date, seen pictures, official specs, leaked specs, videos, demos, leaked slides and a few other things about BlackBerry 10. However, one thing that hasn’t been talked about much is what the first two BlackBerry 10 devices will be called. What are we going to be referring to them as come launch time?
For a while now, we’ve been referring to the first two devices that are coming on January 30th as the L-Series (full touchscreen) and the N-Series (full QWERTY keyboard and touch screen). These are supposedly the same devices we once knew as the London and the Nevada, all internal names RIM has assigned them. This isn’t anything out of the norm for RIM since they, like pretty much every other company, have used internal names for their devices before they are launched and have done so for a very, very long time.
When it comes to what the new BlackBerry 10 devices will be called, I'm excited, but slightly worried as well. Naming and branding new devices has been something RIM has done really, really well at times and failed miserably at others in the past.
One syllable makes it personal
Since they started giving names to their devices (since the Pearl 81xx), they’ve opted to go with short names. Every single BlackBerry smartphone name has had only one syllable (Pearl, Curve, Bold, Storm, Tour, Style, Torch).
This has made it incredibly easy for users to refer to their devices as “my Bold,” or “my Curve,” instead of just calling it “my phone.” This is one trend that I’m really hoping continues with BlackBerry 10.
The BlackBerry Curve
The Curve line, arguably RIM’s most successful line of devices to date, has existed since OS 4.x was around and still stands strong today in the 9310, 9320, 9350 devices with OS 7.1. The Curve name has always signified entry-level, sturdy, dependent, and cost-effective and that’s clear by the acceptance it has received in developing countries, as well for people that need a simple, effective smartphone.
The Bold line, which since the 9000 came out, has been known as the Cadillac of BlackBerry devices, revolutionized the QWERTY keyboard, the way we type and is the must have BlackBerry 7 device. It helped shape up the Be Bold campaign and has been extremely indicative of what BlackBerry users are right now, bold. Despite the need for a clean start with BlackBerry 10, the Bold name is the only one that could work (although I hope they don't use it) for the BlackBerry 10 QWERTY device.
The Storm and Torch Fiasco
It hasn't all been great in the branding and naming departments though. For example, hearing or reading the words “BlackBerry Storm” make many of us, myself included, cringe. True, there are a great number of users that have told me over and over that they loved their Storm and even miss the SurePress screen on today's touch-only devices. However the reality of it is, that the reputation that the Storm series built up was so bad, that when RIM put out their all touch BlackBerry 7 devices, they had no other choice but to dump the Storm brand name and ended up going with the name Torch instead. That brings me to my next blunder: Two completely different devices given the same name.
The Torch 9800 was exclusively introduced by AT&T on August 12th, 2010. While it didn’t do great, it wasn’t perceived nearly as bad as the Storm series so it managed to stick around with BlackBerry 7. Last year, the successor of the 9800, the Torch II 9810, rolled through sporting much of the same look with mainly its internal specs beefed up. Alongside the Torch 9810 (a full touch, full QWERTY, slider device), RIM announced BlackBerry 7’s touch-only (no keyboard, and not a slider) device, which they named the Torch 9850/60 (facepalm). I still think they should've just called it the Volt.
As you can imagine, for the last year and change, the confusion created by having 3 devices (9800, 9810, and 9850/60) all named "Torch" has been rather annoying on forums or whenever you need to find out information about someone’s device. This is especially true since most people don’t know or care about the actual device number (9800, 9810, 9850, 9860) which is what identifies the different models.
Naming the Tour 2, the Bold
The BlackBerry Tour came out in July 12th, 2009 and it represented, although unofficially, the next step in the 88xx World Edition line for CDMA carriers in the U.S. The name Tour was incredibly clever. It was a phone that you could literally “tour” the world with thanks to its capabilities. Unfortunately it still had a trackball and not a trackpad, which the Curve 85xx series, a series that would debut less than a month later and was considered to be low-end, had.
At around the same time, GSM networks had the Bold 9700 series, so RIM decided that when it came time to refresh the Tour the following year, they’d keep the same hardware, but throw a trackpad on it, update some of its specs, and change the name to the Bold 9650. Suffice to say, people were pissed at these tiny updates and a rebranding of a phone that seemed more like trickery than anything else.
Going in a completely different direction with BlackBerry 10
BlackBerry 10 will bring together innovation and familiarity to BlackBerry users at the OS level by integrating bad ass new features with bits and pieces for the current BlackBerry OS look that we all recognize (unified inbox, BBM; etc). The same idea should not carry over into the naming and branding process for BlackBerry 10.
Familiarity needs to go out the door when it's decided what these devices will officially be called. The average customer needs to be able differentiate new and past devices, not only by seeing what BlackBerry 10 looks like, but by hearing a new device name as well. If the Bold name carries over, for example, people may not even want to look at the "new BlackBerry Bold" when told about it because they'll think that they've seen it already by mistakenly confusing it for the 9900.
New OS, new device names, new image, new brand for RIM and BlackBerry 10.