The BB10 launched in the UK yesterday. The two handsets (one touchscreen, one QWERTY) are not being released in Canada until February 5th or the US until March. Oh my, we are privileged, aren’t we? It seems the British Bulldog spirit attracted the former global smartphone industry leader to release their sink-or-swim handset in our land of hope and glory – how apt.
RIM (which has now rebranded itself Blackberry) has lost a lot of market share to Apple and Samsung and commentators have laden this handset with the heavy burden of making – or breaking – Blackberry.
"Two years ago we had to make a very serious decision," chief executive Thorsten Heins told a press conference in New York. "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."
Let’s hope this brave move pays off in the long-run. But how is it doing so far?
The first reviews of the Z10 device are pretty positive so it’s looking relatively good. The software is smooth and quick. The virtual keyboard has been getting rave reviews; dubbed the ‘best touch-screen keyboard on the market today’. Hurrah! The TimeShift feature has also gone down well. It allows you to select the perfect pose after the photo has been taken by tapping on your friend’s face and rolling back to a time when their smile was perfect. How clever!
The new-look BBM service has had some decent upgrades: you can make audio and video calls as well as being able to share what is on each other’s screen. Another impressive feature is that Blackberry haven’t forgotten their old business customers. The 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. Companies are also given the option of being able to remotely wipe sensitive files. Looking good for all you bosses out there, eh!?
Francisco Jeronimo, European mobile devices research manager at International Data Corporation said this of the new handset: "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", while New York Times' technology columnist David Pogue was full of praise for the model he was initially sceptical about: "BlackBerry’s Hail Mary pass, its bet-the-farm phone, is finally here. It’s the BlackBerry Z10, and guess what? It’s lovely, fast and efficient, bristling with fresh, useful ideas. And here’s the shocker — it’s complete." Praise indeed.
But it’s not been totally rosy. One of the main complaints is that the BB10 lacks quality apps. In fact it’s been mentioned that 40% of their new apps are Android conversions – and people aren’t really impressed. Although it is certainly a sticky-wicket for Blackberry: on the one hand they can’t tempt developers to produce dedicated Blackberry apps because the user base is too small and yet on the other they can’t tempt in more users without a decent array of top quality apps. Tricky.
While the reviews were basically positive, the overall reception was pretty luke-warm. At a time when an invigorated and animated response would have given Blackberry that life-saving injection they so need, the well-versed comment that ‘It’s good but not good enough’ might well spell doom.
But Blackberry has a very loyal fan-base so let’s hope they – along with a handful of converts - can carry the company through so it can evolve once again into a smartphone developer which creates something truly unique and not just continue in this game of catch up.
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