Electronics Manufacturing – M528

BlackBerry: A Fruit Of Many Functions

A long way we have come from the brick sized mobile phones to the new slim line mobile phones that are currently on the market. With companies falling over their feet to convince consumers to choose their product. Today’s mobiles have made it possible to have one device rather than many of the devices that one would have carried such as portable music players, diaries, cameras or even portable TVs. Current devices offer all of the mentioned devices under one roof so to speak and in a "bite size" chunk too.

When Motorola released the first mobile phone in the 1980s, the size of the phone was not really questioned. It was mainly that you no longer needed to be in the office or at home to make a phone call. You could do this whilst on the move, in the car or on the bus. With a dramatic change in life styles compared to 10 years ago or even five years ago, which is considered to be a long time in the technology world. As our ways of living change so do our demands on the technology we have come to rely so much on.

With the constant and increasing demand for having tomorrow’s technology today has driven manufactures in pushing the limits of mobile phone designs in bringing the most compact, fully functional and innovative devices, which all come at a cost. Sometimes this cost may be in terms of functionality in the sense that as the manufacturers strive to bring us the thinnest mobiles some functionalities must be left out in order to bring you the most compact in the aim at reducing the circuit space required. This is where some manufactures will either skim on camera quality, battery quality in order to accommodate another function, certain media functions may be excluded or included. This process of excluding or including may depend on the targeted consumer market. Today we see releases of mobiles with the latest technology that allow the screen to turn into a fully fledged mirror, which is now advertised to appeal people as not only a mobile phone slash camera slash mp3 player but now they say you can put on your lipstick or straighten your tie and send a text message whilst looking into the mirror built into the screen of your mobile like the new LG KE770 mobile phone.

Today’s mobile phone sees the dream of the “24 hour” personal assistant in your palm a reality. This is the focus of this analysis  - mobile communication devices and in particular what has come to be known as the electronic fruit of many functions - The BlackBerry. A BlackBerry is a wireless handheld PDA which offers wireless information services. Designed by Research In Motion (RIM). RIM founded in 1984 now a leading manufacturer of innovative wireless devices providing seamless access to time sensitive information such as email and internet access.

This analysis will be looking at one of the latest in the BlackBerry PDAs – the 8100 “Pearl”. This new model is very much in line with current consumer needs as it provides all the typical functionalities from a BlackBerry such as phone, email, text messaging, internet browsing, faxing plus the usual calendar, address book and so forth but this time housed in a slim line light weight and easy to carry model. With the 8100 Pearl gone are the days when you had to deal with a wide palm computer. The new model features a slightly smaller high resolution LCD screen offering a lot more than any phone out there. The new model has a Pearl-like trackball navigation system, offers media player, video playback, internet, phone, camera, text messaging and to set it apart from its predecessors – an innovative “SureType” keyboard technology. With previous models equipped with the full but miniaturised QWERTY keyboard the 8100 utilizes the SureType which allows for a smaller keypad as each key represents multiple letters, numbers and symbols and uses a prediction dictionary similar to that used on many mobiles, the Tegic’s T9. Aside from its pretty outlook I will also be looking at its internal structure and just what other BIG companies got a piece of the action in terms of which companies contributed their electronics technology to result in this vastly growing addictive device.

The picture above shows the internal components as well as the design of the new trackball navigation system underneath which has four magnetic spinners engaged by the trackball then linked to sensors that relay rotation information. BlackBerrys use the "push technology". This technology is a data distribution technology in which data is automatically delivered into the user's computer at prescribed intervals or based on the some event that occurs as opposed to the "pull technology" in which the user specifically asks for something by performing a search or requesting an existing report, video or other data type. With a plethora of technology RIM has been able to produce a fine product and in a bid to cut manufacturing costs where possible they opted for a single sided surface mount to allow for final assembly to have few reorientations.  The new model sees a change in processor chip manufacturer too. The 8100 features a multicore processor, the PXA900 by Marvell previously made by Intel. This was a result of Marvell's acquisition of Intel's cellular group, which saw a take over in Intel's line of baseband processors such as Hermone, which are now featured on most PDAs such as BlackBerrys and Palm's Treo. The processor stacked on the 8100 Pearl is a 312 MHz processor built on low-power 90 nm process technology, which handles the communication process on the phone whilst tackling OS, interface and multimedia tasks. This processor is deemed to be one of the fastest and high performing processors on the market in handset and gaming devices. Its use of the 90 nm technology (refers to level of CMOS level technology on the chip replacing the 65nm) does not drain a lot of power allowing for longer battery life.

