It's no surprise that BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM) has up its sleeve a successor to the popular BlackBerry Tour 9630 smartphone; images and details on the as-of-yet unannounced device, codenamed "Essex," hit the Web late last year.
This new BlackBerry, initially thought to be the "BlackBerry 9650" or "Tour2," is an upgraded version of the original Tour 9630, and it replaces the first device's problematic trackball with RIM's new optical trackpad. It also will reportedly sport Wi-Fi and a beefed-up processor.
And today is looks as though that new Tour just may be RIM's next BlackBerry Bold 96xx/97xx smartphone...and I think that's a much better idea than releasing another BlackBerry Tour. I'll get to an explanation shortly, but first, some background.
I started hearing rumblings about the Tour2 being officially named "Bold" a number of weeks ago from BlackBerry-sources on Twitter. (There are currently two models of BlackBerry Bold: the BlackBerry Bold 9000 and the Bold 9700.) At first, I blew the rumors off like dust on my smartphone's LCD. Why, I thought, would RIM want to further confuse BlackBerry users by introducing the Tour name and then doing away with it so quickly? (The original Tour was released in the United States last July.)
But sure enough, those same rumors kept popping up. I began to consider reasons why it might make sense for RIM to add this new device to its Bold lineup. And everything clicked into place.
I've written about RIM's confusing device naming-conventions before--think: Curve 83xx, Curve 85xx and Curve 89xx. And I even blasted the title "Tour" as soon as it became known it would be the name of RIM's 9630 device.
But despite RIM's strange device-naming strategy, it's actually quite simple to look at any of the company's "new" handhelds and determine which model-line they belong to. That's due to one single device characteristic: The BlackBerry keyboard.
All BlackBerry Curve devices have the exact same keyboard-style regardless of their model numbers; every BlackBerry Pearl handheld has the same style keyboard; RIM's Storm and Storm2 devices both use on-screen "SurePress" keyboards; and RIM's two Bold devices both have very similar, "fretted" keyboards.
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And that's not all, the Curve keyboard appears only on BlackBerry Curve devices; the Pearl's SureType keyboard is currently available only on BlackBerry Pearls; and SurePress is exclusive to the BlackBerry Storm...for now.
But the BlackBerry Tour is the exception to this rule; the original BlackBerry Tour also uses a Bold keyboard...and for this reason it probably should have been called a BlackBerry Bold from the start.
Remember, rumors are just rumors at this point--it's not official that this new device will be a Bold. I can still see some sense in keeping the Tour name. It could spare some initial confusion since the BlackBerry Tour and the new BlackBerry "9650" are practically identical, minus the Wi-Fi and trackpad. But it in my opinion, it would be a wise move on RIM's part to do away with the one inconsistency in its device lineup by restricting Bold-style keyboards to Bold devices.
Calling the new device the BlackBerry Bold 96xx/97xx could also assuage some of the inevitable complaints that are sure to come from BlackBerry Tour 9630 users who'll be displeased a revamped Tour was released so shortly after the original. RIM and its carrier partners would likely market the product as completely new device instead of a mere Tour upgrade...even thought that's really all it is.
It's true that releasing a device that looks almost identical to the BlackBerry Tour 9630 would cause a bit of initial confusion, especially for gadget-geeks or folks like me who pay close attention to the BlackBerry world and all its minutiae. But in reality, most "average" people really couldn't care less what the new BlackBerry is called. That's why it would be smart for RIM to get all its ducks in a row now, before it builds any more awareness of the Bold brand.
Bottom line: The easiest way for "normal" people to identify RIM's devices right now is by keyboard style. The device names are all consistent except for the Tour, which has the Bold keyboard. And RIM could clear up that minor inconsistency by scrapping the Tour name.