If you've been dreaming of a phone that combines the functionality of a BlackBerry with the design of a Porsche – and you've got two grand just lying around – today's your lucky day.
Research In Motion's most expensive smartphone goes on sale in Toronto on Thursday. The phone was conceived by Porsche Design Group, a German company well known for taking lighters, sunglasses and other everyday items and reworking them with eye-catching designs and heart-stopping price tags.
On Thursday night, RIM chief executive officer Thorsten Heins and his counterpart at Porsche Design Group, Juergen Gessler, will host a lavish party to celebrate the grand opening of Porsche Design's Toronto store near Bloor and Yonge streets. The party will feature a fashion show whose runway will spill out onto Bloor Street, a vintage Porsche 911 on display, and special appearances by various celebrity guests.
One of the highlights of the party will be the Canadian debut of the cumbersomely named Porsche Design P'9981 Smartphone from BlackBerry. For $1,890, the P'9981 comes with a stainless steel frame, leather back and a touch-screen. It also features all manner of accessories, such as branded batteries and a steel-and-leather charging pod. Customers who pick up one of these things will also get a "premium" BlackBerry PIN, presumably something memorable, akin to a custom licence plate. The phone's user interface has also been customized, but you're still getting most of the same features you'll find on one of those proletarian BlackBerrys.
Make no mistake, this is a statement phone (although there will be some disagreement as to what exactly that statement is). The Porsche Design web page helpfully points out that the P'9981 is "connected to a feature so important that it transcends all trends: It communicates a personal attitude."
In other words, don't buy this phone if $2,000 is a big deal for you.
It may seem easy to slam RIM – a company that's likely going to be posting an operating loss and slashing thousands of jobs this summer – for wasting time on the smartphone equivalent of a Presidential Suite when it can't even sell out the regular rooms.
But in reality, the P'9981 has virtually no impact on RIM's bottom line. For one thing, it was the Porsche Design executives – who all apparently use BlackBerrys – who approached RIM, not the other way around. Also, the target audience for this phone is tiny, composed mainly of executives, rock stars and people who are actively trying to fall behind on their mortgage payments.
In fact, the one-per center phone might even prove to generate some positive attention for RIM. Apparently, Beyonce, Jay-Z and Piers Morgan all have one, and Kanye West has been buying them for his friends.
(It is worth remembering at this point that the two most useful marketing gifts RIM has ever received are that time President Barack Obama proclaimed he couldn't live without his BlackBerry, and that other time Lady Gaga tweeted a photo of herself shot in a bathroom mirror, a BlackBerry clearly visible in her hand.)
RIM isn't the first company to try its hand at a phone for the capital gains crowd. Morotola and Nokia, among others, have released their own ultra-premium devices. And all of these efforts pale in comparison to Vertu, a company that makes nothing but cringingly crystal-laden phones so gaudy and overpriced, they look like a cross between a Kardashian jewellery box and Richie Rich's midlife crisis.
If you're interested in a P'9981, you can pick one up at the new Porsche Design store in Toronto. Unsurprisingly, quantities are limited.