The company formerly known as RIM really know how to put on a show. I mean, there was the odd spot of silence where laughter was expected and some rather odd chemistry between their German CEO and new social advisor Alicia Keys, but there were certainly quite a few announcements to be made at their BlackBerry 10 launch event – two more than I was expecting, actually.
The first was that company-wide name-change. Instead of being called RIM or Research in Motion, from here on out the company will be known simply as BlackBerry. Naming your company after your big product is hardly a new trick, but it wasn’t one that I expected to see from the formerly innovative and trend-setting Canadian firm. After the initial rebrand announcement, newly dubbed BlackBerry went straight into their two new handsets.
The first is called the BlackBerry Z10. We’ve been hearing about the Z10 for some time now, and have even seen leaked photos and videos that have described the tablet and its operating system in some detail. It’s no big surprise then that this wasn’t the most exciting reveal. If you haven’t seen the leaks, let me run through the basics. The Z10 is a touch-screen BlackBerry with specifications approaching that of a 2012 Android flagship: a 1.5 GHz dual-core CPU, 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage augmented by up to 32 GB of micro SD removable storage. The 4.2-inch display is quite promising, and comes at a resolution of 1280 x 768. The phone has a nice physical design too and will be available in white or black. On the black model, the wedges at the top and bottom of the phone are white; it’s the opposite for the white model. This two-tone design is appealing and goes well with the grilled back of the device.
The Z10 will be sold in the UK from tomorrow, but is coming to other territories anywhere from a few days to a few weeks later – Canada is February 5th, while the US is early March. A happy side-effect of the well known leaks of the Z10 are that accessories for the device, including both first and third party BlackBerry Z10 cases, are already shipping from some UK sites.
The Q10 is a more traditional, yet un-leaked device with a full physical QWERTY keyboard. The device has similar internal specifications – a dual-core CPU running at 1.5 GHz, 2 GB of RAM, 8 GB of internal storage – but has a smaller screen due to the space taken up by the keyboard. The display is a 3.1-inch square, running at a resolution of 720 by 720 pixels. The back of the Q10 is also interesting, due to the unique glass weave used in its construction. This is reportedly lighter, thinner and stronger than plastic and grants the phone an impressively professional facade.
Both phones run the BlackBerry 10 operating system. BlackBerry have really outdone themselves here, with a brand new gesture-based OS that can be used almost entirely one-handed without needing a home button of any kind. Instead, it’s all about swiping – from the left for notifications, from the bottom for multitasking. The keyboard experience looks typically strong, with gesture typing, swiping left to erase and good auto-correct too. BlackBerry have also added a number of important features to important apps like BlackBerry Messenger – which now supports both (and simultaneous) video calling and screen sharing.
All in all, it was an impressive display from a beleaguered company. While BlackBerry have a long way to go to even challenge Microsoft and Windows Phone for the number 3 spot, with their BlackBerry 10 release today they’ve proved that they can still innovate and aren’t quite dead yet. Now it’s up to consumers to decide whether or not they want to trust a BlackBerry as their next handset.