Once a market leader, the BlackBerry camp hasn’t had much movement in recent years, as the handsets struggled to compete with Apple and Android. Now, though, there might be a fighting chance, as BB launches version 10 of its platform alongside new devices.
Launched in New York and then shown in Australia shortly after, the new BlackBerry operating system and handsets evolve things we’ve seen on the platform prior, while learning from some things that have happened since.
“Today sees a re-invented BlackBerry launching an entirely new mobile experience,” said BlackBerry’s CEO, Thorsten Heins. “We are thilled to be introducing BlackBerry 10 on the new BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry Q10 smartphones, to deliver a faster, smarter experience that continuously adapts to your needs.”
At the top of the crop sits the Z10, which features a 4.2 inch display supporting 720p HD, 16GB internal storage, microSD slot, support for 4G LTE networks, and a battery capable of handing up to 13 days of standby time.
BlackBerry’s tenth operating system includes a whole heap of new features and is based on gesture controls, similar to what BlackBerry did in its PlayBook tablet. Like most touchscreen devices, there is less emphasis on physical buttons, with more happening on the screen.
The keyboard is one area where BlackBerry has apparently made some progress, with this version adapting to the words and sentences you write, eventually giving you quicker suggestions based on your writing patterns.
There will also be a place for you to keep your message, emails, social updates, and notifications, conveniently named BlackBerry Hub.
And there’s even a way to connect and separate what you do at work and home, with a feature called BlackBerry Balance, which allows you to switch between stuff you do at work – emails, files, etc – and the stuff you do at home, even going so far to lock it off when it’s the weekend, if you choose.
Overall, it’s a new device, with more than just business at its heart.
The camera supports a timeshift mode similar to what we’re seeing in actual cameras, that will fire off multiple shots as you’re taking an image, just in case you miss the smile or someone is blinking.
The front facing camera, together with the latest version of BlackBerry Instant Messaging, supports video chat, which itself can even make use of screen sharing.
BlackBerry has also updated the web browser, which will enjoy HTML5 applications with fluid gestures, while also supporting private tab browsing, a reader mode, and an easy way to share content.
And there’s an app marketplace, with currently over 70,000 apps, with games, multimedia, and business apps all sitting there waiting for you, while Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Foursquare apps come pre-installed on the devices. And yes, Angry Birds is there, you don’t need to ask.
Globally, the launch partner for the Z10 is Vodafone, though Australians won’t be seeing the devices with this carrier, as only Optus and Telstra have been signed up at this time, with availability and pricing announced closer to March.
The second device, the Q10 (above), will evolve the Bold line-up, so if you like physical keyboards, you’ll be eyeing this one off, which should see availability in April.
Oh and there’s one other change for BlackBerry, and that’s the parent company RIM or “Research In Motion” is now to be known as BlackBerry. There. It’s done. You no longer have to remember that BlackBerry is owned by someone.