The BlackBerry 10 release date is finally here. We take you through all the key features of the new BlackBerry software and its accompanying hardware. Are these the business BlackBerry models you've been waiting for?
It’s been a busy day for the firm formally known as RIM. Not only has it re-branded itself to become BlackBerry, but has finally launched its eagerly awaited BlackBerry 10 devices.
We walk you through everything you need to know about the devices and platform, to see if you think it will be right for your business.
What are the device options?
BlackBerry has started off by unveiling two devices running the new platform. The UK will be the first to receive the BlackBerry Z10 – this is the full touchscreen edition and will be available from 1 February.
BlackBerry will also offer the Q10 smartphone. This will come with the traditional keyboard which has been featured in the firm’s Bold range.
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RIM rebrands itself and unveils BlackBerry Z10 and Q10 devices[/a]
What's so special about the BlackBerry 10 operating system?
Even if you've been a hardened BlackBerry user, the changes will surprise you. BlackBerry has revamped the user interface and it relies on swipes from the edge of the screen to navigate. Don't worry though, there is a tutorial during set up to guide you through and it is a straightforward system.
Apps - On launch there will be 70,000 apps in the BlackBerry World store. This may be 10x less than the Android platform currently has, but this is the largest collection available to users upon the launch of a new platform.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare come pre-installed. Apps which have committed to being developed for BB10 include Angry Birds, Facebook, Skype, SAP and Whatsapp.
BlackBerry Hub – Allows you to set up your accounts and manage everything from your email to your social networking messages – and can be accessed from any app via the “peek” feature simply by swiping from the right hand edge of the screen.
Enterprise support – BlackBerry was one of the pioneers of push email so it was a given that its BB10 devices would come with Exchange ActiveSync support. Devices can also be managed and remotely wiped by IT admins, and the next feature is being touted as the major selling point to businesses.
BlackBerry Balance – Built in to the software, this tool is designed to create separate personal and work content. The transition between this content is seamless with users able to select between work and personal accounts by swiping down from the top of the screen. If an employee ever leaves a firm, IT admins can delete content stored in the Work section, allowing the employee to take the device with them.
Security - BlackBerry devices have been renowned for their security and the BB10 platform is no different.
The BB10 devices carry FIPS 140-2 certification. This could make the handsets ideal for healthcare, government, legal and financial institutions.
Improved BBM – One of the most popular features of BlackBerry devices has always been the BBM instant messaging service. It is now possible to carry out video calling directly through BBM and also to share what’s on your screen with another device. This is likely to prove extremely useful for business users when it comes to collaboration on the move – as documents, presentations, images and videos can be shared without having to use email.
Revamped keyboard– One of the most striking changes has been made to the keyboard. It is designed to adapt to the way individuals type – learning the words you use. It also has a heat map built in so it recognises where you are pressing.
Instead of typing out words letter-by-letter, the keyboard will aim to predict the next word you are going to type. It gives you a variety of options depending on the sentence and users can enter words by simply flicking up.
Camera – There are a couple of interesting features built into the camera app. First up the Time Shift feature allows users to alter the faces of individuals – so you can choose the best picture. It is also possible to add effects to photos, bypassing the need to use services like Instagram.
Finally, the Story Maker mode allows you to compile and edit photos and videos together and add music to create a movie of day-trips etc.
HTML5 Internet browser – BlackBerry claims its browser leads the industry when it comes to HTML5 support on smartphones. It’s got many of the features you would expect from desktop browsers, such as private browsing and multiple tabs. We'll be putting it through its paces to see just how good it really is.
Multitasking - BlackBerry is touting this as the first "true mobile computing device" as it boasts PC-like multi-tasking capabilities. It's possible to start watching a video, then check an email or browse the internet while it's still playing. On paper this sounds like a neat feature, but we can't help but feel it's a bit of a novelty at this time and something which is likely to drain the battery.
BlackBerry Remember - A feature which allow users to collect documents, links, pictures, videos and emails into folders, for future reference. It's also possible to create a to-do list.
Is the hardware any good?
The BB10 devices come with solid specifications, but they are not quite up there with the Galaxy S3 or the iPhone 5.
The flagship Z10 comes with a 4.2in screen with 1280 x 768 resolution and a pixel density of 356 PPI, which the CEO claimed would deliver a "cinematic experience".
The BB Z10 is powered by a 1.5GHz Qualcomm dual-core processor together with 2GB of RAM. This is paired with 2GB of RAM and there is 16GB of internal storage. The inclusion of micro SD card support means that users can boost this by an extra 32GB. The devices also support micro-SIMs.
Ports include micro USB and micro HDMI connections. On the back there is an 8-megapixel camera, with a 2-megapixel snapper on the front. The flagship Z10 also includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 4G and NFC support out-of-the-box.
What about battery life?
Inside the Z10 is a 1,800mAH battery pack, which should provide up to eight hours on a single charge. We'll put it through our intensive IT Pro battery test soon, but our gut feeling is that it’s unlikely to outlast devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S3, which powered through a 12 hour day without any problems.
The battery is removable – so it’s always possible to carry a spare.
Perhaps the only stumbling point looks like pricing - as the BlackBerry devices are not going to be cheap. O2, Vodafone, Phones 4u, BT, 3UK and Carphone Warehouse will all offer the BB Z10.
Price points will vary according to carriers and retail partners, while the device is expected to cost £480 SIM-free.
EE has announced that the Z10 will be available to buy for £49.99 on a £41 per month 24 month 4G package, which will give users 1GB of mobile data, as well as unlimited UK calls and texts.
For SMBs, the firm is offering the device for £41.67 on a £30 per month 24 month package, where users will receive 1GB of mobile data, as well as 1,000 UK calls and texts.