Photo: BlackBerry Curve 8980 ‘Atlas’ Passes FCC

The BlackBerry Curve8980 (codenamed ‘Atlas’) has received FCC approval with official photographs but lacks 3G capabilities and comes with BlackBerry OS 5. The device was approved previously by the FCC but now the government agency has released the device’s documentation and pictures. The new curve might just be a China-only refresh of the Curve 8900 but interestingly enough packs b, g and n Wi-Fi network compatibilities—a rarity in a country that has a government mandated but widely ignored, domestic Wi-Fi standard which kept Apple’s iPhone out until recently.

Given all of RIM’s (Research In Motion) difficulties lately in the Middle East and India over the encryption used in its BlackBerry smartphones, the company managed to get itself into Russia and China with little problems. China’s corporate market is one of RIM’s fastest growing opportunities and it makes sense if the company already made deals to prevent conflict with the government. The Curve Atlas has only been spotted so far with Chinese branding and while I doubt it will show up in US markets, RIM did go through the trouble to get it approved here for sale…

With the Curve 3G already here in the US, the likelihood of the 2G Curve 8980 showing up anytime soon is low. Very low. Improved Wi-Fi speed is no substitute for 3G at a time when carriers are launching 4G networks (T-Mobile and Sprint). Emerging like markets are perfect for EDGE (2G) only smartphones but US subscribers are already being hit with advertisements for 4G. Who wants to take a step back?

The Curve Atlas will also only come with 256 MB of RAM and BB OS 5. These two limitations themselves already sets the Atlas behind the current Bold 9780 with its 512 MB of RAM and the Torch 9800 which is nearly identical to the new Bold (besides the addition of a touchscreen and sliding keyboard) and also launched pre-loaded with BB OS 6. With RIM’s BlackBerry Tablet OS developed by QNX on the near horizon, being stuck a generation behind in operating systems isn’t an ideal scenario for anyone.

Why is RIM still building smartphones without 3G? This the key to its unit sales success? The big money is in manufacturing high-end smartphones like the iPhone 4 and the HTC EVO 4G, not phones more than two years behind in technology to markets without 3G. Let’s hope that the PlayBook tablet shows that RIM still knows how to be cutting edge.

Let me know what you think of the Curve 8900 Atlas in the comments.

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