is sadly just seen as just another handset manufacture now.

Originally published at