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RIM Upgrades PlayBook with 4G LTE

RIM Upgrades PlayBook with 4G LTE
August 2, 2012 2:32PM

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"The new 4G LTE BlackBerry PlayBook offers a broad range of premium features, including a stunning 7-inch display, front and rear facing HD video cameras, HDMI out and stereo speakers, and it also offers premium performance on high speed cellular networks, helping customers to be more productive than ever," said RIM executive David J. Smith.

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If at first you don't succeed, make it faster.

That's the apparent philosophy that struggling electronics giant Research In Motion has taken with its QNX-based PlayBook tablet. The Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry-device maker announced Thursday that it has created a version of the PlayBook equipped for high speed, 4G long-term evolution data networks.

RIM needs to get consumers' attention in the tablet market, but faces a tough road ahead: Just-released figures from IDC Research show market-leader Apple increasing its global share more than 84 percent in the second quarter year-over-year to 68.2 percent of the market, miles ahead of the closest competitor, Samsung, which has only a 9.6 percent share. RIM's percentage is included in "others," which have a collective 12.3 percent share.

Mulling the Price Tag

RIM says the LTE PlayBook will debut in Canada first, on Aug. 9, via the carriers Bell, Rogers and TELUS, with variants supporting other high-speed networks expected to be released "in coming months from carriers in the U.S., Europe, South Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean."

The price has not been disclosed, a crucial detail since the company dropped the cost of the original PlayBook due to low sales. The current model sells for $199 for the 16-gigabyte model, $249 for the 32 GB and $299 for the 64 GB. The PlayBook was first released in April of 2011.

The LTE model will only come in one storage size, 32 gigabytes.

"We're excited to bring customers the first BlackBerry PlayBook tablet with support for 4G LTE networks," said David J. Smith, executive vice president for mobile computing at RIM.

"The new 4G LTE BlackBerry PlayBook offers a broad range of premium features, including a stunning 7-inch display, front and rear facing HD video cameras, HDMI out and stereo speakers, and it also offers premium performance on high speed cellular networks, helping customers to be more productive than ever and to make the most of their time on the go," Smith said in a statement.

Raising the Baseline

RIM reportedly sold just 260,000 tablets in the last fiscal quarter. But investing in the product rather than retreating from the market could build consumer confidence.

"It is encouraging to see the baseline functionality for RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook increase, now with a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, 32 GB of memory, and mobile broadband support for HSPA+ and LTE" said Jeff Orr, senior practice director for mobile devices, applications and content at ABI Research.

"The frequency band support for HSPA+ and LTE suggests compatible frequencies for both air interface protocols with AT&T's networks in the U.S. market, though we are not aware of any network approval certifications or specific plans for AT&T to offer the BlackBerry PlayBook," he added. "Alternatively, RIM could offer a different embedded modem module that provided LTE and EV-DO Rev.A support, making it technically compatible with the Verizon Wireless network."

The most recent version of Apple's iPad also uses LTE networks.

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