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The History of RIM & the BlackBerry Smartphone, Part 3: The Evolution Of Color

A few weeks back, I started with the History of RIM & the BlackBerry Smartphone, Part 1 and followed up with Part 2 introducing the BlackBerry Black & White days. That first part focused on the origins of the BlackBerry dating back to RIM’s first device until the release of the BlackBerry 850 & the original BES. The second part took us through the evolution from the original BlackBerry until 2002. Part 3 will be the journey RIM took into the color devices and prosumer/Individual market.

The biggest change that started in 2003 was color coming to RIM devices. This originally did not start as full TFT color displays but rather reflective color displays. Let me know if you find any corrections or more information. There will be one more final section since 2003-2005 turned out to have more historic events than I expected.


  • The new GSM BlackBerry 6210, BlackBerry 6220, & BlackBerry 6230 devices were released
    • Commentary: These new lightweight GSM devices were targeted towards prosumers and individuals.
    • The 6210 was dual-band GSM (900/1900) while the 6220 was dual-band (900/1800) and the 6230 was tri-band GSM (900/1800/1900). Weird that they had a device ending with 30 that was not CDMA.


  • RIM also released the color BlackBerry 7210, BlackBerry 7230, & BlackBerry 7280. All of them were different GSM variants of the first color BlackBerry.
    • Commentary: These were the first BlackBerrys with color screens and the 7280 added international roaming by adding international frequencies. Not sure what the difference was between the 7210 & 7230 but it was probably different carriers… They all looked exactly the same. (7230 looks exclusive to T-Mobile from what I could find)
    • The breakdown is 7210 & 7230 (900/1900),  7280 clocked in with (850/1800/1900)


  • The BlackBerry 7730 was also released in 2003 allowing for a large color screen and international roaming on GSM networks
    • Commentary: This was the first RIM tri-band GSM phone with a much larger screen. Other than that the specs more or less remain the same.


  • BlackBerry Connect was also introduced in 2003
    • Commentary: BlackBerry Connect was hailed as a saving grace for RIM allowing them to spread to other devices. For awhile this held true until they started falling way behind with features. RIM also announced plans for Symbian OS, HTC, Palm support for BlackBerry Connect in the same year. It took years for these solutions to actually come out but it was a big deal at the time.
  • In 2003 RIM also released a new BlackBerry JDE
    • Commentary: This was a huge step for RIM since it opened the door for Over The Air (OTA) downloads for the first time along with documented API specifications
  • S/MIME support also came around this year allowing RIM to support the security requirements for government and other security conscious users.
    • Commentary: This was a big deal for RIM and its government contracts. They also received FIPS 140-2 Security Certification the same year so you can see RIM was making some serious headway.
  • In 2003 RIM was added to the Nasdaq-100 index


  • RIM turns 20!!! Yay! At that time RIM had 2 million users worldwide
  • In 2004 Nextel got some BlackBerry color love with the 7510/7520. The first BlackBerry with GPS but not very functional GPS. It was also the first BlackBerry with a speakerphone along with support for Nextel’s walkie-talkie function.
    • Commentary: The 7510 & 7520 are a bit confusing. They both came out in the same year and were practically the same device but the 7510 came out in the beginning of the year and the 7520 at the end of the year. The 7520 had 32mb of memory compared to the 7510’s 16mb and also seems to have added GPS.


  • RIM also updated the CDMA BlackBerry line in 2004 with the BlackBerry 7750
    • Commentary: Verizon ended up with a larger color device before a smaller one (link).  Not sure why but I guess they were just setting up the custom of getting devices later than everybody else. This device also only had 14mb of memory which was a step down…


  • Things got interesting in 2004 with the release of the BlackBerry 7100. This was the first BlackBerry with Bluetooth!!! Along with QUAD-BAND GSM, speakerphone, large real TFT display along with a smaller SureType keyboard
    • Commentary: This was a true game changer for RIM. This opened the door for the consumer BlackBerry. It added a smaller form factor and a sexier look. The SureType technology was awkward at first but now people swear by it. Bluetooth was finally in board in a limited form along with a REAL color screen (TFT). It was also the first BlackBerry with a portrait screen orientation compared to the traditional landscape BlackBerry.


  • Things changed up yet again when RIM released the Plazmic Content Developers Kit v3.7 which opened the door to themes on BlackBerry devices!
    • Commentary: This really showed how RIM was trying to court the consumer market. The original themes were extremely limited but it was such a big deal back then…
  • After the success of the 7100 series RIM introduced the 7290 which added quad-band GSM support, Bluetooth, a better screen, & more memory to the smaller traditional BlackBerrys. The screen did not hold a candle to the 7100’s TFT screen but it was better.
    • Commentary: You still see these BlackBerry’s around every day. Can you believe that they are almost 5 years old?
  • BES 4.0 also came in 2004 for Exchange & Lotus Domino. This really rounded out BES but I wont go into the details. You can find them here.
  • RIM made some huge headway in 2004 with BlackBerry Connect. They joined up with Samsung, Palm, Sony Ericsson, Siemens, Motorola, Nokia and Symbian OS-based devices, & HTC for the MDA II & XDA II
    • Commentary: As I said BlackBerry Connect showed real promise only to die a slow death…


  • In 2005 RIM hit 4 million subscribers
    • Commentary: That was double the year before… Talk about progress!
  • 2005 was the year of the BlackBerry 8700. It took the BlackBerry community by storm with its REAL color screen, themes, Bluetooth, quad-band support, & more.
    • Commentary: This was a real game changer for RIM with its new screen. This device is still popular till this day!


  • BlackBerry Connect made some more headway in 2005 with it being built into the Sony Ericsson P910i and Siemens SK65.
    • Commentary: I remember trying BlackBerry Connect and while it was nice and worked it was extremely limited.

sk65 sony_ericsson_p910i

  • RIM released the Smart Card reader for increased security
    • Commentary: This really endeared RIM to government security by going one step further than the competition.


  • RIM also started playing with Wi-Fi for VOIP calls with Avaya
    • Commentary: This died a slow death in obscurity only to be reborn into BlackBerry MVS. Yet another crippled voice system.
  • At the end of 2005 RIM introduced the BlackBerry 7130
    • Commentary: This was the first true color CDMA BlackBerry. It was bulkier than the original 7100 series and just looked like a monster. It was also one of the first BlackBerry’s that RIM pushed as a tethered modem due to its EVDO speeds.


Stay tuned for the final Part 4: The journey ending with the BlackBerry we know today!

3 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. As far as I remember the difference between the 7210 and the 7230 was that the 7230 had bluetooth whereas the 7210 did not. I owned both.

  2. The Nextel 7520 had bluetooth where as the 7510 did not. One could speculate that this is one of the reasons for two similar devices in the same year.

  3. Im looking very forward to part 4!

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