BlackBerry may have just posted a surprising fourth-quarter profit off the early successes of their BlackBerry Z10 handsets (shifting 1 million of the new phones and 6 million smartphones overall). But it's the news that company founder Mike Lazaridis is to resign from his post as vice chair and company director that's the item we'll take away from this latest earnings call.
Establishing the company alongside co-CEO Jim Balsillie and co-founder Doug Fregin in 1998, Lazaridis helped steer the company to a point where they were clear smartphone market leaders and innovators. However, the dual leadership approach saw the company's fortunes fade in the wake of touch-orientated smartphones like the iPhone, leading to Lazaridis handing over the reigns to current BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins in January 2012.
"With the launch of BlackBerry 10, I believe I have fulfilled my commitment to the Board," said Lazaridis.
"Thorsten and his team did an excellent job in completing BlackBerry 10. We have a great deal of which to be proud. I believe I am leaving the company in good hands. I remain a huge fan of BlackBerry and, of course, wish the company and its people well."
Lazaridis will now focus on running his own investment fund alongside Fregin.
BlackBerry have revealed their fourth quarter, end of year results for fiscal 2013. And it seems the launch of the BlackBerry Z10 smartphone and BB10 operating system is having a positive effect on the flailing company's fortunes.
1 million BlackBerry Z10 handsets have been sold according to the Canadian phone giant, with 6 million smartphones overall shipped in the quarter ending March 2nd.
That's resulted in a net income for the quarter of $98 million (19 cents a share), an increase year-on-year of an earlier profit of $9 million, or 2 cents a share.
The company are not over the hill just yet however; despite the strong sales of the new handset, customer numbers still slipped to 76 million subscribers, down from 79 million the previous quarter, and 80 million the quarter before.
"We have implemented numerous changes at BlackBerry over the past year and those changes have resulted in the Company returning to profitability in the fourth quarter," said Thorsten Heins, President and CEO.
"With the launch of BlackBerry 10, we have introduced the newest and what we believe to be the most innovative mobile computing platform in the market today. Customers love the device and the user experience, and our teams and partners are now focused on getting those devices into the hands of BlackBerry consumer and enterprise customers.
"As we go into our new fiscal year, we are excited with the opportunities for the BlackBerry 10 platform, and the commitments we are seeing from our global developers and partners. We are also excited about the new, dynamic culture at BlackBerry, where we are laser-focused on continuing to drive efficiency and improve the Company's profitability while driving innovation. We have built an engine that is able to drive improved financial performance at lower volumes, which should allow us to generate additional benefits from higher volumes in the future."
We had a good long look at the BlackBerry Z10 for our review after launch, and while it's a sturdy performer, it didn't exactly set our hearts pumping. Click here for our full review.
Despite launching in the UK last month, US BlackBerry fans have been unable to get their hands on the BlackBerry Z10 smartphone. However, the wait for BlackBerry's flagship phone with the new BB10 operating system may soon be over, a tweet from BlackBerry's official Twitter account has revealed.
The Waterloo, Canada-based company tweeted that:
"BlackBerry 10 will be available across the US in a few short weeks," showing that the US release is still on target. At the handset's launch event the company announced the BlackBerry Z10 was launching on AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon sometime in mid-March, and while a specific date still has not been given, it looks as though that launch window is still on track.
The QWERTY keyboard Q10 handset is expected to follow in May or June.
According to BlackBerry, the Z10 launch has so far been a success. European managing director Stephen Bates said: "The response we have seen exceeded all of our launch partners' expectations.
"Our partners have told us that they have sold out in some of their key locations".
Price as reviewed: Around £480 SIM-free, or free on two year contracts starting at £33 per month
The first touch-only handset in the new BlackBerry 10 range from the re-christened BlackBerry (formally known as RIM), The BlackBerry Z10 has the weight of a whole company resting on its shoulders. Can it keep pace with the iPhone and Android big boys, and put the BlackBerry brand at the top of the smartphone market once more? Read our review to find out!
Note: This review is based on our early impressions with the phone during our first few days of use with it. We will add to and update this review if we uncover fresh points of interest, and will be sure to let you know if anything dramatic changes our opinion of the Z10 in the coming days.
The BlackBerry Z10 is an attractive, if generic smartphone in terms of its hardware design. A black oblong measuring 130mm x 65.6mm x 9mm, it weighs a comfortable 137.5g in the hand, and has a rubberised, textured backplate on the rear to help you keep a better grip of the phone. A notable bezel sits around the edge the Z10's 4.2-inch screen (running at 1280 x 768 resolution), with the edge bezel used to activate gesture controls that are central to the new BlackBerry 10 OS. At both the top and bottom of the phone are sizeable lips, finished in the same black plastic as the rest of the phone, with a speaker embedded in the top lip and a microphone in the bottom.
Rather than using a unibody design, BlackBerry have opted to make the backplate removable, snapping off and allowing you access to the microSIM tray, a microSD expansion slot for adding as much as 32GB of removable storage to the 16GB built-in, and access to the 1800mAh battery, which means you'll be able to swap out battery packs should you be running low on power and have a spare to hand. On the back of the phone you'll also find an 8MP/1080p camera with single LED flash, an embedded NFC pad and a metallic BlackBerry logo.The right hand edge of the reasonably slim phone holds a strip of three physical buttons made of metal, two being volume rockers which sit either side of a central smaller button used for playing and pausing music and activating voice controls when pressed down for a few seconds. The left hand edge houses a microUSB port for charging, which can also be used for hooking up to a PC or Mac to add your own media content through the BlackBerry Link software - a pain-free interface for side-loading personal pictures, movie or music libraries onto the Z10. There's also a miniHDMI port alongside the microUSB port, allowing you to display your Z10 screen on a large HDTV. Sadly, no HDMI cable is included, so you'll have to purchase one yourself (although BlackBerry do throw in a free pair of earphones and, quite generously, a nifty red case for the phone in the box).While there's nothing on the bottom edge of the handset, the top edge is where you'll find the metallic power key and a 3.5mm headphone jack. There's also a front-facing 2MP camera up just above the screen.
