They threw in the kitchen sink: AT&T will gain another exclusive phone, launching the Blackberry 8820, a fully converged cell/Wi-Fi smartphone with support for cell networks as fast as EDGE and Wi-Fi. Will RIM now be criticized for "only" supporting EDGE? Unlikely. The iPhone is designed to be a rich multimedia computer platform, where EDGE makes using network-intensive features beyond email and widgets tedious. Blackberrys are messaging devices, for which EDGE makes perfect sense, even as RIM moves to make richer devices. Reuters reported that AT&T will launch the phone, but the exclusivity period wasn't mentioned. The phone launches later this summer.
The phone can also handle unlicensed mobile access (UMA), in which voice calls are placed from either cell or Wi-Fi networks and seamlessly shift between the two network types. T-Mobile launched the first such service with national ability in the U.S. in late June with HotSpot@Home. The phone is also quad-band for worldwide use and deployment. T-Mobile has to be jonesing for this model, because the consistent complaint about HotSpot@Home was the bare-bones quality of the two offered handsets; the network and service was often praised.
Wi-Fi support includes 802.11a, b, and g. 802.11a is important in the enterprise, where it's often used to segregate VoIP for better performance. RIM included WEP, WPA, WPA2, and Cisco Compatible Extensions. One presumes there's an 802.1X supplicant, too, but it's not separately mentioned. The Blackberry offers IPsec-based VPN service; PPTP is considered very strong, so it's not unusual RIM wouldn't opt to include it.
In the inevitable additional description of how the 8820 is unlike an iPhone, it includes fully enabled GPS technology that works with an existing mapping application; has a micro SD/SDHC support slot for up to 2 GB (SD) and 32 GB (SDHC), although only 4 GB SDHC is available now; voice calling, in which you speak a name to call it; and Bluetooth 2.0, although no mention of stereo output or external keyboard support. The 8800 series, not just the 8820, includes Yahoo Messenger and Google Talk for true instant messaging alongside both SMS text messaging and MMS multimedia messaging; the iPhone handles only SMS.
The 8820 also comes with new music and media creation tools for Windows from Roxio that organizes songs and videos, and creates versions of media optimized for this Blackberry model. With better support for creating media and playing media, the Blackberry now competes with a host of other phones and organizers, not just the iPhone.
The iPhone, on the other hand, has multi-touch navigation, a sleek interface, rich HTML email, a real browser, and visual voicemail. The Blackberry 8820 can handle third-party applications, of which a large number exist, including in-house software developed by corporations for their Blackberry-toting employees; Apple has yet to detail when such software will be allowed to be installed on an iPhone.
Oh, yeah: the Blackberry 8820 has a keyboard--a one-letter-per-key keyboard, unlike its Pearl model. The iPhone has a "glass" keyboard that makes my hand tired and I still haven't mastered, 28 years after becoming a touch typist on full-sized keyboards.