BlackBerry Porsche Design P'9981 hands-on (video)

Brad Molen
B. Molen|01.13.12

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BlackBerry Porsche Design P'9981 hands-on (video)
Porsche Design's executives use BlackBerry religiously, so when the time came for the luxury brand to consider adding smartphones to its portfolio, Research in Motion was a natural -- and perfect -- fit. Problem is, BlackBerry phones don't necessarily exude the luxury look and feel necessary to attract Porsche Design's customer base, so CEO Juergen Gessler got in touch with RIM to see if the two companies could collaborate on a phone that would take the best of BlackBerry and combine it with Porsche's premium design. Presto, the device now known as the P'9981 was born. We had the chance to behold the phone with our own eyes and hold it in our hands, so go past the break to read more about what we thought.

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Since the smartphone was meant to be a niche product focused heavily on beautiful design and the best materials at Porsche's disposal, the P'9981 isn't going to be mass-distributed. The phone, as you'd expect, is essentially a BlackBerry Bold 9900 in a body crafted with forged stainless steel and a leather-wrapped back. On the bottom you'll find a plastic material that allows for better reception without worrying about interference. The keys, much like the rest of the phone, are made of metal and offer a decent amount of give. We enjoyed the keyboard because it felt solid, but the frets were angled differently and the typing experience wasn't as smooth or fluid as the 'board found on the 9900, but it was by no means a horrible experience.

The P'9981 offers many of the same innards as the BlackBerry Bold, complete with a 1.2GHz single-core CPU, HD video recording capabilities, 640 x 480 display, 8GB of onboard memory, a microSD expansion slot and an inbuilt NFC module. While the device has a touchscreen, we found it to be unresponsive. The 9900's optical pad is replaced with a camera that lays beneath the glass and senses the movement of your thumb. Aside from this and the other external design differences, the software won't look quite the same. While the phone runs BlackBerry 7.0, it uses an exclusive Porsche Design theme and every PIN begins with a P, which makes it easy to identify other high-end users -- just like you're part of a swanky, exclusive club -- and you can BBM your fellow P'9981 buddies while they're finishing up their 18 rounds.

Let's get this out there: it's an elegant phone that's wonderfully crafted. Its premium materials and attention to detail definitely makes this a top-notch phone for anyone who can afford it. Now, keep in mind that this is an extremely niche product that isn't meant for everyone; think Vertu for the BlackBerry brand. Currently available in the Middle East and select stores in the UK for "around $2,000," and will be making it to the US and Canada sometime in the coming months. No carriers have been announced, which comes as absolutely zero surprise to us; expect to see the device sold on a limited basis as an unlocked GSM device. Check out our hands-on video above.

Joseph Volpe contributed to this report.
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