by Al Sacco

RIM BlackBerry “Niagara 9630” Details Emerge: VZW World Edition, No Wi-Fi

Mar 03, 20093 mins
Data Center

Gossip abounds regarding Research In Motion’s (RIM) upcoming Bold-9000-and-Curve-8900-combo device, unofficially dubbed the “Niagara.” So you don’t have to waste time scouring the online rumor world, here’s a quick roundup on what I know so far: The smartphone is expected to be a Verizon Wireless “World Phone,” meaning it will work on CDMA and GSM wireless networks in the United States and overseas. But this phone lacks one key component – and this will keep it from overthrowing the Bold as King of the BlackBerry-Castle. Keep reading for more.

Concept Sketch of RIM BlackBerry
Concept Sketch of RIM BlackBerry “Niagara” 9630

The model number for the Niagara is thought to be the BlackBerry 9630, making it the fourth device in RIM’s 9xxx family behind the Bold 9000 and Storms 9500 and 9530. Here’s a quick list of expected technical specifications:

  • Verizon “World Edition” device (CDMA-1X/EV-DO/REV-A, Quad-Band GSM/GPRS/EDGE/UMTS)

  • 3.2 megapixel camera

  • Enhanced BlackBerry Browser will support JavaScript v1.6

  • BlackBerry handheld OS v4.7.1

The BlackBerry Niagara’s one glaring omission? Wi-Fi. Though not all at surprising, it’s a disappointment that Verizon has seemingly decided to continue its BlackBerry-Wi-Fi-ban.

To date, Verizon hasn’t offered one single BlackBerry device with Wi-Fi, even though many of the handsets it sells are available in slightly different models with Wi-Fi through other carriers. The company’s resistance to Wi-Fi likely stems from a fear that its customers will drastically reduce data transmissions over Verizon’s network—and use VoIP to place calls—resulting in decreased monthly charges and less cash in the bank for the carrier.

This is a really a shame, because most of the additional U.S. carriers are slowly embracing Wi-Fi, and Verizon’s lack of support is starting to become a competitive disadvantage. Personally, I use Wi-Fi on my Bold constantly, and did so with my Curve 8320 before that. After becoming accustomed to it, I honestly could not imagine switching to a device without Wi-Fi—or to a carrier that doesn’t support it.

The good news: Some Niagara pre-production units supposedly do have Wi-Fi, so other carriers could release Wi-Fi equipped versions in the future.

The device will likely run BlackBerry OS v4.7, like the BlackBerry Storm, which implies that Niagara users will have access to the new BlackBerry Application Center. However, some reports suggest that the software version could be rebranded as OS v5.0, to coincide with the release of BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0. RIM expects to ship BES 5.0, or Argon, during the second of half of this year.

Though the initial version of the BlackBerry Niagara 9630 will sport a 3.2 megapixel digital camera, just like the Curve 8900 and Storm do, RIM may release another camera-less version later. (RIM just recently said a camera-less version of the BlackBerry Bold 9000 will soon become available in Japan.)

The expected release date for the Niagara 9630 is late spring/early summer 2009, though that’s just speculation at this point. It also seems likely that Sprint will get some version of the Niagara shortly after Verizon does, so there could be quite a few very happy Verizon and Sprint BlackBerry customers come July—assuming the device doesn’t experience any of the same “growing pains” that the Bold saw shortly after its launch.

Two more as-of-yet-unannounced BlackBerry devices are also reportedly on the horizon, though release specifics are non-existent: The “Gemini” 8325 and the touch-screen, physical-keyboard hybrid, the “Magnum.”