RIM Unveils Its Last Shot At Mobile: Blackberry 10

RIM Unveils Its Last Shot At Mobile: Blackberry 10

Will a name change, some new handsets and a new OS pull Blackberry back from its decline?

BB10 Launch

Source: Wired

It’s probably too early to tell, however it has gotten off to a great start with RIM (now known as simply Blackberry) announcing record sales of its first Blackberry 10 device, the Z10. In a statement for Blackberry, CEO Thorsten Heins said that the new device performed very well in its opening week in Canada and the UK.

“In Canada, yesterday was the best day ever for the first day of a launch of a new BlackBerry smartphone. In fact, it was more than 50 percent better than any other launch day in our history in Canada. In the UK, we have seen close to three times our best performance ever for the first week of sales for a BlackBerry smartphone. Source: ARN

Blackberry’s new OS, Blackberry 10 was unveiled last week by Heins in an event in New York City in addition to two new blackberry devices, the Z10 and the Q10.

BlackBerry Australia’s managing director, Matthew Ball said:

“The user experience is critical. The things that people love about BlackBerry were the security, the speed and the email functionality. The things that people didn’t like were the lack of applications and the browser experience. What we’ve done is taken the essence of BlackBerry and reinvent it for 2013 and beyond.”

So what’s the lowdown with the new Blackberry?

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Blackberry Z10

Blackberry Z10

Source: Blackberry

The Z10 will be Blackberry’s flagship phone for 2013, an exciting touchscreen device very different to Blackberry designs of years gone past.

Features:

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  • 4.2-inch, 1280 x 768 display with 356 ppi
  • Dual core 1.5 GHz processor, with 2GB of RAM
  • 16GB internal storage, expandable with MicroSD cards up to 32 GB in size
  • User-replaceable 1800 mAh battery
  • 8MP rear camera with 1080p video recording, 2MP front camera with 720p video recording
  • BlackBerry 10 OS
  • 4G LTE capable

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Blackberry Q10

Blackberry Q10

Source: pcmag.com

The Q10 on the other hand will reinvigorate the traditional Blackberry device, by keeping the physical QWERTY keyboard but adding a touchscreen, bringing what past Blackberry fans loved about the brand, into the future.

Features:

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  • 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 Plus Processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB internal memory
  • 3.1 inch screen, 720 X 720 megapixel screen resolution
  • 4G LTE capable
  • Blackberry 10 OS
  • 8 Megapixel rear facing camera, 2 megapixel front facing camera

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BB10 homescreen

Source: Techradar

Blackberry 10 OS

Blackberry have created a whole new OS, named Blackberry 10, in the hope of winning back a share of the increasingly competitive smartphone and tablet market.

The new OS has taken a very large step away from Blackberry’s past operating systems, through its gesture-based interface. While operating systems gone past required manual input, Blackberry 10, particularly with the button-free Z10, requires the user to swipe to navigate.

Gesture- Based Navigation

BB10 Gestures

Source: Infragistics

When navigating through the OS, swiping up from the bottom bezel brings you back to a tiled view of all the running apps. You can have up to 8 apps running in the background on this screen, and just one tap is required to open up one of these apps. If you extend this gesture i.e. swiping up from the bottom bezel and holding, you will launch what Blackberry calls the “Peek”. This feature brings up a row of icons to arrive from the left, which displays notifications such as unread emails and calendar reminders.

Continuing to swipe right will bring you to the Blackberry Hub, which we detail later, while swiping left allows you to access the home screen. To access both system-wide and app-specific settings, simply swipe down.

While there is a slight learning curve associated with this very different way of interacting with a mobile OS, many reviews have stated once you get a handle of Blackberry 10, it’s very intuitive and offers a great user experience:

Blackberry Hub

BB10 Blackberry Hub

Source: Techradar

The Blackberry Hub is a universal inbox that pulls in all forms of communications from calls and texts to emails, BBMs and social updates.

As it will come to form the core feature of the handset, you can access the Blackberry Hub from anywhere within the OS, just by swiping up and to the right. However, though in theory this is a fantastic way to manage various communication channels, it may become overwhelming for social butterflies to sift through a big bundle of notifications.

Blackberry has made managing your calendar super easy, with calendar invites appearing at the top of the Hub. You can also simply drag down from the top of the message centre and the Hub will automatically pull in your calendar events for that day in the top half of the screen, allowing you to get an idea of your schedule for that day without having to launch the full calendar app. The Hub also allows you to filter notifications by an individual account like your work email account. You can also compose messages within the account i.e. twitter statuses, checking into Foursquare, emails etc.

Blackberry Peek

BB10 Blackberry Peek

Source: Techradar

While having so many accounts aggregated in one place could potentially become very overwhelming, Blackberry has addressed this issue with Blackberry Peek.

