For a company in peril, Research in Motion sure looks gutsy right now. RIM’s BlackBerry Bold 9900 smartphone will cost $300 with a two-year T-Mobile contract—after a $50 mail-in rebate—when it launches for consumers on August 31.
The $300 price makes T-Mobile’s BlackBerry Bold 9900 the most expensive on-contract smartphone in the United States, tied only with the 32GB iPhone 4. And although the Bold 9900 has 4G HSPA+ coverage on T-Mobile, it only offers 8GB of internal storage, plus a microSD slot. It’s not clear whether T-Mobile picked the high price point on its own or in conjunction with RIM, but the 3G Bold isn’t much cheaper on other carriers, selling for $250 through Sprint and Verizon.
(MORE: The Tragic Decline of BlackBerry)
While the high price may seem kooky given that RIM is losing U.S. market share, it might actually work. Several reviews of the latest BlackBerry Bold come to a similar conclusion: This is a BlackBerry for diehards, with great hardware but outdated software and a weak selection of apps. It won’t retain people who are thinking about jumping to an iPhone or Android, and it certainly won’t bring back people who’ve already made the switch.
But if you’re committed to BlackBerry for now, you just might pay that premium price. As I’ve said before, RIM is treading water with its latest batch of BlackBerry phones, buying time until its smartphones based on QNX (the OS that powers the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet) are ready. Until those phones are available, probably in 2012, RIM’s best hope is to squeeze money from loyal customers. As Kevin Tofel writes at GigaOM, it’s a gamble, but it could pay off.