Looking more closely at the 4.2-inch screen, its 356ppi is breathtakingly sharp, wiping the floor with the Google Nexus 4 (320ppi), the Samsung Galaxy S3 (306ppi) and even the Retina Display of the iPhone 5 (326ppi). It's bright and vibrant, with rich colours. Thanks to high brightness levels, the screen remains clear to see even in sunny conditions.Underneath the hood is a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, backed by 2GB of RAM. On paper, this sounds quite under-powered for a top-end, premium device, but in reality serves the Z10 just fine. It appears that the new BlackBerry 10 operating system runs very efficiently - even with flashy fading screen transitions, the handset felt smooth to use and never showed any sign of lag.
As well as NFC connectivity for contactless payments and data sharing between compatible devices, the Z10 also has 4G LTE cellular technology onboard, meaning that if you pop an EE 4G SIM into the handset, you'll benefit from speedy mobile download speeds to rival that of home broadband.
Our intensive testing period with the handset saw the 1800mAh battery hold up well. BlackBerry claim you'll get 10 hours of talk time and 13 days standby time. We'd say these estimations are a little on the generous side, with our battery giving up the ghost by around 3pm after a 6am start. Keep in mind though that we'd hammered the phone all day with calls, Wi-Fi and 4G web-browsing, plenty of camera snaps and video playback, so more moderate use would likely see the battery hold out from dawn through to dusk.
Though a solidly built device, ticking all the 4G and NFC boxes a modern top-tier smartphone requires, the plastic finish feels a little as though RIM are cutting corners, especially when the device is placed next to the luscious design of an iPhone 5. £480 is an expensive SIM-free price, especially when stood up against the incredibly cheap Google Nexus 4, which shares similar specs and a similar finish at a far cheaper £279 asking price for the 16GB variant.
If you've not quite got the time for that, here's a quick overview of what BlackBerry 10 is all about. The Z10 is a touchscreen only phone, a departure from RIM's traditional physical keyboard phones, and the BB10 software it runs reflects this. Using a series of gestures with which to navigate the phone, BB10 lets you swipe from every edge of the display to trigger differing controls. You'll close apps by dragging upwards, access options and settings by swiping downwards, and scroll through to the BlackBerry Hub notifications centre all without ever needing a physical button to press. If you're already familiar with iPhone's iOS or the Android operating system, it's at first a little jarring making the transition. But all controls are intuitive enough to become second nature once you've played with them for a few hours.
As well as a standard app-grid view of applications, BB10 uses an Active Frame view, which pops your eight most recently used apps on the front screen. These small frames are, as their name suggests, active, and offer a glimpse at the information that's constantly updating in the apps they represent. For instance, a recently opened calendar app, when making the jump to the shrunk-down Active View, may display the date of your next appointment, while the music player app would show currently playing album artwork. When combined with the "Peek" view, a swipe-up gesture control that lets you snatch a glance at incoming notifications without closing the app you're currently using, BB10 offers powerful multi-tasking capabilities.70,000 apps are available to download through the BlackBerry World store, which pales in comparison to the number available to iOS and Android users, but is a solid start for a fledgling platform. Plenty of big name apps are already onboard, including Kindle and Guardian news, but some staples are missing too, including Spotify, Netflix, LoveFilm, and eBay to name but a few. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Foursquare apps come pre-installed, while Evernote functionality is baked into BB10's own "Remember" note taking app. Worryingly, the apps don't look to offer much more than their mobile-browser optimised versions seem to. Let's hope that's not a trend that BB10 developers fall into.
A speedy browser that supports tabs and is intuitively laid out is also onboard, with a great Reader feature that strips the chaff away from websites leaving you with just the text and relevant images. What's less impressive is the Maps app onboard, which offers a barebones 2D view alongside turn-by-turn navigations, but no information on your surroundings beyond traffic information. Based on TomTom maps, at least they're accurate, which is more than can be said for Apple's Maps.
BlackBerry Hub, BBM and messaging
The BlackBerry Hub is one of our favourite features of the new BlackBerry 10 operating system, and by extension then, the Z10 handset. It's a unified inbox that pools in messages from numerous sources all into one place, a giant aggregated spot where you'll find any Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, email, SMS and messages from BlackBerry's own BBM service. Accessed by swiping to the virtual "far left" of the device, you can filter the hub to show messages from individual sources (showing, say, only unread messages from a work email account separated from Facebook messages), while all messages, no matter where they've been sourced from can be replied to directly from the hub without having to open up separate corresponding apps.
BBM, or BlackBerry Messaging, has been a standout feature in BlackBerry phones for an age, letting you send free instant messages to other BlackBerry users. BlackBerry recently introduced free voice messaging to the service, and with BB10 the company have added video calling. When in a BBM conversation with a contact, you'll now also be able to start a video call as well as text or voice based messaging. The new BBM functions remain free, making it an inexpensive way to get in touch with pals providing you've got a Wi-Fi connection or data plan to cover the interactions. However, you'll have to have pals with BB10 handsets to take advantage of video calling.
Similarly, BB10 now offers screen sharing, just as you'd find with a remote viewing application on a desktop PC or Mac. With it, you're able to wirelessly share exactly what you're doing on your phone fullscreen on another BB10 user's handset. It looks set to be a great way to collaborate and share between Z10 devices, and providing your data connection is up to scratch, it works with only minimal stuttering.
Contacts and Calling
The BB10 software onboard the Z10 automatically fills your contacts book with the people it finds in the BlackBerry Hub. This is great a great way of quickly pulling together all your Facebook and Twitter pals, grabbing all their email and home address information, alongside a profile picture, numerous associated phone numbers and social networking feeds. You can of course manually select which sources are pooled into your contacts book too, as well as manually entering new contacts or transferring contacts from a previous smartphone device. It's really nicely done and similar to what HTC have achieved with their Sense UI for Android, with individual contact cards displaying links to social networking profiles (though recent posts are hidden behind a separate tab), with the contacts system even suggesting you connect with a pal if you're both signed up to the same social service but not yet friends on it. You can search through all your contacts, but keep an eye out for duplicates, as the software sometimes fails to unify contact information for the same person pooled from different sources.The dialler is a simple white-on-black keypad, making use of large buttons that are easy on the eye and comfortable to tap. Signalling levels remained consistently high, and the phone delivered clear voice to call recipients while providing us with comfortable volume levels from the speaker and clear calls in return.
