Well it looks like BlackBerry was working on a touch-screen smart phone after all! Pictured above is the new BlackBerry Thunder (9500-series); details are sparse right now, but I imagine will be coming out at a breakneck speed over the next few months.
Reports are saying that RIM is trying to nail the typing experience with this device, check out the first point known about the screen already:
- Tactile Response – when you press on the Thunder’s screen, it pushes in “just” a little bit (the whole screen is sort of like a big button) and you get immediate “real” feedback – you hear an audible clickety sound, and can feel a buzz in your finger where you actually pressed on the display.
- Full QWERTY and SureType entry – hold the phone in landscape mode and you can take advantage of a full-qwerty keypad. Use the phone in portrait mode and you can enter data on a SureType keyboard. You will be able to choose/change your screen/keyboard orientation at anytime.
- Screen is made of glass and will feature multi-touch – the Thunder is said to be utilizing WebKit for it’s browser engine (same as the iPhone), so hopefully that means a solid web browsing experience for the Thunder.
Pretty damn interesting that they would go through the engineering trouble to make the screen give you feedback like that (the entire thing clicks when you press on it)… I have to imagine they went through user-trials that found that feedback made them more effective typists on the portable device.
The other thing I like is that the device input (keyboard) can be used either in vertical or horizontal orientations. The iPhone sorta does this, depending on the application. For example, you can browse and type horizontally in the browser, allowing you to wide-grip the phone, but as soon as you are doing email, notes, SMS, etc. you have to hold it vertically, cramping your hands together and praying you don’t drop it.
We are expecting enhanced media capabilities from the Thunder given the new (possibly higher resolution screen than the iPhone) widescreen layout options and time they have had to improve and polish their approach starting back with the Pearl’s enhanced media player when that phone first dropped and has been enhanced again and again since then.
Also worth noting is the classic BlackBerry buttons on the bottom, giving you quick, concrete access to the functions you have been using for years; it looks like they aren’t pulling the rug out from under the BlackBerry user’s feet, but instead streamlinging it all a bit and making it a better experience.
There are rumors the Thunder (and possibly other BB devices?) will be using the WebKit/Safari Mobile browser base or something along those lines. We don’t have any confirmed details right now, but that is floating around and worth noting.
Right now there are rumors floating around (I believe via Boy Genius Report) that the Thunder will come to T-Mobile in short order, possible September. I wonder if AT&T will want to get on that bandwagon is the 3G iPhone sales don’t continue to sky-rocket just to have their bases covered?
The schematic pic we have has a Verizon logo on it, but given how slowly Verizon rolls out phones I have to wonder if it’s going to get it soon, or maybe Q109.
Update #1: Dave Bullock just shared with us that the “clicking” the screen makes when keys are pressed is a little vibration engine of sorts inside the device, so the screen itself won’t be traveling any amount of distance possibly opening up dust and lint to collect inside it.
That’s good news.
Thanks Laurence Hartje and CrackBerry!