Research In Motion is taking its second stab at the high-end consumer market with the new BlackBerry Curve, even while Nokia unveils some of the least expensive handsets in its line-up.
The introduction of the devices from both vendors reflects a trend in the mobile-phone industry to target the very high and very low ends of the market as growth slows in saturated regions.
The Curve is the smallest and lightest BlackBerry yet. It follows the introduction last year of the Pearl, a well-received BlackBerry that was aimed at the consumer smartphone market as well as business users. But unlike the Pearl, the Curve features the full QWERTY keyboard that appears on most other BlackBerry devices.
The Curve has a number of features aimed at mainstream users. It comes with a 2-megapixel camera that has a 5x digital zoom and built-in flash and enables three picture quality and resolution settings.
Users can also listen to music and watch videos on the phone and add more storage using a microSD expansion card slot.
The Curve comes with Roxio Media Manager for BlackBerry, software developed by Sonic Solutions that helps users organize their media files on their computers and then convert photos, music and videos for playback on the Curve.
The Curve will become available from AT&T Inc. in the U.S. and other operators around the world in the first half of the year. RIM did not reveal a price for the Curve. T-Mobile USA is currently selling the Pearl for US$199 after rebates.
The Curve is likely to appeal to a very different customer than phones also introduced on Thursday by Nokia. The cheapest of the seven new phones from Nokia, the 1200, will cost US$48 and is designed to support entrepreneurs in rural areas primarily in developing markets who may want to run a business by sharing the phone with neighbors.
As regions like Europe and North America grow increasingly saturated with mobile-phone users, vendors are looking to emerging markets as well as the high end of mature markets in hopes of continuing to grow their businesses. That means they're producing very low-end devices that they can sell for cheap in developing regions, like the new Nokia phones, as well as high-end phones like the Curve that might have good margins and are targeted to mature markets.