Media Playback and Gaming Performance
While you can pop your own videos and music onto the device using the aforementioned BlackBerry Link application on a PC or Mac, the BlackBerry World store is where you'll be able buy new tunes and films.
The music store is well populated and well priced, with albums priced between £5 and £8, and single tracks priced at £1. The film store is lacking many big releases though, such as Avengers Assemble and Amazing Spiderman, while the recent releases that are on offer, such as Prometheus, are far too expensive to buy at £15.99. While the built-in speaker is pleasantly clear and loud and ideal for watching movies with, the screen's sizeable bezel detracts from the otherwise sumptuous nature of the screen. Those plastic lips at the top and bottom of the device do make for great handles in landscape orientation though, meaning your thumbs wont get in the way of whatever you're viewing.
Playback of both music and video is great though. A well considered music app lets you browse cover art and individual tracks within albums easily, with the Active Frame view also showing what's playing. Playing back video has a similarly intuitive library, separating TV shows and movies from your own personal clips recorded with the phone's camera.
Gaming so far has been a little lacklustre bag. While Angry Birds Star Wars is available, the likes of Jetpack Joyride and Where's My Water?, as well as more graphically intensive Gameloft titles such as N.O.V.A. 3 and Asphalt 7, are still missing from the store, set to land soon. We'll let you know how they stack up once they go up for sale.
Still Camera and Video
The Z10 uses an 8MP rear camera sensor with single LED flash that's also capable of shooting 1080p video, and up to 5x digital zoom, controlled by pinching the screen. Shutter speed is fast, and the entire screen can be tapped to capture an image rather than having to tap a specific software shutter button(alternatively you can use the volume rocker to capture a shot). You can also pick a focus spot by intuitively dragging it around the screen. Both video and still image quality, in a range of ambient lighting surroundings were great, picking up details effectively in low-light for still images, while shooting stable, clear video footage.
BB10 also does some other smart things with its camera application, such as Time Shift mode, BlackBerry's take on a burst-shot mode on a digital camera. Snapping a selection of photographs milliseconds apart, Time Shift then presents these photos on a timeline that you can scrub through, picking out individual faces and letting you select the exact moment when everyone was looking their best. It's a little difficult to explain in just words and pictures, so hit the official video from RIM above to see exactly what we mean.
Plenty of editing options are also available, ranging from simple Instagram like creative filters to more advanced brightness, white balance and cropping controls. In a neat touch, there's a preview option that lets you check what an image will look like with any changes before you commit to applying them.
Images, videos and music can all be edited together in the Story Maker application. A smart, simple too, it adds transitions and credits to your curated mixture of pictures and clips, doing all the hard work for you before letting you share the results via email or social networks. It wont cut together Citizen Kane, but it's an incredibly simple way of sharing multiple pieces of media with friends very quickly.
The BlackBerry Z10 is a good device, but, as the flagship handset for a brand new platform, is it as desirable as, say, an iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S3? In a word, no. There's nothing in particular that presents a massive problem with the Z10, but there isn't anything particularly interesting to write home about either. The build is solid, and expandable storage, 4G and NFC features are often requested by consumers and popped in here, but the overall design isn't very exciting, with the plastic materials used not befitting the £480 price tag. Likewise, the new operating system is smooth to use, has a great messaging system and offers an interesting new take on multitasking through its gesture controls, but lacks killer apps and suffers from some design inconsistencies that can make navigation at times confusing, as detailed in our extensive BB10 review.
The BB10 is worthy of applause in that its OS is ambitious and its feature list substantial. But it won't "wow" anyone sporting a top end iPhone or Android device. And with so much resting on this smartphone's shoulders, that should be cause for concern for BlackBerry.
Type: Mobile operating system for BlackBerry devices
RIM are renamed BlackBerry, and with the company name change comes the launch of BlackBerry 10, the company's great hope for making a dent in the smartphone market dominated by Apple's iPhone and Google's Android OS. It's a unique take on mobile interfaces, and a slick one at that, but is BB10 compelling enough to claw back users from the competition? Read on to find out!
Though once a major player in the smartphone space, Canadian mobile giants RIM (now re-christened BlackBerry) focussed too long on creating QWERTY-keyboard packing handsets while the market moved towards touchscreen devices. Their outgoing operating system, BlackBerry 7 OS, therefore suffered as RIM attempted to shoehorn touch features into the mix, struggling to populate the BlackBerry App World store with attractive applications.
BlackBerry 10 (hereafter referred to as BB10), announced last year and officially revealed yesterday, marks a line in the sand for the company then, after which there is no turning back. Built from the ground up with touch and gesture controls in mind, it's a "re-designed, re-engineered, re-invented " operating system upon which all of BlackBerry's future smartphone hopes rest. It's packed full of features, some familiar and some unique. We'll be going over the main points in depth here.
BB10 is a touch-focussed OS, meaning that all navigation of the software is controlled by taps and swipes of your finger from the outside edge of the screen. Swiping up from the bottom edge of the screen unlocks the phone and closes applications; swiping down from the top edge opens settings from the home screen and options within apps; swiping from the right edge to the left lets you browse open apps and grid-pages of installed apps from the homescreen, while going from left to right lets you access notifications and messages collected in a unified inbox called the BlackBerry Hub, as well as checking further options once within an app.
It's a mixture of controls that are familiar with those that are new. Swiping down to access settings is similar to what's found in Android, and the pages of apps organised in a grid (showing 16 apps per page), will be familiar to both iOS and Android users. Closing apps with a swipe up takes some getting used to (it's quite easy to do it by mistake when first getting to grips with the OS), but we liked swiping to the side to get a look at our messages.
What's more confusing though is the lack of an obvious, or at least consistent, "back" control within apps. Some offer a virtual button, others require a swipe from left to right from the edge of the screen, some allow for both. It can be frustrating to think you're going back one navigation step, only to realise the gesture you used has thrown you instead back to the homescreen, or simply does nothing. A unified approach to this is something that BlackBerry will have to encourage developers to adopt going forward if we're going to be saved a few headaches.