This feature will notify you when you have a new message or update with a red asterisk and will allow you to access your inbox without you having to navigate away from the main app you are using. For example, you could have a quick look at social networking updates from Twitter and Facebook or take a peek at emails and messages.

BBM

blackberry-10-bbm

Source: n4bb

For many Blackberry users, Blackberry Messenger (BBM) was one Blackberry’s greatest features, which have thankfully been transferred over to Blackberry 10. For those unfamiliar with BBM, it is an instant messenger, which sends messages over the internet from one Blackberry device to another.

However, Blackberry hasn’t simply included the same BBM, but has reinvigorated the feature, with easier navigation and a new feature called BBM Video, which will allow you to make video calls.

Keyboard

Source: Ubergizmo

Source: Ubergizmo

The virtual keyboard has been talked up as one of the main features of Blackberry 10, with the company touting its advanced virtual keyboard that learns your patterns as you use it.

It is a four-row layout with generously sized buttons for meaty hands. There are no dedicated buttons for numbers or characters other than the letters, comma, period and space bar. However, Blackberry have made it super easy to access these characters by allowing the user to simply swipe downwards, which will cycle through two pages of special characters. You can also delete the word that was just entered by simply by swiping from left to right

The predictive text feature learns what phrases you commonly use, by analysing your emails and social history, which it will file away. So, when you start typing, it suggests what you might want to type next by presenting whole words above the individual letter keys. If you want to use the word suggested, simply swipe up from the key and the keyboard enters the word for you plus a space.

For a demonstration of the virtual keyboard check out the video below:

For The Enterprise: BES10

For corporate customers tossing up whether to give Blackberry 10 a try, you will need to implement Blackberry Enterprise Service (BES) 10, as previous version of BES are not compatible with the new blackberry 10 devices.

BES 10 has brought the mobile device management platform into the 21st century, by combining RIM’s security technology and its tools for managing legacy Blackberry devices with management for non-Blackberry devices such as those running Android or iOS, in addition to Blackberry 10 smartphones. If you have an existing fleet of older Blackberries, you will be able to manage them using BES 10.

Previously, enterprise IT departments had to use Blackberry’s Mobile Fusion platform to manage Blackberry Playbook tablets and iOS and Android devices, but they had to use BES software to manage older, pre-blackberry 10 smartphones. This meant IT had to implement and manage two separate platforms, which when faced with a large fleet of various devices could become overwhelming. So, essentially BES 10 has incorporated Mobile Fusion and management of legacy Blackberry Devices in one platform.

Blackberry Balance BES 10

Blackberry Balance, Source: Blackberry

Another great feature of BES 10 for the Enterprise, is the inclusion of Blackberry Balance, which allows IT to separate and manage personal and corporate information on Playbooks and Blackberry 10 devices. It allows users to switch from their Personal Space to their Work Space with a simple gesture, with the Work Space being fully encrypted, managed and secured. IT can manage and curate a corporate app storefront (Blackberry World for Work), within the Work Space to push and install mandatory apps, and publish recommended apps to users.

Jack Gold, principal analyst with J. Gold Associates, an IT consultancy stated that,

BES 10 is a console upgrade that combines all the previous capabilities of BES and Fusion and the latest ability to work with BB10 devices all under one console.There still are various components under the covers but BES 10 offers one way to manage BlackBerry and other devices. The next version of BES will likely have a fully integrated code base for everything, but most users even with this release will have a transparent way to manage all devices. Source: Networkworld

Other features cited by RIM as key parts of the BES 10 release:

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  • BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 support enterprise requirements including encryption, gatekeeping, certificate management, VPN capabilities and secure connectivity.
  • Meets the full range of management needs; from basic ActiveSync®-only synchronization to full Enterprise Mobility Management through to the highest level of control required for government and regulated environments.
  • Creating and managing individual and group “work profiles” with Active Directory integration, customizing different administrator roles with different privileges and powers, letting employees register and set up their own devices via a self-service portal, and centrally controlling user profiles for email, Wi-Fi, VPN and proxy servers.

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If you’re interested in trialing BES 10, Blackberry is offering a limited 60 day free trial with included client access licenses here. Existing customers can take advantage of the free license trade-up program which is available until Dec 31, 2013.
To see Blackberry balance in action check out this video below:

Australian Release Date

While the Blackberry Z10 has already been released in Canada and the UK, Australians can only expect the device sometime in March, with the Q10 not expected to be released in Australia for several months.

BlackBerry has confirmed that Telstra will sell the Z10 smartphone from March, but specific dates and pricing have not yet been announced.

Stay tuned for news on when Blackberry 10 devices will be available for Telstra customers.

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