Amid recent rumors that China Mobile could soon become the first Chinese wireless carrier to launch Research In Motion's (RIM) consumer-oriented BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS), I spotted an image of a BlackBerry Torch 9800 keypad with Chinese-language characters on a cell-phone-parts retailer's website.
To be honest, I'm not sure what exactly the Chinese BlackBerry Torch 9800 keypad means, but the $19-keyboard, which is listed for sale on TrueSupplier.com, seems to suggest that the device could be released in some Chinese-speaking market in the near future. It could also simply be a third-party keyboard made for Chinese-speaking users to swap out with the default Torch keypad. But the product really does look "official" to me, and I don't think that's the case.
A Torch 9800 launch in China would be significant for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the Torch is RIM's latest device, and very few BlackBerry models are currently officially available in mainland China. In the past, Chinese smartphone users have "imported" BlackBerrys on their own, but many end up using them without BlackBerry e-mail or Web browsing, since local wireless carriers don't necessarily support all of these services.
RIM just launched its first BlackBerry retail store in China in late-July to raise awareness and hopefully lead carriers to adopt BlackBerry service, though only two BlackBerry models were listed for sale at the time: the BlackBerry Curve 8310, which has been available for years in the North America; and the Curve 8910, a newly-revamped version of RIM's BlackBerry Curve 8900 for the Chinese market. Both devices were intended for use on the China Mobile network, according to the IDG News Service.
Again, this Chinese Torch keypad does not mean that the BlackBerry Torch 9800 is coming to mainland China, but it does appear to point at a Torch launch in some traditional Chinese-speaking market, perhaps Taiwan, where a wider variety of BlackBerry devices are already available on carriers like Taiwan Mobile.
For more on RIM and BlackBerry in China, read "China Gets Pricey BlackBerrys...But No Consumer E-Mail." Then check out my BlackBerry Torch 9800 "Super Guide."