Despite my efforts to the contrary, I’ve never been an A-lister on the social scene. Or any scene, for that matter. No secret societies or exclusive parties for me. So naturally, when I had the opportunity to test drive the BlackBerry P’9981, I jumped at the chance. Known also by its longer name, the Porsche Design P’9981 Smartphone from BlackBerry, the P’9981 is the most expensive on-the-market BlackBerry in the world, available exclusively from Porsche Design stores and functional with any SIM-capable cellular carrier.
While the device was launched in October of 2011, in Dubai, its limited run and delayed international releases have made the smartphone a rare commodity. So rare, in fact, that some who had the
misfortune privilege of an exclusive show-and-tell of the phone by yours truly were previously unaware of its existence. Others, however, knew of it by its less common trade name: “OMG, THAT ONE?” Some were just pissed that I asked if they wanted to see my new Porsche only to have me pull a hunk of metal out of my breast pocket.
Just shy of $2000, people know of the BlackBerry P’9981 by its price tag more than its features, but given its internal similarities to standard BlackBerry smartphones, it’s important to establish that the P’9981 is about status more than it’s about technical prowess.
While the device has a steep price and a specialty design by Porsche, from a software perspective it is virtually identical to the BlackBerry 9900 Bold series, both running BlackBerry OS 7.1. With a heavily weighted stainless steel unibody and leather backing, the P’9981 has a sturdiness to it absent in plastic-shelled smartphones. Additionally, the specially forged steel keyboard, a Porsche Design addition, gives users wider keys than most devices, and also a wider device itself.
Many critics of the P’9981 focus their energies on its similarities to the BlackBerry Bold, of which there are several, but the differences–even the cosmetic ones–are spectacular enough to put the P’9981 in a category of its own. The phone’s magic is in the details.
From a design perspective, the keyboard is by far the most appealing feature. With the metal grooves and widened keys, typing on the device is effortless, even without looking. The smartphone also comes with a matching dock that sits the device upright while charging, making it perfect for desk usage. As well, the leather backing eliminates the common problem of finger-wear on plastic that plagues so many smartphones.
The P’9981 boasts a 640 x 480 pixel touchscreen with HD capabilities, also possessed by the 5 megapixel camera with flash on the device’s rear. The glass screen (made with no plastic) displays vivid, crystal clear images in both still and video format.
From a technical perspective, the P’9981′s battery life exceeds that of any other smartphones I’ve used with the exception of Apple’s iPhone. The simplicity and speed in access to Wi-Fi in 3G networks is unparalleled.
The interface is a specially modified Porsche interface with customized wallpapers and icons that are device-specific. It even comes with its own exclusive ringtone. One of the most appealing qualities in the software to buyers that we spoke with is the specialized P’9981 PIN that identifies BBM users with the Porsche Design smartphone by a special prefix.
Fashion writer Julio Reyes received his BlackBerry P’9981 from the Porsche Design store in Yorkville and was drawn to the keyboard. “I like how the keyboard is spread out, it’s much faster,” Reyes said.
A New York-based lawyer we spoke with liked the exclusivity of the smartphone. “Instant conversation starter,” he remarked.
At $1899 USD (over $2000 CAD) per unit, exclusivity is inevitable.
Make no mistake, for that price, a buyer is not getting a faster or better communication device than the BlackBerry Bold, but rather a membership to an exclusive club and status as the owner of an elite smartphone that is recognizable to most. P’9981-holders also have access to a dedicated 24/7 telephone support center.
Think it’s worth it? Head on over to the Porsche Design website to order yours today.