Despite a few hiccups, it doesn't take too long getting to grips with the BB10 gestures.They're the first step towards setting BB10 aside from the competition, and though there's a slight learning curve for those raised on Android and iOS, it's quite easy to get up to speed with. Sensibly, first time users are greeted with a short tutorial upon first firing up a BB10 handset, and this goes some way to explaining its quirks and unique controls.
The BB10 lockscreen by default has a static electric blue graphic as its background, on top of which is laid a few snippets of information for you to check at a glance. These include the date and time, battery levels, connectivity strength with mobile and Wi-Fi networks, as well as how many emails, SMS messages or social networking notifications you have awaiting your attention.
Swiping down from the lockscreen lets you access alarm and night-time settings (letting you switch off audio notification alerts for a restful night's sleep), while swiping up brings you to the BB10 homescreen or list of active apps if you have any open. The lockscreen also has a small camera icon in the bottom right corner, which lets you fire up the snapper without having to scroll through a list of apps first. However, as this requires a few moments to activate, it defeats the purpose of having a quick-launch shortcut here.
Also frustrating is the fact that you cant quickly launch any awaiting notifications from the lockscreen, nor are you offered a preview of any awaiting text messages. There's room for more information to be offered here at a glance.
Homescreen and Active Frames
After unlocking your phone, you'll be greeted with one of either two views, depending on how you've been using your phone. If you've yet to open any applications, you'll be met with a grid of installed applications, numbering 16 on a page, and spreading across multiple pages that can be swiped through right to left depending on the number of apps you have installed. In this view, BB10 looks much like its Android and iOS counterparts.
However, if you've opened any apps, you'll land on the Active Frames view. It's a cross between a multi-tasking hub and Windows Phone's Active Tile view. You'll be presented with up to eight recently opened applications (showing four tiles at a time onscreen and scrolling down to see the next four), organised by the most recently used sitting at the top. These miniature frames offer a sneak-peek at what's going on in the app they represent, and can offer live information (say, incoming messages) updated as they hit the phone. If you're worried that this is a potential battery and drain, BlackBerry promise that all Active Frames use only minimal power and draw only tiny amounts of data to run. Swipe right from the Active Frame view and you're back in the familiar app grid view.
Underneath both the app grid views and Active Frame views are a trio of static software buttons; one for accessing the phone dialler, one for searching through everything on the phone, and one for accessing the camera. The search tool is particularly useful as it's universal across all functions of the device, letting you search for contacts, settings, apps, notes, calendar schedules, messages and more all from one place. It'll be a godsend for those looking to keep track of BB10 phones packed full of documents, friends and apps.
BlackBerry Hub and Peek View
BlackBerry Hub is one of our favourite things about BB10. Accessed by swiping through from left to right on the Homescreen or Active Frames view, it's a universal inbox that aggregates all messages from multiple email accounts, social networking feeds, SMS messages, calls and BBM messages.
Swiping to the "far left" (virtually speaking), shows a list of all your incoming messaging sources. Hitting an individual source lets you filter out messages from just one place, allowing you to, for instance, separate out Facebook messages from your Twitter, LinkedIn and email accounts. Opening a message throws it up full screen, with a "Cascade" view letting you drag left to right to reveal again the inbox sitting below. (Cascade view is used throughout the OS, offering different information depending on the app you're in - a file manager for instance could use Cascade view to show all documents housed within a folder while the fullscreen view shows the document you have open).
Hitting individual messages from social networking accounts however doesn't automatically send you to their respective apps. Rather, you're able to reply to messages directly from the BlackBerry Hub. This is a useful time saver, though you'll need to hit an additional "View Post" button should you want to launch each individual app from the hub.
If you get a notification come through while you're in the middle of something else, you can activate the "Peek" view. When in an application, rather than dragging from the bottom to the top of the screen to close the app, you can drag just halfway up to activate Peek view. This shows icons on the left hand side identifying awaiting notifications; when in this view (and without lifting your finger from the screen), you can swipe to the right to quickly jump to the BlackBerry Hub to check the notification, swipe back down to go back to your currently open application if the notification isn't of interest, or swipe all the way up to close both Peek view and the application and move onto something different entirely.
BlackBerry Hub, together with the Peek view and Active Frames, represents a very fluid form of multitasking then. At a glance you can quickly view all the comings and goings of your smartphone, and quickly jump between the information you need from anywhere within the OS. Mastering all the gesture shortcuts may take a little while, but once you do it's a powerful OS that puts you in control.
The BlackBerry brand is one that has always been known for courting business users thanks to its security and messaging abilities, and BB10 continues this approach with BlackBerry Balance, a feature that allows a BB10 handset to be used for both work and personal use. It's a feature that requires a corporate-activated handset to test (something that we haven't had access to), but we'll describe what the feature offers, and what makes it such a useful tool.
In effect, BlackBerry Balance splits the phone in two, separating work emails, messages, apps and documents from personal ones, keeping all work related information securely locked behind passwords, should you misplace or have the device stolen. BlackBerry Balance is activated by dragging up from the centre of the homescreen, which then presents the option of switching between work and personal profiles, keeping the two completely separated - no files can be shared between each profile, meaning sensitive data stays exactly where it should.
With the growing "BYOD - Bring your own device" trend in the workplace, BB10's one-device-to-rule-them-all approach here will be very attractive to those looking to avoid having to carry multiple devices around at once. You can view the concept in practice on older BlackBerry devices in the video above.
BlackBerry World and Apps
BlackBerry World acts as the shopping portal for all app, video and music purchases on BB10. Think of it like Apple's App Store and iTunes combined.
It's not the most simple store to navigate - though a scrolling list of editorially chosen apps sits at the top, and a familiar array of best selling apps are listed below, it's difficult to quickly jump to a specific product category that you like. For instance, there's a lack of consistency when hitting the navigation controls - tap the "Categories" button and you'll be presented with options for applications, games and music, but no link to videos, while hitting the "All" button does show video content. The design here could be more economical; I'd rather just have the "All" button rather than the "Categories" button too, especially if the "Categories" button breaks down content into only three broad areas, and fails to even present a whole section of the store at all.
