by Al Sacco

BlackBerry “Pearl 9105” to Get Predictive-Text “T9” Keyboard?

Mar 31, 2010
Mobile Small and Medium Business

Rumors suggest RIM may be working on a low-end version of the upcoming BlackBerry Pearl 9100 that will sport a T9 keyboard.

Ye olde BlackBerry-rumor-mill is churning in full force this morning.

Today, it’s in reference to a report on, suggesting that Research In Motion (RIM) is currently cooking up a previously-unheard-of version of the unannounced, yet oft-pictured, BlackBerry Pearl 9100 with a “T9” keyboard.

Image from RIM Patent
Image from RIM Patent

A T9 (“text on nine”) keyboard is a numeral-centric keypad and software combo with nine buttons that feature first and foremost numbers instead of letters. T9 keyboards feature letters for typing, but they are secondary to the numbers. Devices with T9 keyboards also use predictive text software to speed up typing so users should only need to tap keys with multiple characters once to access the letters they seek, as opposed to the “multi-tap” method in which users tap keys until their desired characters appear.

The current popularity of smartphones, which typically feature “full QWERTY” keypads, or computer-like letter-centric keyboards, in the United States and Canada mean that T9 keyboards aren’t exactly common in North America nowadays—at least on mid- to high-end mobile phones. But T9 keyboards are more popular in areas overseas that haven’t quite embraced the whole smartphone craze. And the rumored T9 BlackBerry Pearl 9105 could potentially be aimed at these markets that RIM hasn’t quite been able to penetrate with its traditional wares.

Speculation on Twitter seems to line up with this idea. For example, one source claims to be “sure” that the BlackBerry 9105 is a “European version” of the upcoming BlackBerry Pearl 9100. And the same source also posted what appears to be some sort of inventory shot, listing software for the “BlackBerry 9100/9105 smartphone.”

Image Showing BlackBerry Pearl 9105 Listing
Image Showing BlackBerry Pearl 9105 Listing

Right now, none of this is official, and on first thought, it doesn’t even seem to make sense that RIM, a company known mostly for its full QWERTY keyboards, would offer a device with an “old school” T9 keypad—especially since it already offers SureType on Pearl devices. And the model number mentioned doesn’t lineup with RIM’s current device naming conventions, which typically feature a brand-name (Bold/Storm/Curve) and a four-digit model-number with two final digits that are multiples of 10. For example, Curve 8300/8310/8320/8330/etc.

The BBLeaks report is based on a RIM patent-claim filed more than a year ago that describes and shows sketches of what looks like a traditional T9 keyboard. (See top image.) It could be this “Pearl 9105” is nearly-identical to the Pearl 9100, with some internal tweaks for overseas markets and no T9 keyboard.

However, we do know that RIM is experimenting with a variety of device- and keyboard-form-factors, including various full QWERTY styles and touch-based, on-screen keyboards. And model numbers change frequently during device-development.

The whole T9 thing sounds fishy to me. But who knows? RIM clearly has a few surprises in store for BlackBerry users this year, and the introduction of a couple new keyboard-designs is certainly possible.