By altering the name to BlackBerry, the company formerly known as RIM shows greater brand-awareness. The average person on the street doesn’t know what RIM is, but even with the market loss to iPhones and Android devices, BlackBerry is still a household term. While the name change does little to help with the image of BlackBerry as something older folks and business types use, they remain key market segments. New enterprise software costs a fortune, and companies already invested in BlackBerry Enterprise solutions now have access to a mobile OS that doesn’t seem like it was stalled in 2008.
BB10 as an OS is reportedly home screen-centric, gesture-heavy, integrates multiple social networks, and I’m already hearing that the touch-typing solution on the Z10 is one of the best out there. I look forward to trying the BB10 at some point based on those features alone, but there’s even more. The new operating system is already being called “webOS-like”, so that immediately grabs my attention. Some features are intriguing me more than others. For instance Peek and Glance, a quick way to look at your notifications, seems obvious, but it’s something that took Apple several revisions of iOS to add and Microsoft left such a solution out of Windows Phone 8 entirely.
So far, only Android and webOS have handled notifications “right” for me, with Apple now doing so having basically cloned those solutions. Did BlackBerry manage to keep pace or will Peek break new ground?
BlackBerry Messenger, a reason many have cited for staying with BlackBerry, has been updated to support voice and video chat. This is key to having a successful ecosystem these days. BBM is now managed via BlackBerry Hub, which manages all of your messaging solutions. Again, this is something other handset makers have done (Palm, Microsoft), but BlackBerry’s solution sounds elegant. Speaking of elegant, the multitasking solution on BB10 is apparently true multitasking. This makes it the first phone since my lamented Pre to have such ability. Another interesting feature is going to please the IT support crowd, and that’s the ability to have separate profiles for personal and work use. Android handset makers are scrambling to find a proper solution to this, Microsoft wastes multiple account code on a KidZone, and Apple scoffs at the idea. If done right, this could be a killer feature for an office environment.
I haven’t really heard much about apps for BB10, which is troubling. I know Facebook, Twittter, and (shockingly) Evernote functionality are baked in, which is a huge deal for business users, but I want to hear more about what else is out there. Built-in voice command and GPS with turn-by-turn courtesy of TomTom are nice, but can I listen to Pandora or access my Google Docs ? Outside the reportedly nice HTML5 browser, that is? Will my bank have an app? Depositing my checks with a camera is a total killer app. What about Angry Birds, Cut The Rope, Fruit Ninja, and the scores of other (essential) casual games? I do know that BlackBerry was aggressively courting app developers, which is great, but so were Palm and Microsoft at one point.
BlackBerry plays it safe when it comes to hardware, which is probably the right move. For now, the company plans on releasing two form factors, the Z10 slate and the Q10 physical keyboard device. Both devices have AMOLED screens, which is something you must have in 2013. Also another must have, a dual core chip, rated at 1.5 Ghz, is on both devices, as well as NFC and LTE. The camera clocks in at 8 MP, which is a sort of disappointing bare minimum spec. Then again, BlackBerrys have never really aimed at the heavy photo-taker market, have they?
The main difference between the two models shows up in screen size and keyboards. Z10 has a 4.2″ screen, without a physical keyboard, whereas the Q10 is more Bold-esque, with a physical keyboard and smaller 3.1″ screen. If you want media and games, the Q10 may not be your best choice.
Wisely, BlackBerry plans on sticking with these two devices for at least a year, to prevent fragmentation. Considering there was a time when it felt like there was a new Curve/Bold/Perl every month, this shows that BlackBerry can learn from mistakes. I will admit to being disappointed at the lack of a slider similar to the Torch. However, if the typing solution is as amazing as I hear, maybe the Z10 will win me over.
Both the Z10 and Q10 will be available on all four major U.S. carriers. There’s no news of pricing or availability on the Q10, but Verizon has confirmed that it will have the Z10 in March for $199. I freely admit that the price point there is spooking me a bit. While $199 is the typical price for a flagship phone, other handset makers’ flagships have established operating systems, with better screens and chipsets, and are already available at a discount through most channels (except, of course, the iPhone). That means someone has to want to wait for these phones specifically to resist the temptation to snap something else up.
Can BlackBerry compete with Apple and Samsung, the co-kings of the hill? I’m not sure the company is even trying to. The wise thing to do is go after Windows Phone 8, which has a ton of features no one seems to want (People Hub? LiveTiles but no notifications? Soon to loose Google Exchange sync?), but interesting hardware with a decent amount of variation. Then, BlackBerry can try its hand at beating Microsoft to the number three slot with a tighter hardware and software experience. BlackBerry’s established footprint in the business market, somewhere that Microsoft has shockingly failed to establish a phone OS time and again, gives them a real edge.
What do you think? Is BB10 what you need to stay with BlackBerry or bring you back? Let us know in the comments.