For a brand new platform, BB10 is off to a good start on the app front. Numbering 70,000 in total, big names such as Kindle, Where's My Water?, Jetpack Joyride, Angry Birds, Skype and more all feature. It's nowhere near the hundreds of thousands of apps available on iOS and Android devices (and some very popular apps like Spotify, Netflix and LoveFilm are notable in their absence), but for the most part you should find your app desires covered here.
While the music store seems well populated (at least as far as our searches for obscure indie bands went) and reasonably priced (between £5 and £8 for an album and £1 for a single track), the movie store was missing big titles like The Avengers and Drive, and shows like Mad Men and Game of Thrones. Movie purchases and rentals were expensive too - for £15.99 we could buy the Blu-Ray copy of Prometheus, and get all its added extras as well as a digital copy to boot. BlackBerry may want to rethink this area of the store if they want to take on iTunes, and we'll be keeping a close eye on how they look to court customers here in the future.
What we did like though was the setting screen that allowed us to pick between credit cards and PayPal for our default payment setting. We use PayPal almost exclusively when shopping online, and it was great to see it integrated here.
BBM, video chat and screen sharing
BBM, or BlackBerry Messaging, has been a staple in BlackBerry phones for an age, letting you send free instant messages to other BlackBerry users. BlackBerry recently introduced free voice messaging to the service, and with BB10 the company have added video calling. When in a BBM conversation with a contact, you'll now have the option to fire up a video chat as well as text or voice based messaging. Though it's limited to just BB10 users, the new BBM functions (as with all previous incarnations of BBM) are free, making it an inexpensive way to communicate with pals, providing you've got a Wi-Fi connection or data plan to cover the interactions.
Similarly, BB10 now offers screen sharing, just as you'd find with a remote viewing application on a desktop PC or Mac. With it, you're able to wirelessly share exactly what you're doing on your phone fullscreen on another BB10 user's handset. It looks set to be a great way to collaborate and share over the new devices, and providing your data connection is up to scratch, it's more or less seamless.
Contacts and Dialler
BB10 automatically populates your contacts book with any contacts associated with the sources you dictate through the BlackBerry Hub. This is great, quickly pulling together all your Facebook and Twitter pals, and tying a profile picture where available automatically too. Of course, all accounts pooled together are optional, so you can keep out those you really call. It's really nicely done, with individual contact cards displaying links to social networking profiles (though recent posts sit beneath a separate tab) and even suggesting you connect with each other if you're both signed up to the same service but not yet linked together. You can search through all your contacts, while adding a new contact is as simple as hitting the "Add+" button at the bottom. It does have a tendency to duplicate contacts though, so you'll have to keep on top of exactly how you organise contacts in your various social networks to avoid duplicates.
The dialler is a standard white-on-black affair, with big buttons that are easy to hit. Simple, and effective.
The BB10 browser pops the URL bar at the bottom of the screen - a sensible, easy to reach spot that we wish was used in more mobile browsers. Though Adobe have given up on Flash for mobiles, BlackBerry have managed to nab their support one last time to have Flash baked into the browser here, which is good news, further setting apart BB10 from its Apple counterparts.
Hitting an icon in the bottom right corner throws up options including access to downloaded files, search, bookmark adding and a neat Reader view that strips unnecessary formatting and adverts from a page to just present you with text and images. Hitting the bottom right icon lists open tabs, history and bookmarks.
When browsing, pinch-to-zoom functions can be accessed, while long-pressing on text lets you copy and paste. There's no text reflow though, so if you zoom in close you're going to have to scroll around the page to read everything.
On the whole its a very speedy browser, with pages rendering faster than on the iPhone 5 or comparative Android handsets.
Mapping on BB10 is provided by default by TCS, using TomTom data. It's a pretty barebones offering when compared to Google Maps, and even Apple's beleaguered Maps app (though it's more accurate than the latter). Offering simple overhead 2D views of maps (no Streetview or 3D views), the mapping app doesn't offer local amenities or business information. What you do get though is accurate directions and turn-by-turn spoken navigation, but it looks aged and lacking in comparison to Google's superb offering.
The touchscreen keyboard offered by BB10 is pretty standard fare, offering soft-keys in a QWERTY array to tap out messages with. Where it differs from the competition is with its predictive text - tapping in a number of letters lets you confirm the the suggested potential next word by hitting the space key, or alternatively by flicking up other small suggested words that float over the keyboard into the body of the text. On paper it's a good idea, but in practice a bit finicky - the floating words are so small it can be hard to read them, let alone accurately flick them to the main body of the text without hitting a letter key below. We found ourselves just sticking to using the main predictive word on the space button rather than fishing out the tiny text in the keyboard. It just kind of gets in the way.
Camera and Time Shift
BB10 also does some interesting things with its camera application. Best of all is Time Shift mode, which acts a bit like a burst-shot mode on a digital camera by snapping a selection of shots at once. Time Shift then presents these photos, shot milliseconds apart, on a timeline that you can scrub through, highlighting individual faces and letting you pick the precise moment where everyone had their best smiles on. It's a little difficult to explain in just words and pictures, so hit the official video from RIM above to see exactly what we mean.
Shots snapped on the new operating system can also have all manner of filters applied, and there are manual controls for editing brightness, white balance and framing styles, as well as crop controls through the Artistic app (itself tied into the Camera app).
Images, videos and music can be pulled together into short clips through the Story Maker app too. It's a neat video creating tool that adds transitions and credits to your curated mixture of pictures and clips, doing all the hard work for you before letting you share the results via email or social networks. You won't be able to make an Oscar contender with it, but it's a nice way of sharing a selection of media quickly hacked together with your pals.
BB10 succeeds in feeling unique against its strong competition. Though it takes some getting used to, its gesture controls and multitasking chops are comprehensive, and the whole OS flows together well and looks smooth. BlackBerry Hub is a great messaging centre, and the Peek and Active Views work well. The number of apps available is relatively small, but on the most part the quality is good, even if the mapping app leaves a lot to be desired. Media content is a little patchy though with the video store in particular lacking big names, and is overpriced. More frustratingly are the inconsistencies in interface and navigation design. It's frustrating to be struck in an app and be unsure of how best to jump to the area you're looking for next.
This is however the first iteration of the software, and if BlackBerry can move to quickly iron out the creases here with updates, we'd be left with little to complain about.
