BlackBerry GSM Wi-Fi Phone

Michael Kwan
Using a BlackBerry smartphone

When shopping for a new smartphone, there are many considerations that come into play. There are also many acronyms and technologies that enter the discussion, many of which can be confusing for even the most discerning of consumers. If you happen to be looking for a BlackBerry, there are at least two critical features that you will want to keep in mind.

Why GSM Phones Are Useful

While it is likely an oversimplificaton, cell phones can be mostly designated as either GSM, which stands for Global System for Mobile Communications, or CDMA, which stands for Code Division Multiple Access. This categorization is shifting and changing in light of newer technologies, like the various forms of 3G and 4G connectivity, but these two general categories are still relevant.

By and large, GSM is far more popular internationally than CDMA. In fact, the United States is one of the few countries that continues to use it. There are many reasons for this, but one of those is that GSM phones use a SIM (subscriber identity module) card. If the GSM phone is unlocked, it can accept different SIM cards from different GSM providers around the world. As such, it can prove to be very useful for international travelers who wish to avoid expensive roaming charges.

Even if they are willing to absorb roaming charges, international business travelers can use GSM phones when traveling abroad. Generally speaking, the same cannot be said about CDMA phones, and that's partly why GSM-enabled BlackBerry devices are more popular than their CDMA-only counterparts among international travelers and abroad.

Utilizing Wi-Fi When Available

Wireless data can prove to be the most expensive part of your monthly cell phone plan. This is when you use the cellular connection to access data services on your mobile phone, including e-mail, social networking, media streaming, and surfing the web. A great way to stay connected while minimizing these kinds of costs is to use Wi-Fi.

When you surf the Internet using Wi-Fi on your BlackBerry, there is no charge from your wireless carrier. It does not count against your monthly allotment of wireless data. This is also very useful when traveling overseas, since roaming data charges can be remarkably pricey. Free public Wi-Fi hotspots can be great for checking e-mail and looking for directions.

The BlackBerry Model Number Scheme

For some time, Research in Motion used a predictable scheme for chosing BlackBerry model numbers. All BlackBerry devices carried a four-digit model number. The first two digits would denote the series and all phones with the same first two numbers would largely look and function the same way.

The last two digits could denote some basic functions. If the model number ended in a -00, it meant that it was the first in that series. If the model number ended in -10, the phone likely had GPS but not Wi-Fi. If the model number ended in -20, the phone likely had Wi-Fi but not GPS. And finally, if the model number ended in -30, it was the CDMA version of the series. This numbering scheme held true for certain BlackBerry Pearl and Curve smartphones.

That has changed in recent years, because the vast majority of all smartphones now have the ability to connect to Wi-Fi networks as a standard feature. Newer BlackBerry devices are no exception, but it is important to double-check if this feature if it is important to you.

Popular BlackBerry Phones with GSM and Wi-Fi

Many BlackBerry handsets now have both GSM and Wi-Fi. Even those sold through traditionally CDMA carriers like Verizon may be made available as "World Edition" devices, capable of using GSM networks overseas with a SIM card. Some of the more popular GSM and WiFi-enabled BlackBerries include the following:

  • BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900
  • BlackBerry Bold 9780
  • BlackBerry Curve 3G 9300
  • BlackBerry Storm2 9520
  • BlackBerry Torch 9800
  • BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9100
  • BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220

All of these phones come with standard BlackBerry features like push e-mail and BlackBerry Messenger, though they can offer distinctly different form factors and other differentiating features.

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BlackBerry GSM Wi-Fi Phone