It’s been a busy week for BlackBerry. Research In Motion officially announced on 30th January that they were dropping the RIM company name and will be known going forward simply under the brand name of BlackBerry, with the stock trading designation BBRY. This long overdue attempt to align the development company with its signature product comes ahead of the global launch of a range of devices which feature the shiny new BlackBerry 10 operating system.
Back at the start of January, I wrote that the functionality of the new BB10 platform would probably determine whether or not the BlackBerry brand was finally ready to rejoin the smartphone market and give Apple and Android a run for their money. Reviews of the BlackBerry Z10 are now starting to come in, and while the touchscreen handset may not be quite as wildly innovative as many tech lovers have come to expect from new product lines, the BB10 OS is still being recognised as a huge step in the right direction for the beleaguered company.
After using the new Z10 device for a week, Darrell Etherington wrote at TechCrunch that “BlackBerry has come a long way… but still has a very long way to go”, and posited that user engagement with the latest incarnation of the brand would rely on the rapid growth of its currently limited app ecosystem. However, he went on to praise the “fast, responsive” touchscreen keyboard and the new, feature-rich version of BBM which includes video messaging in the style of Apple’s FaceTime, and a screen sharing option that offers mobile users the full functionality of a desktop Skype call.
Meanwhile, the Q10 (which includes a more “classic” BlackBerry shape and design) combines half a touchscreen with a physical QWERTY keyboard for hard-core BlackBerry traditionalists. “We know there are a lot of physical keyboard lovers out there,” said CEO Thorsten Heins at the BB10 launch in New York last week. However, critics have been quick to point out that the physical keypad, by necessity, lacks some of the intuitive features of the Z10’s virtual keyboard, which adapts to the user’s typing style. That said, both the Z10 and Q10 are capable of analysing the user’s messaging history in order to incorporate common slang and vocabulary into its predictive messaging.
The Z10 is now available in the UK, and will roll out across China in early February and the US in March. There is currently no concrete release date for the Q10.