It's not a bad beginning by any means for BlackBerry, but they're fighting an uphill struggle. Even if you have the best OS in the world (which BB10 regrettably falls short of being) it's hard to convince the average user to learn a new system when they've already got used to one or two others, not to mention the money they may have invested in alternative app stores that will be meaningless here.
It's a promising start, and everything suggests a conscientious approach from BlackBerry. But it's late to the game, and the damage may already be done.
BlackBerry have announced that they've appointed singer-songwriter Alicia Keys as "Global Creative Director".
A recognisable celebrity face to front the new BlackBerry re-branding, Keys admitted to being a lapsed BlackBerry user who had been courted by the new BB10 operating system's social, multitasking and hardware revisions (and, presumably, a shed load of money).
"Me and BlackBerry are dating again," revealed Keys at the BB10 launch today, committing to a new "long-term relationship" with BlackBerry after being wooed by "sexier" smartphones with "more bling" previously.
Alicia Keys' role is the latest in a string of recent celebrity endorsements for tech giants: Lady Gaga shares a similar role at Polaroid, while Will.I.Am acts as Director of Creative Innovation at Intel.
Two new handsets from the newly-christened BlackBerry company (formally RIM) have launched alongside the BB10 operating system today. The first BB10 handsets, the BlackBerry Z10 is a full-touch handset, while the BlackBerry Q10 features a physical keyboard too. The BlackBerry Z10 is already confirmed to launch in the UK tomorrow (31/01/13), almost immediately after the launch event.
Today's event saw the two handsets' multitasking capabilities showcased. A "BlackBerry Peek" feature allows users to check incoming notifications while another app is running, activated by a gesture that allows switching on the fly between applications that run simultaneously rather than pausing or being virtualised in the background.
The Z10 and Q10 also make use of the "BlackBerry Hub" feature, a unified inbox for all notifications and emails in one space, keeping social networks and secure email messages pushed to the handsets in real-time. There's no need to launch individual messaging apps to grab new messages on the handsets - all are continuously updated and automatically retrieved (a potential battery drain if it's not an optional feature).
BlackBerry claim the Z10 also has an industry-leading touch-keyboard, letting users "flick" words to the screen that appear as predicted text suggestions, with a swipe-down gesture bringing up symbol keys.
"BlackBerry Balance" features on both the Z10 and Q10 allow users to keep personal and work profiles on a single handset, with security features protecting potentially sensitive files on the work side.
BBM (BlackBerry's own instant messaging service) also gets an update on the BB10 devices, allowing for video calling direct from the messaging app. There's also "BBM Screenshare", allowing users to share in real-time what they are viewing on their own BB10 handsets with fellow BB10 users, similar to a PC's remote desktop sharing apps.
"BlackBerry Remember" acts as BB10's own built-in note saving service, similar to Evernote (itself integrated into the feature), allowing for photos and voice notes to be saved, as well as sharing files from native BB10 apps (such as browser bookmarks and flagged emails).
The handset's camera functionality looks particularly interesting thanks to the "TimeShift" feature, which records multiple images across a number of seconds, letting you slide between the shots in motion, allowing you to select the exact moment you want to save as a still. Built-in image editing with crop functions and image tweaking controls are also built in.
"BlackBerry Story Maker" lets users blend multiple media files (including videos, pictures and music) together, automatically creating a video file with transitions and optional credits from the uploaded files that users can share with friends.
Altogether, the BB10 handsets have access to 70,000 apps at launch, including Kindle, Facebook, Twitter, Where's My Water?, Jetpack Joyride, Angry Birds and Skype, among other leading applications.
We'll have more updates on these new handsets as the afternoon progresses, including confirmed tech specs. Keep refreshing this post for more info as we get it.
After a year-long wait, RIM have finally officially launched their BlackBerry 10 operating system, renaming themselves as simply 'BlackBerry' in the process. A bold approach, the re-launch represents the company's big smartphone hopes following years of decline in the face of Apple's iOS and Google's Android smartphone dominance.
Hosting simultaneous worldwide launch events in locations including London, Toronto, Paris, Johannesburg, New York and Dubai, the Canadian handset manufacturer was in boisterous spirits as they sang the praises of their "re-designed, re-engineered, re-invented " mobile software.
A touch gesture-based OS with full multitasking capabilities and multiple profiles letting you switch between business and personal modes, the newly christened BlackBerry look to be courting both their enterprise and consumer customers with a single platform.
"We have definitely been on a journey of transformation" said CEO Thorsten Heins.
"It's been the most challenging year of my career to date, but also the most exhilarating. This is one of the biggest launches in our industry, but today is not the finish line - we're just getting started. Today represents a new day in the history of BlackBerry."
"Hyper-connected socially" Heins described BB10 as a platform for those looking for true multitasking, without being tied to a home button, with BB10 acting as a gateway to a personal "internet of things". BB10 will be able to connect with networked home devices, cars, even medical devices, the CEO claimed.
"With the pace of our industry we knew we had to move our platform forward and innovate," said Kristian Tear, Chief Operating Officer.
"BlackBerry 10 will shake the industry in the same way that the original BlackBerry did a decade ago. This is not just another handset, but a brand new platform that has been re-designed, re-engineered and re-invented."
Will it be enough to rock Android and iPhone dominance at the top of the smartphone pile? It's too early to say. While the software looks sleek, and the hardware lustworthy, it's difficult to say at this point whether BB10 offers enough unique features to best its established rivals. With many tech fans now having bought in to the Android and iOS ecosystems, it may prove difficult for BlackBerry to court new custom, or reclaim lapsed fans. But the showcase so far has been a positive one, and the pre-launch reception so far similarly favourable.
RIM has beefed up its BlackBerry World online storefront ahead of today's massive BB10 launch, bringing new video content to the iTunes rival alongside music, apps, games and themes for the new line of smartphones.
As it stands, video content is only available through the US and Canadian versions of the store, though RIM have previously promised that the store will open in its entirety to UK customers to coincide with the launch of BlackBerry 10. Probably just a few hours wait until the video store opens in Blighty then. Entertainment content will be initially exclusive to RIM's new BB10 devices too, looking to encourage present BlackBerry owners to upgrade.
