Blackberry 10 handset to launch first in the UK

 

The BBC's Mark Gregory looks at Timeshift and Blackberry Balance on the new Z10 handset

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The first two handsets powered by the new Blackberry 10 operating system have been unveiled.

The Z10 is controlled via a 4.2in (10.7cm) touchscreen while the Q10 has a smaller 3.1in (7.9cm) screen and physical keyboard.

The UK will be the first to get the Z10 where it will launch on Thursday.

Its appeal could determine whether the firm - which has switched its name from Research In Motion to Blackberry - has a long term future.

The new operating system had originally been due for release last year. Canada and the UAE will get the Z10 in February and the firm said it should go on sale in the US in March.

"Two years ago we had to make a very serious decision," chief executive Thorsten Heins told a press conference in New York.

Q10 handset Blackberry said users had wanted a phone with a physical keyboard

"Adopt someone else's platform or build a whole new one from ground up for Blackberry. And we made the tough call to go it alone.

"Bringing an entirely new platform to the market and ushering this company through a really difficult transition took careful planning and we absolutely knew it was risky."

Shrinking share

According to data from IDC, Blackberry devices used to account for just over 19% of global smartphone shipments at the start of 2010 - but it suggests that figure had dropped to less than 4% by the end of last year.

"The devices are probably the firm's last attempt to make in impact in this market," Alexander Peterc, technology analyst at BNP Paribas, told the BBC.

"The firm's market share has fallen because they haven't had a product launch in a year and a half. BB7 - the previous system upgrade which was just incremental - was, let's say, a failure.

"They still have a following in enterprise where they will probably find a reliable source of revenue for the next 12 months but it's also crucial for them to generate at least a half-decent amount of traction with consumers."

Touchscreen keyboard

The new user interface allows up to eight apps to run simultaneously, four of which can appear in small windows on the same screen - something the firm describes as "true multitasking".

Michelle Fleury spoke to chief executive Thorsten Heins, and looked at the Blackberry 10's 'hub' feature

During a demonstration executives said the intention was to let users "flow" through applications using swipes and other gestures rather than copy the "in and out" nature experienced when navigating rivals' devices.

For example BB10's Hub - which brings together emails, texts and other notifications - can be accessed by swiping up and then to the right from any app. The user then needs to reverse the gesture to return to where they were.

The BBM messaging app can now make audio and video calls as well as being able to share what is on one person's screen with the other user's device.

The Z10 is not RIM's first to feature a touchscreen keyboard, but it has adopted new features to attract users more used to physical buttons.

These include a feature which learns the words and phrases the owner most often types and then uses this to suggest words which float above the keyboard and can be flicked into place.

It will also learn to anticipate and correct frequently made mistakes - such as if the user often hits the letter C when they mean to tap space.

Blackberry head of software Vivek Bhardwaj demonstrates the new BBM video feature

"The new keyboard is the jewel in the crown and Blackberry has mastered the experience," said Francisco Jeronimo, European mobile devices research manager at IDC.

"The browser, one of the weakest features on the old Blackberry devices, is now an enjoyable experience.

"This is not a new Blackberry device, this is a completely new Blackberry experience. For the first time the traditional keyboard Blackberry users will it find easier to type on a touchscreen."

The handsets also include a mix of features designed to make them appeal as a crossover business-personal machine.

Blackberry Balance sets up a "work perimeter" on the phones so that data belonging to the user's employer can be limited to approved apps, while photos and other personal information can be used across a wider range of software.

Companies are also given the option of being able to remotely wipe sensitive files.

Meanwhile the in-built Pictures app includes a facility called Timeshift designed to ensure everyone has their eyes open in group photos.

It involves the user taking several pictures in a row and then scrolling through the shots to select the best frame.

Tough competition

Blackberry said it had secured more than 70,000 additional apps for its Blackberry World app store including Skype, Angry Birds, Facebook and Whatsapp.

In addition it offers music, TV shows and movies. However, there is no official YouTube app.

Timeshare demonstration A demonstration of the Timeshift feature did not result in a totally successful shot

But some analysts suggested its efforts might have come too late to make much headway against the most popular smartphone platforms: Google's Android and Apple's iOS.

"Blackberry continues to face the twin demons of consumer-driven buying power and a chronic inability to appeal to mature market consumers," said Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analyst at Ovum.

"There is nothing in what we've seen so far of BB10 that suggests it will conquer the second of these demons, and the first is utterly out of Blackberry's control.

"We don't expect a speedy exit from the market; with no debt, 80 million subscribers and profitability in the black in at least some recent quarters, the company can continue in this vein for years. But its glory days are past, and it is only a matter of time before it reaches a natural end."

