The new BlackBerry has landed. On Wednesday, the Canadian company formerly known as Research In Motion introduced its first two BlackBerry 10 devices and renamed itself after its best-known brand.
The main launch was in New York but there were also launches in other cities, including Toronto and Dubai. One of the new devices, the BlackBerry Z10, is all touchscreen, while the other, the Q10, sports a small QWERTY physical keyboard. Both are LTE-capable.
"This is not the finish line, this is the starting line," said Thorsten Heins, the company's chief executive. RIM will be known as BlackBerry going forward.
The Z10 offers a 4.2-inch display with 1280x768 resolution, a dual-core TI OMAP 4470 1.5-GHz processor, 2 GB of memory, and 16 GB of internal , as well as an 8-megapixel camera with 1080p recording on the back, a 2-megapixel front camera, and near-field communications for e-commerce. The model will be available through T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T and Verizon Wireless beginning in March in the U.S., and this week in the U.K. and Canada.
The Q10 has a 3.1-inch touchscreen with 720x720 resolution, the same processor as the Z10, and the same memory and internal storage. The model will also be distributed through the big four carriers, although apparently not until April.
The BlackBerry 10 operating system provides a virtual keyboard on the Z10 that is designed to resemble the physical keyboard that had been characteristic of a BlackBerry phone. There's also updated camera software, and access to a revised BlackBerry World app and media store. Both devices have a voice agent called Viki, which is being compared to Apple's Siri in that it allows users to voice their commands for reminders, news or weather, and other functions.
At first glance, the reaction appeared positive. The New York Times' David Pogue, for example, apologized in writing on Wednesday for having said that RIM was "doomed." His pessimism, he said, was based on such facts as RIM's worldwide market share being in the low single digits, its stock price having dropped 90 percent from its high in 2008, and the company having laid off thousands and fired its two CEOs.
'Fresh, Useful Ideas'
But now that the company's Hail Mary pass is here, Pogue wrote, "it's lovely, fast and efficient, bristling with fresh, useful ideas." He and others praised the company for launching a well-stocked platform, with 70,000 apps, content such as music and movies, speech recognition, turn-by-turn navigation, and more. He also described the Z10's screen as being "even sharper than the iPhone's vaunted Retina display."
There's also positive reaction to the Hub, where all communications reside, so users are not wandering from app to app, and for a highly intuitive typing system in the touchscreen keyboard that fills in words or phrases from first letters -- and that quickly learns your most common phrases, to save even more time typing.
There's also a Time Shift feature that allows a user to "dial" forward or back two seconds on a photo, in order to get better expressions on faces, for example. Some features, however, are getting less positive response, including the accuracy of Viki, and the battery life.
Referencing Mark Twain, Information Technology Intelligence Consulting's Laura DiDio noted that "reports of the demise of the BlackBerry have been greatly exaggerated." She told us the company was "taking its best shot" with this launch, and, although it has fallen behind, it is "building on an established name."
"This could get them back in the game," DiDio said.