The BlackBerry P’9981 was the first of three devices made in partnership with Porsche Design. It was based on the BlackBerry Bold 9900
and, with a price tag of $2,300, it was never intended to be a mass-market device.
In many ways the P'9981 was targeting a similar segment to the luxury phones sold by Vertu. It was initially offered exclusively in the Harrods department store in London, UK.
The P’9981 was conceived after the CEO of Porsche Design, Juergen Gessler, who was a huge fan of BlackBerry devices, got in touch with RIM (the company that made BlackBerry devices) to explore the opportunity of working together. Porsche Design had already been making feature phones but wanted to broaden its portfolio to offer a smartphone.
RIM’s SVP of Industrial Design, Todd Wood, described the collaboration as a “shared belief that form equals function, where the timeless style of Porsche Design meets the unmatched mobile experience provided by BlackBerry."
The device’s frame was machined from a single piece of stainless steel. A metal qwerty keyboard was laid across this frame in four straight rows and there were five glass buttons below the screen supporting the call / end / menu / back and optical trackpad functions. The bottom edge of the device, below the keyboard, was made from plastic to house the antenna, given the issues around radio performance in a metal frame.
The back of the device reflected the luxury finish, and was “hand-wrapped” in leather.
Although almost identical to the Blackberry OS 7 on the Bold 9900, the P’9981 had an exclusive Porsche Design user interface (see picture below).
When this device was launched, BlackBerry’s Messenger service (BBM) had already become an extremely popular means of communication. The way users were able to connect and identify each other was through a unique eight-character hexadecimal number assigned to each BlackBerry device.
To make the Porsche Design devices more exclusive, BlackBerry assigned special PIN codes starting with 2AA (2AAxxxxx) so other BlackBerry users would be able to identify them as being a Porsche Design device.
An interesting footnote to this device is that a year and a half after it launched, in May 2013, a limited edition 24-carat gold version was unveiled (see below). Only 25 units were made, each costing an eyewatering $25,000.