So what's on offer then? Nothing to exciting at present - the biggest new release we could spot was Taken 2 for $4.99, while the straight-to-video thrills of Mancation seem ridiculously overpriced at $19.99. TV content fares a little better, with shows like Modern Family and How I Met Your Mother present. It'll do until LoveFilm or Netflix streaming apps launch then we suppose.
Tech Digest will be heading down to the London leg of today's BB10 launch, with the event kicking off at 3pm. We'll be providing up-to-the-minute coverage of all today's launch news this afternoon, but for the time being you can check out the new store by visiting http://appworld.blackberry.com/webstore/.
RIM's BlackBerry App World app store is getting a name change and a makeover, just in time for the launch of the company's new operating system BlackBerry 10 later this month.
Now simply called BlackBerry World, the app store is expected to be the major storefront for RIM's BB10 devices, and is set to roll out to existing BlackBerry devices and the PlayBook tablet range too.
The new name and new look is all part of RIM's efforts to unify the BlackBerry brand, with the "App" part of the name dropped as the store will offer movies and music as well under the same digital roof.
The store is split into channels, including games, apps and themes. Interesting items can be shared to Facebook and Twitter friends, while content can be locally shared over NFC with BlackBerry phones.
Intended for employees of the mobile carrier Rogers, it's found its way to BlackBerry blog CrackBerry in the form of a PowerPoint presentation.
The slides see RIM claim "best in class HTML5 compatibility and performance" for its new web browser, with the Canadian company also claiming here that 70,000 apps will be available for the new operating system at launch.
As well as general discussion on features of the operating system, the slides also go into detail on specific hardware details of what presumably is the Z10 handset, revealing a 356dpi screen with "beautiful contrast and saturation", as well as the Qualcomm S4 processor. Scroll down to see the slideshow in its entirety.
We're just a few short weeks away from the official unveiling of Research in Motion's new BlackBerry 10 operating system and associated handsets, arguably the last roll of the dice in the smartphone market for the Canadian mobile company. And, as we approach the launch, the leaks are now coming thick and fast, with not one but two handsets, the Z10 and X10, leaking online this week.
Turning our attention first to the Z10, German site Telekom-Presse has had a revealing hands-on with the touchscreen-only handset, revealing fresh details on the smartphone's hardware.
Rather than the rumoured 4.3-inch screen, the Z10 sports a slightly smaller 4.2-inch HD screen, powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core ARM Cortex A9 processor with 2GB of memory. 16GB of storage is built in, with the handset weighing roughly 125g.
Check out the handset in action in the video above.
The video follows the leak of images of the "N-Series" BlackBerry X10 on Monday, appearing on the Crackberry forums after being spotted on Instagram.
Forum user "antheauxny" spotted the images after searching for the #BlackBerry hashtag on the photo based social network. Though they reveal little that wasn't already thought to be known about the handset, they show the QWERTY-keyboard packing phone with its power cord attached, presumably plugged in and charging. The handset lacks a few standard BlackBerry shortcut keys, presumably now handled instead by touchscreen UI controls in the BB10 operating system.
RIM are launching BlackBerry 10 on January 30 after CEO Thorsten Heins first announced the platform back in May 2012. The new touch-focussed operating system has been in the works since RIM purchased the Unix-like QNX operating system in April 2010.
As many as 15,000 new BlackBerry 10 apps are said to be ready for launch thanks to a recent RIM-sponsored developer "port-a-thon", while the new BB10 range of handsets is said to be varied enough to cover all price points.
However, Vietnamese tech bloggers at Tinhte have pipped RIM to the post, revealing leaked screengrabs of the new BB10 OS in action.Though aping the app-grid interface seen in Android and iOS smartphones, the screenshots suggest RIM have done well to get key applications and services ready in app form in time for the OS's launch, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and FourSquare. Native apps for "Pictures", "Music", "Videos" and a "Story Maker" (presumably a video editing app) show RIM's new found focus on consumer interests as opposed to business types.
One screenshot even shows off a Siri-like voice activated assistant, sending BBM messages and scheduling meetings through voice input alone.
Looking good so far, with a minimalist, predominately black and white design mixing in with the now-standardised smartphone interface features as popularised by iPhone and Android.
Scroll down for a closer look at some more elements of the UI:
It's been a long time coming, but RIM are finally ready to lift the covers off their long-awaited BlackBerry 10 smartphone refresh.
The Canadian mobile manufacturers will be hosting a big launch bash for BlackBerry 10 in New York on January 30th, with invitations hitting the desks of US media today.
As well as a first look at the finished OS, RIM will be revealing the specifics of the first batch of BlackBerry 10 hardware, showing the precise smartphones that will land as the first wave of BlackBerry 10 devices.
BlackBerry 10 is seen by many analysts as the last hope for RIM's smartphone business. Though the company dominated in the early days of web-connected mobile technology, RIM failed to keep the pace with the app-driven revolution of Android and iPhone. Early indicators suggest RIM are on the right track, but whether it's too little too late for the brand remains to be seen.
We'll offer our thoughts on the new RIM tech come January, when we're expecting to be able to go hands-on with BlackBerry 10.
RIM have today announced that they're updating their super-popular BBM messaging service to version 7, with the update bringing with it the new BBM Voice feature; the ability to hold free voice calls over a Wi-Fi connection.
Offering a split screen feature that lets BBM users talk and text at the same time, it's a smart update to the inexpensive service. BBM's free text messaging options have made it one of the most popular instant messaging clients on mobile, and free calls between BBM users will only boost its popularity.
"BBM is the quick, easy way to stay connected to the people that matter to you, and with today's announcement we're expanding the capabilities of the service for deeper social engagement and even greater collaboration, beginning with voice functionality," said T.A. McCann, Vice President of BBM and Social Communities at RIM.
"The new BBM Voice feature is for when you're travelling and you want to call home without worrying about phone charges. It's for when you have news you can't wait to share, for quickly explaining complicated details, and collaborating with colleagues. Whenever your ideas are too big for text, there's BBM Voice."