The board also features two chips from Freescale that handle the low-power radio functions and RF and digital and analogue elements. Freescale offers multiple chips on the 8100 board that are responsible for simplifying RF tune-up through RF filtering, power amplification, module control and antenna switching. Power management is managed by the Texas Instruments’ TPS65820 with audio subsystems of voice conversion to digital signals handled by the Maxim Max9853 codec. Texas Instruments' chips are commonly featured on MP3, Smart Phones, PDAs, and other hand held devices as their chips have had good results on efficient use of power and its mechanisms for low power consumption and their reputation has grown through providing reliable components. On top of the components mentioned, the BlackBerry also makes use of TFT at a mere 240 x 260-pixel which offers an impressive 65000 colours. There are also other ICs that contribute to the overall function of the board. Also on board is the use of expandable Flash Memory cards through the use of SD cards. These store information in an array of floating gate transistors called cells. Each cell stores one bit of information. This technology has now moved on to allow more than 1 bit per cell by using more than two levels of electrical charge, placed on the floating gate of the cell. In future we might be seeing the technology featured on BlackBerry devices.

Below is a typical layout of the components built into phones. With the technology rapidly changing and with new phones on the market practically every 9-12 months this basic layout is changing slightly in the size be it from bigger to smaller components but also changing to accommodate new technology. With infrared vastly becoming a thing of the past. The limitations of infrared have been its down fall as its limited on the communication range and requires line of site with this reason today's laptops, digital cameras, PCs, Printers come with built in Bluetooth chips for easier and quicker wireless communication as it allows for communication over greater distances and with a lot more devices than infrared allows. The 8100 features a v2.0 Bluetooth single chip from CSR making for easier and quicker transfer of files between PDAs and PCs or other devices. Bringing all these components to work to a specification that your normal average Joe can understand and use is RIM's own BlackBerry proprietary BlackBerry operating system, which puts it all into context for the user. Where by other PDAs and smartphones similar to the the Blackberry are powered by Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system. With BlackBerry's previous use of proprietary network gained it some much needed positive publicity and popularity, as during the devastating terrorist attacks of September 11, many cell phones networks became gridlocked due to a high demand on the network. During the day of the tragic event and days after, the BlackBerry network continued to function normally which lead to its increased use by the US police, fire fighters and other organisations in similar lines of work. With new services offered by BlackBerry PDAs they have joined the same networks as those used by other mobile phones in order to provide service plans with data capabilities.

In order to put the new BlackBerry into mainstream, the use of smaller components and solid state electronic technology rather than mechanical has allowed for smaller boards and bringing on board the BIG boys of the chip manufacturing companies as shown in the above picture. The components shown include chip electronics from Intel, Texas Instruments, Maxim and Marvell which are all well known for providing mobile phone manufacturers with a variety of technology to fit in with whatever design or mobile functionality required. With this model using more advanced chips it allows it to support the quad-band GSM at 850/900/1,800/1,900 MHz. Global System for Mobile (GSM) communication being the global standard for mobile communication. In Europe, GSM networks and phones send and receive data over radio waves at around 900 or 1800 megahertz. In the US, the frequency used is around 1900 MHz. A lot of mobile phones are designed to work in other countries and are either "dual band", meaning they work on 900 MHz and 1800 MHz networks, or "tri-band", meaning they can work on 1900 MHz networks as well.

This makes the BlackBerry multi-functional across different networks across the planet. This contributes to its rising popularity growth. By the late 1990s BlackBerry was to become the first wireless device to synchronise company mail system, which meant you did not have to have a different email address when travelling. The use of this wireless technology that has nearly brought the whole of the BlackBerry network to a halt as the case regarding patent and trademark infringement surrounding the wireless technology used took long to come to a close. The case run from 2001 and was only settled March of last year for $612.5 million. Even with that in the background Blackberrys sales still continued steadily to grow, RIM now offer the BlackBerry email services to non-BlackBerry devices such its Palm Treo through the BlackBerry Connect Software. With that case closing within a few months saw another new opening court case with Samsung for releasing a PDA called BlackJack for which RIM supplies its email services to, citing the name is "an act of trademark infringement" as the name is closely linked to BlackBerry. The case continues.

When the BlackBerry was first put on the market it was seen as the accessory only for executives on the go, and was given away in thousands in a bid to promote it and those on the receiving end included members of the congress. In 2004 only a million people where using this product by last year this figure had grown to over four million and now standing at 6 million, as the product now appeals not to just the big executives but those with busy lives that need a simple reliable device offering it “all” under one roof which makes for one of today’s must-haves. RIM leads the market in the US so only time will tell if RIM can sustain the market not just in the US but world wide as the leading provider of such a device with the current competition growing from companies such as Nokia, Motorola who have been in the telecoms business more than RIM.