While we were at WES, we had the opportunity to sit down with RIM’s Antoine Boucher, Vice President, Accessories Integration. During our meeting, we were briefed on some upcoming BlackBerry accessories so we thought that we would share the goods with everyone. Hit the jump to read about what everyone’s favorite Waterloo-based smartphone company has in the pipeline. We promise you won’t be let down.
New Bluetooth headset
- Codenamed “Alpha 1″
- Black with chrome BlackBerry logo (text is omitted)
- Dedicated on / off switch
- Dial / hangup button
- Over the ear loop design with ergonomically molded in-ear bud, slightly smaller than both the Jawbone PRIME and barely larger than the BlueAnt Q1
- Noise cancellation technology
- Emphasis on ease of use and simplistic design
- microUSB charging port (the new standard for all RIM devices)
- Ability to listen to music (mono) and listen to voice command-enabled GPS navigation apps
- Possibility of text to speech and speech to text sometime in the future
- “Competitively priced”
When discussing how well the Alpha 1 fits in the ears compared to competitors, Boucher told us that the Alpha 1 is as good if not better than any headset currently on the market but was careful to note the reality which is that it’s impossible to design a headset that will fit everyone perfectly. In fact according to Boucher, who worked closely with a company who specializes in all things audio, there are 30 distinct shapes of human ear and means a lot of work went into designing a headset that can accommodate the most common shapes within the population.
Bluetooth Vehicle Visor Mount
- Referred to as Bluetooth Vehicle Visor Mount
- First seen at CES 2009
- Attaches to sun visor in automobiles
- Built-in FM transmitter to allow MP3s stored on BlackBerry to be beamed from Bluetooth Vehicle Visor Mount to automobiles’ radio
- Simple, sleek design with all black color scheme and subtle gray BlackBerry logo
- Targeted for June / July release
*Possible* Bluetooth watch
The next one is quite interesting. While sitting down with Boucher we noticed that he was wearing a Sony Ericsson Bluetooth watch, something which does not work with any BlackBerry. When we brought it up, Boucher winked and said he could not discuss that matter. But when we continued to ask questions about it, it was revealed that yes, it is indeed possible to modify the SE Bluetooth watches to display when a new emails, BlackBerry Messenger messages, texts, IMs, Tweets, Facebook messages, etc arrive on the device — something that could be very beneficial for those situations when it would be considered very rude to pull out ones BlackBerry. When we asked whether or not RIM was looking into developing such an accessory, Boucher simply said that “we are exploring many accessories that would surprise people.” Hmm.
*Possible* TV-out gateway
As our meeting with Boucher was nearing an end, he asked us what we look for in an accessory and what sort of accessories we would like to see that would help us better use our device. We mentioned that we would love to see a way to get TV-out on our devices especially considering that microSD cards now reach 32GB and are hot-swappable. Boucher asked what we envisioned such an accessory would be like, and not wanting to sound overly demanding, we said that we’d be fine with a simple cable that hooks into a TV or computer. Boucher then smirked and asked why we wouldn’t prefer such a device to be an updated BlackBerry Music Gateway…
Halfway through our talks, we asked Boucher what his thoughts were on the growing amount of third-party accessory companies that have products for BlackBerry. We also asked if RIM would ever try to move in on companies that make the most popular accessories. Furthermore, we wondered about companies such as OtterBox whose rugged cases and skins were seen in the hands of a surprising number of the 5,000 plus BlackBerry users in attendance at WES. Boucher said that RIM is more than open to collaboration (a buzzword that came up a lot during our meeting), but for niche products such as OtterBox who make “great products, but ones that most people don’t have a use for” there is very little sense for RIM to lend a hand. Boucher added however, that RIM would not rule out working with accessory companies “if it makes business sense to us. If it doesn’t make business sense, then there is no point for us.”
Also of note was Boucher’s vision of what a good accessory should do. In his view, which is essentially that of RIM, a good BlackBerry accessory should make you use the product more and in more beneficial ways. For example, there is a set of BlackBerry headphones that feature multimedia controls for audio and video which, in combination with a high-capacity microSD card, means that BlackBerry users can leave their iPod at home and travel with one device. And when they do return home, they can sit at their desks and beam music to their stereo systems with the BlackBerry Music Gateway. In short, it’s all about encouraging more and more BlackBerry use in daily life with the goal of making life much more simple and convenient.
Well there you have it. The first two are definitely coming alongside a new accessory push slated for June / July, but the last two are just things that we’d be willing to bet some serious money are being tested pretty thoroughly right now. After all, what good is a feature-rich smartphone with “dumb” accessories?