Blackberry's shares fell more than 6% following the launch.

 

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  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 24.

    Blackberry are good, I've got one. But they tend to be aimed at the corporate market with corporate tariffs. It will be interesting to see if service providers can compete with these handsets.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 23.

    I've had 4 models of BB supplied by my work, all have been replaced due to faults at one point or another, except for my current one, that's been OK apart from the 5 replacement batteries I've needed. BB10? No thank you.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 22.

    I opted for Blackberry when I took my first ever contract. I prefer the keyboard to a touch screen for texting etc. Essentially, I want a communication device. Phone, text, messages and I like the integrated email and so forth.
    I hope the new BB is a success - we already have enough 'toys.'

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 21.

    iPhone user*Giving the consumer the option of a qwerty keyboard and touchscreen is paramount to Blackberry users. Many users stick to Blackberry becauseof this but it also allows them to tackle the touchscreen only type users too. However, the handset has many great unique features on it which I think is a USP. This device is also a lot more carrier friendly, which has been needed for a longtime.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 20.

    I have had many Blackberries in the past and without a doubt they are the best business devices. In 2011 I changed providers and bought a Galaxy S2 for a change. Although it has some really great apps and a huge screen it really doesn't compare to the Blackberry as a business tool.
    I will probably try this new berry when my contract is up, just hope the app are there.

  • rate this
    -14

    Comment number 19.

    Blackberries look so old fashioned I don't know why they don't fit a curly wire and a big round dial on the front that spins round !

  • rate this
    -10

    Comment number 18.

    Wow - that looks so...so ... innovative and different to anything that was on that market 5 years ago.

  • rate this
    -14

    Comment number 17.

    @1
    I take it you were being funny about new ideas in the marketplace. And about Google being the benchmark.

    Without endorsing Apple one iota, the touch and gesture based interface and the entire look and feel of the operating systems used by Google phones and now by RIM phones was invented by Apple engineers.

    Credit where it is due, Steve Jobs (pbuh) reinvented the phone. Crazy, but true.

  • rate this
    -24

    Comment number 16.

    I am incredibly uninterested in this. Also, how much software is available for it, bearing in mind it now needs to have, as Apple would call it a 'first responder' in the program to bring up a keyboard?

    When Apple have thousands of mature apps, Microsoft have released office software with touch and Android have an enthusiastic hacker community, for what reason on earth would I buy a blackberry?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 15.

    Sorry RIM I maligned you! I notice you have introduced a keyboard version as well. Put my order in for one and I sincerely hope its good enough to kick Apple in to touch.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 14.

    My teenage daughter loves her Blackberry 9320 because of the physical keyboard. Most of her friends have a Blackberry because of the physical keyboard, and unlimited BBM messaging, and they can easily send each other pictures or files.
    I wish then luck with the Z10, but think the Q10 will still sell well.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 13.

    I'm glad Blackberry has semi-ditched it's keyboard. I don't know about anyone else, but I've got quite fat fingers and writing even a simple word like "and" gives me a as-yet undefined word like "aqqwbhgdwe"... Honestly, you need cocktail sticks for fingers to operate any of the buttons on a physical QWERTY keyboard on any phone these days!

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 12.

    Ahh they have chosen the non complaining obedient nation to be Guinea pigs.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 11.

    I hope that RIM have solved the build quality issue that dogged many of their previous phones, my missus went through five Blackberries before I finally weaned her onto something else. Speaking with an assistant at one of the phone retailers he simply refuses to sell them as he said 'it'll be back for repair in a week'! Not a good omen, but RIM may have solved their problems.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 10.

    9. James
    They introduced two of them
    Q10 - with keyboard
    Z10 - touchscreen only

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 9.

    Why didn't they listen to their customers?
    'Blackberry said users had wanted a phone with a physical keyboard'
    So they introduce one with a touchscreen. Good luck, but I think we possibly know where this is heading already.
    The reason why I have a BB is because of the keyboard - I cannot use touchscreens with my clumpy fingers.

  • rate this
    +17

    Comment number 8.

    Was always the best work phone for e-mail integration, should get back to core and stop trying to sell it to kids as a smart phone. Leave the apps etc out of it.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 7.

    I find the touch screen keyboards irritating, though It'd have to have more than just a physical keyboard to make me want to buy one.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 5.

    What is it they say about markets? A market can lose value simply because you talked it down.

    This is a new handset/way of doing things for BlackBerry. Just because it is not the #1 seller does not mean it is no good. Those who think a product is only good because it has the most sales/subscribers in the first month need a reality check.

    Free market economics: you don't have to buy it.

 

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