BlackBerry, formerly known as RIM (Research In Motion), dominated the smartphone market before there was even a term for it. For 20 years they’ve reinvented how people communicate. Today the battle is all about Apple and Google while BlackBerry carves out a niche in the secure hardware and software market. Yet some of the biggest innovations have come from this Canadian company.
Here’s the 10 most innovative devices released by BlackBerry in that time.
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1. Inter@ctive Pager (Released 1996) - Letting users send two-way alphanumeric messages instead of just receive numbers as most pagers did. The first branded "BlackBerry" was the 850 model and 20 years later the basic design is still in use.
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2. BlackBerry 5810 (Released 2002) - The first model with phone capabilities (via headphone). Later models removed the need for headphones and added a color screen. This version added email features, Java apps and ran on 2G networks opening the field to more carriers. The addictive opportunity to surf the web and email from anywhere popularized the term, "CrackBerry."
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3. Pearl (Released 2004) - Named for the pearl-like white trackball which eventually replaced the dial on all BlackBerry devices. In order to compete with candybar phones like the Nokia 3310, the Blackberry Pearl included the SureType predictive text algorithm which was smarter and faster than the ubiquitous T9 texting system.
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4. Curve (Released May 2007) - Returning to the traditional form factor and adding a trackball, the BlackBerry Curve was popular among the consumer market. Available in a variety of colors, it was often cheap or free on contract. In the years that followed, iPhone and Android fought it out at home while the Curve helped RIM maintain a strong foothold in emerging markets.
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Bold (Released May 2008) - Made with premium components and a refined finish, this became the most popular design of BlackBerry. Backed by BlackBerry Enterprise Server this was a highly sought-after model by professionals who needed security in their mobile device. It was even brought out of retirement after BlackBerry 10 was made the standard.
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6. Storm (Released November 2008) - In direct competition with iPhone, the BlackBerry Storm dropped the keyboard for a 3.25 inch touchscreen. Poor user experience challenged the idea that RIM could make something that competed. The follow-up Storm 2 and Torch didn't change any minds.
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7. Playbook (Released 2011) - Following Apple's lead again, RIM released this diminutive tablet. The Playbook was aimed at the business sector with competitive hardware, HDMI video out and Android app support. Initially well received, it never gained traction.
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8. Z10 and Q10 (Released Early 2013) - The first devices with the rebuilt BlackBerry 10 OS. Very high adoption rate in the business sector and good reviews, but delays pushed the release back by more than a year. Even re-branding the company as "BlackBerry" may have been too little, too late to save their reputation.
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9. Passport (Released September 2014) - Rethinking the traditional layout, BlackBerry released a square design. Risky and not pocket-friendly, it sold well with BlackBerry-faithful who appreciated the larger typing space.
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10. Priv (Released November 2015) - BlackBerry's first Android device. While most branded Android devices have "bloatware," this one includes customization that makes Android more secure. The big attraction for Android users was the first physical keyboard on an Android in years, and one by the company that makes keyboards best.
No more BlackBerry OS devices are planned for this year but two more Android devices are. The Priv will likely become the new standard as part of 20 years of innovative design.