Research in Motion wanted its BlackBerry Bold to be a hot item, but not the way it's happening in Japan. NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest mobile operator, stopped selling the Bold on Friday because of overheating problems during battery recharging.
According to news media, DoCoMo reported about 30 customers had complained about the keyboard heating up, out of about 4,000 devices sold. The company added that there were no reports of injury or fire.
Launched Last Week
RIM and DoCoMo told news media that "a small number of BlackBerry Bold devices sold in Japan were at times reaching warmer-than-usual device temperatures during charging."
Although the "temperatures appear to have remained within the safety range of regulatory standards," the companies said, they voluntarily halted sales in Japan until the issue has been examined. RIM added that its initial analysis ruled out a battery problem.
The companies also said the reports appear to be limited to BlackBerry Bold devices sold in Japan since its launch there, and it's not affecting sales in other countries.
It was only late last week that RIM and DoCoMo announced the availability of the Bold through DoCoMo's corporate and retail channels.
'A Black Mark'
Avi Greengart, a U.S.-based analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, said neither of his two BlackBerry Bolds have had such a problem. But, he added, this is definitely "a black mark on RIM's brand in Japan," and it's worse for the company that it happened there rather than, say, in the U.S.
"Awareness and usage of the BlackBerry in North America is sky-high," he said, "but that is not the case in Japan," a market that RIM is trying to penetrate. Greengart said he expects the companies to soon resolve the issue and return the Bold to the market.
The Bold was introduced to the U.S. last November through RIM's American carrier partner, AT&T, and quickly became the handset maker's leading business smartphone.
Its connectivity includes global 3G, Wi-Fi, and built-in GPS, and its stylish with a black body, satin chrome-finished frame, and a leatherette backplate. A full QWERTY keyboard, a half-VGA color display, an advanced media player, a two-megapixel camera, and a gigabyte of onboard memory -- expandable to 16GB -- complete the package, creating what some analysts have described as the "best BlackBerry smartphone ever."
In the Japanese launch last week, the companies emphasized the Bold's support for DoCoMo's 3G network, as well as Japanese text support on the keyboard. For the Japanese market, a fourth 3G band of 800 MHz was added for coverage in less-populated areas. DoCoMo has also been offering a model with no camera.