The new BBM Voice feature is currently available in Beta for BlackBerry smartphones running the BlackBerry 6 OS or higher, with support planned for smartphones running the BlackBerry 5 OS at a future date. The Beta can be downloaded for free from BlackBerry Beta Zone. Customers can sign up to BlackBerry Beta Zone at www.BlackBerry.com/betazone.
RIM have finally confirmed January 30th 2013 as the long-awaited launch date for BlackBerry 10, the company's next-generation smartphone operating system.
Billed as the launch that will boost RIM's smartphone fortunes in the wake of the rise of iOS and Android devices, previews of the touch-focussed OS have garnered positive early responses from experts.
"In building BlackBerry 10, we set out to create a truly unique mobile computing experience that constantly adapts to your needs," said Thorsten Heins, CEO, RIM.
"Our team has been working tirelessly to bring our customers innovative features combined with a best in class browser, a rich application ecosystem, and cutting-edge multimedia capabilities. All of this will be integrated into a user experience - the BlackBerry Flow - that is unlike any smartphone on the market today.
"Thanks to our strong partnerships with global carriers and a growing ecosystem of developers, we believe our customers will have the best experience possible with BlackBerry 10. We are looking forward to getting BlackBerry 10 in the hands of our customers around the world."
The BlackBerry 10 launch will include simultaneous events around the world, with RIM also using the occasion to reveal the launch information and availability of the first two BB10 packing Blackberry handsets.
We'll keep you posted with more details on the event as we get them.
The troubled tablet line has hardly set the world on fire, and with this new mobile data packing variant weighing in at a costly £346 plus VAT (and being the only option available), you'd have to wonder who will pick this up.
The 7.6-inch 1024x600 resolution tablet runs off a 1.5GHz dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM, has a 3MP front-facing camera and 5MP rear one, capable of 1080p video recording.
If you're interested, click here to find out more on the PlayBook 3G+. It's available from Insight UK and Misco UK.
RIM's BlackBerry woes are well documented, with all eyes (and the Canadian company's hopes) resting on the launch of their forthcoming BB10 OS and related devices. Today has seen a leaked spec sheet for the rumoured BB10-packing BlackBerry Laguna handset leak online. And if it's anything to go by, RIM finally have a real contender on their hands.
Kicking off with the display, the handset's said to be touting an impressive 4.2-inch screen, running at a high 1280x768 resolution. That gives it an iPhone 5-beating 355ppi density, compared to Apple's 326ppi Retina display. Off to a good start then.
Under the hood is expected to be a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor and 4G/LTE connectivity, alongside NFC, DLNA, Wi-Fi direct, Bluetooth 2.1 and 1GB of RAM. An 8MP autofocusing camera with flash is said to sit on the rear.
BlackBerry 10 is the OS onboard, though it's referred to in the leak as Superphone/QNX OS, which may be cause to question the credibility of the leak.
An "L Series" BlackBerry London handset, which similarly offers a dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM, is thought to be the international variant.
BB10 handsets land in Q1 of 2013. Expect to see more concrete info on potential BB10 smartphones in the run up to the new year.
RIM's chief executive Thorsten Heins has gone on the attack, defending the fortunes of his company's flailing BlackBerry brand in the press.
RIM have had a tough couple of years, seeing them haemorrhaging both business users and youth market fans, leading to the company co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Jim Ballsillie handing over the reins to Heins at the beginning of the year as RIM's market value plummets.
All hopes now rest on RIM's new smartphone operating system BB10. And in Heins' own words, it is "once in a decade change that will see us through the next ten years."
"Most of the media is very black and white - they look at every little thing that could be bad and put it on to RIM's shoulders," Heins said to the Telegraph.
"And let's be honest we don't like it. This is something we have to get through and convince the critics and the market that BB10 is going to cut it. And BB7 is still a competitive product; we are not in a trough."
Indeed, the initial reactions to BB10 have been positive, but is it too little too late for BlackBerry? Microsoft finally seem to have got their act together with Windows Phone coming along leaps and bounds, Google's Android leading the market in terms of activated device numbers, and Apple's iOS still the darling of the industry. Is there room for another player?
They just aren't having any luck over at RIM at the moment, are they? The BlackBerry manufacturers have just released a statement that their next big smartphone hope, the BlackBerry 10 OS and related handsets now wont ship until early 2013, months after the releases of major rival handsets, and months again after RIM's own initial estimations.
"Our top priority going forward is the successful launch of our first BlackBerry 10 device, which we now anticipate will occur in the first quarter of calendar 2013," said Thorsten Heins, President and CEO.
"In parallel with the roll out of BlackBerry 10, we are aggressively working with our advisors on our strategic review and are actively evaluating ways to better leverage our assets and build on our strengths, including our growing BlackBerry subscriber base of approximately 78 million, our large enterprise installed base, our unique network architecture and our industry leading security capabilities."
Putting the finishing touches to the handsets and OS seems to have caused RIM the problems, with development time taking longer than they'd initially planned:
"Over the past several weeks, RIM's software development teams have made major progress in the development of key features for the BlackBerry 10 platform; however, the integration of these features and the associated large volume of code into the platform has proven to be more time consuming than anticipated. As a result, the Company now expects to launch the first BlackBerry 10 smartphones in market in Q1 of calendar 2013."
"RIM's development teams are relentlessly focussed on ensuring the quality and reliability of the platform and I will not compromise the product by delivering it before it is ready. I am confident that the first BlackBerry 10 smartphones will provide a ground-breaking next generation smartphone user experience," continued Heins.
"We are encouraged by the traction that the BlackBerry 10 platform is gaining with application developers and content partners following the successful BlackBerry Jam sessions that we have held around the world since the beginning of May. Similarly, the reception of the BlackBerry 10 platform by our key carrier partners has been very positive and they are looking forward to going to market with BlackBerry 10 smartphones in the first quarter of calendar 2013."
However, by early 2013 RIM won't just have falling interest in their products to contend with, but handsets powered by Google's newly revealed Android Jelly Bean OS, Microsoft's Windows 8, and likely the iPhone 5. It's an uphill struggle that's only getting steeper for the Canadian manufacturer.
Earnings reports show that the last 3 months for the firm was been dreadful, losing a further $518 million and only managing to shift 7.8 million units from their entire smartphone range and a mere 260,000 PlayBook tablets.