BlackBerry Bold, Google Android Put On Hold; 3G Apple iPhone Gets Leg Up

BlackBerry smart phone 3G

While RIM could not be reached for comment on the details, the blogosphere has exploded with speculation that the BlackBerry Bold, announced last month at RIM's Wireless Enterprise Symposium (WES) in Orlando, won't reach stores until August at the earliest, despite RIM's promise that it'd be ready in July.

According to the widely popular Boy Genius Report blog, the Bold won't be available AT&T's network until at least mid-August because AT&T and RIM are having software issues with battery life and overheating. Additionally, the Bold has yet to be certified by AT&T, The Boy Genius report noted, quoting high-level RIM insiders. AT&T has first crack at the Bold, as RIM and AT&T agreed that the country's No. 1 carrier would have it for its network first.

The Bold sent shockwaves through the wireless industry when RIM dropped the bomb last month. An entire room at WES was set aside for BlackBerry users to test the Bold, and word is it took hours of waiting to actually get the device in-hand.

The Bold marks the first BlackBerry to support tri-band HSDPA 3G high-speed networks worldwide and integrates GPS and Wi-Fi along with recent multimedia capabilities Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM has made a staple in its devices while phasing out the clunky brick-style smart phones of just a few years ago. The tri-band HSDPA and quad-band EDGE support enable global roaming.

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When the Bold was announced May 12, it was seen by many as BlackBerry's attempt to beat the Apple iPhone to the 3G punch. Apple announced its 3G iPhone on June 9 and said it will be in stores on July 11. The delays on the Bold mean that Apple will get more than one month of lead time over BlackBerry in the 3G space.

Apple also has BlackBerry beat on price. The 3G Bold is expected to cost anywhere from $300 to $400, though RIM has not confirmed pricing, while the 3G Apple iPhone will hit the $199 sweet spot. Both smart phones will get the AT&T treatment, though RIM has said the Bold would extend to other major wireless carriers after the initial start with AT&T.

The BlackBerry Bold delays come just days after reports surfaced that the Google Android open source mobile device platform is also suffering setbacks. According to a Wall Street Journal report, phones based on the Android software won't hit the market until roughly the fourth quarter, mostly due to Google's 30 plus partners having trouble hitting deadlines. Google had initially projected that Android-based devices would hit the market around the second quarter.

The Journal reported that the Android setback is partially due to the fact that many of the wireless carriers and device manufacturers making devices for the Google Android platform have been struggling to hit deadlines.

T-Mobile has said it has plans to have an Android-powered phone in the fourth quarter. Sprint, however, won't be able to hit the second half of this year due to the carrier wanting to develop its own branded services on Android, rather than just carry a device with Google features already built in. In addition, shifts among the executive ranks at Sprint may also be contributing to the holdup. Unnamed sources told the Journal that Sprint is considering scrapping its Android device plans for its current 3G network and may focus on developing an Android-based device for the faster 4G network it is working on with a host of partners, including Google.

Elsewhere, China Mobile has said its Android launch will be on hold until either late this year or early in 2009. Quoting insiders, the Journal said China Mobile is hitting roadblocks in translating Android software from Roman characters into Chinese and is having trouble merging its own branded data services onto the Android platform.

Despite reports of the setbacks, Google issued a statement that said Google Android device plans remain on schedule.

"We remain on schedule to deliver the first Android-based handset in the second half of 2008, and we're very excited to see the momentum continuing to build behind the Android platform among carriers, handset manufacturers, developers and consumers," Google said in a statement.

The Android delays put another arrow in the 3G iPhone's quiver, since its Apple will have its 3G device in the hands of the smart phone hungry public before Android-based devices reach the market.