The 5810 was the first BlackBerry device to have integrated mobile phone capability, albeit requiring a headset to make and receive calls as it had no built-in microphone or speaker.
BlackBerry founder, Mike Lazaridis, had predicted that wireless handhelds devices, also known as personal digital assistants (PDAs), would converge with mobile phones and the $549 BlackBerry 5810 was the outcome of that vision. At launch, it was described as a “sleek handheld that was ‘Always On, Always Connected” allowing users to manage all their “business communications and information from a single, integrated wireless handheld.”
The BlackBerry 5810, which used a Java-based operating system, connected to 2.5G GSM mobile phone networks using the general packet radio service (GPRS) for data communications. It was notable for being the first GSM/GPRS wireless handheld device to ship in North America.
In an effort to accelerate the time-to-market of the 5810, it used the same plastic housing as the earlier RIM 957 Wireless Handheld
(at that point the company did not refer to its devices as a BlackBerry). Rapid market introduction was also the reason for the 5810 requiring a plug-in headset to make and receive calls.
The device had a three-inch black and white screen with a backlight that made it easier to work at all times. In addition to email, it also supported SMS text messaging, had a basic browser and an organiser function that included calendar, address book, memopad and task list applications.
The 5810 featured a “navigation trackwheel” on the side of the device that allowed a user to scroll through information on the screen and make a selection by pushing on the wheel.
It was firmly targeted at business users rather than consumers and is widely regarded as a key device that started the trend towards mobile working.
The device pictured is a BT Cellnet branded version of the BlackBerry 5810 that was sold in the UK.
A challenge that emerged with the European variant of the 5810, the BlackBerry 5820
, was that users were reluctant to use the belt-clip that was provided with the phone. Customers ended up placing the device in their pockets resulting in dust ingress into the 3.5mm headset jack that caused issues with the audio quality.
The device proved to be pivotal in the market growth of BlackBerry products. It eventually shipped to around 20 mobile network operators worldwide.