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The BlackBerry 850 was introduced back in 1999 and it was the first ever BlackBerry device. It was a two-way pager with a monochrome display and a full physical QWERTY keyboard. That physical keyboard was the distinguishing element of the BlackBerry form factor for years. The 850 was powered by two AA batteries.
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This was the first BB release from RIM to feature phone functionality. The BlackBerry 5810 supported email, web browsing, SMS and custom enterprise apps. It was a personal organizer, but also a versatile communication device. The only catch was that it didn’t have a speaker or a microphone, so for calls you had to use a headset with it.
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Released in 2003, the BlackBerry 6210 was the first device from RIM to combine web browsing, email, SMS, BlackBerry Messenger and phone service without requiring you to use a headset. It still had a monochrome display, but this combination of features paved the way for the modern BlackBerry range and the form factor looks familiar.
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Later in 2003, the BlackBerry 7210 came out and it was the first BlackBerry to offer a color screen. In terms of design and features it was very similar to the 6210, but that color display added a new dimension, even if it was only 240 x 160 pixels. It was released on AT&T and had international roaming capabilities.
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Towards the end of 2004, RIM decided to expand their range with a new form factor. By ditching the signature full QWERTY keyboard they were able to slim the phone down and appeal to a wider market. This phone also introduced SureType. Unlike a T9 keypad it had two letters per key instead of three which made it easier to type on. The screen also featured a higher resolution at 240 x 260 pixels.
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Turns out the 7000 series wasn’t done after all because this release followed the 7290. This phone distinguished itself by being the first BlackBerry to support Wi-Fi. It was WLAN 802.11b and it also had Bluetooth support and the usual range of features. Unusually it didn’t run on a cellular network so it relied upon VoIP for calls.
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The BlackBerry 8700 series (also known as the Electron) returned to the full QWERTY keyboard form factor. It boasted a 2.6 inch LCD with a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels and it was powered by an Intel processor. It also marked a jump in memory up to 64 MB. It was released in 2005 and sought to bridge the gap between business users and the wider market.
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BlackBerry Pearl 8100
The BlackBerry Pearl was so named because of the switch from the traditional side scrolling wheel to a trackball for navigation. It also featured the SureType keypad for a slimmer form factor. It was the first BlackBerry to have a built-in camera (1.3 MP) and support for music and video playback. It also featured a microSDHC slot so you could expand the memory up to 8 GB.
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BlackBerry Curve 8300
The 8300 series, better known as the BlackBerry Curve, brought together the traditional form factor, in its smallest and lightest form yet, along with a strong range of features. It was still lacking Wi-Fi and 3G support but it did offer a 2 MP camera and the usual messaging and email support.
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BlackBerry Storm 9500
It seemed inevitable that RIM would have to adopt touch screen technology and their first attempt came in the shape of the Storm. It had decent specs, but people didn’t like the SurePress haptic feedback when using the cramped touch screen keyboard. It was also rushed to market and released with a few bugs. It also had a 3.2 MP camera, 1 GB of internal memory (expandable to 32 GB) and a 360 x 480 pixel resolution display. No Wi-Fi though.
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BlackBerry Torch 9800
In 2010 came the BlackBerry everyone had been waiting for. The Torch offered a touch screen and it could slide up to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard – the best of both worlds. It also boasted a 5 MP camera along with full connectivity and multimedia support. On top of that it ran the new BlackBerry OS 6. This was a much needed shot in the arm for the brand.
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BlackBerry Bold 9900
The 9900 is RIM’s 2011 update to the Bold line. It runs BlackBerry OS 7 and has a touch screen as well as a full QWERTY keyboard. The internal specs are a boost but nothing spectacular by modern standards – 1.2 GHz processor, 8 GB storage (expandable by 32 GB), 768 MB of RAM and a 5 MP camera.
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BlackBerry Torch 9850
This is the latest 2011 update to the popular Torch. It offers the biggest touch screen on a BlackBerry yet at 3.7 inches with a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels. The rest of the specs are much like the new Bold -- 1.2 GHz processor, 4 GB storage (expandable by 32 GB), 768 MB of RAM and a 5 MP camera. The physical keyboard is completely gone and the reviews are mixed.
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BlackBerry Curve 9350
The latest RIM handset to hit the stores (at the time of writing) is this updated Curve. It offers a minor upgrade for the Curve line with BB OS 7, a 5 MP camera, 800 MHz processor, 512 MB RAM, 2 GB memory and a 2.44 inch display with a resolution of 480 x 360 pixels. It also has the traditional full QWERTY keyboard and it is an entry-level smartphone so it’s priced accordingly.