BlackBerry 10 Debuts With Surprises, Some Not So Good
RIM has done a good job with BB10--other than getting into the market a year or two too late. But ultimately, I don't think BB10 is going to move the needle for RIM
In a series of PR events staged around the world, RIM (who will now be referring to itself as "BlackBerry") introduced the much-anticipated and oft-delayed BlackBerry 10 (BB10) operating system. Based on the QNX operating system RIM acquired in 2010, BB10 will be offered on two models initially, the touchscreen Z10 (pronounced in the English form as "Zed 10") and the qwerty-equipped Q10. The Z10 was to go on sale in the UK this week and in Canada next Tuesday; US availability is expected in March. RIM claims the delay in the US introduction is due to the extensive testing done by the US carriers.
More importantly, the Q10 keyboard model won't be available until April (no specific date provided). As I noted in a post last week, the lack of a keyboard model is critical given that the keyboard is the feature most prized by the few remaining BlackBerry loyalists.
I haven't had the chance to play with a Z10 yet, though I have pored over all of the videos I could find. It appears to be essentially what RIM described at BlackBerry World back in May and over the several months leading up to the launch. The full specs are now out, and on paper at least, the Z10 compares quite favorably with the iPhone 5 and the top-end Samsung Android models like the Galaxy SIII, as well as the Motorola Droid DNA. Like the Galaxy SIII, the Z10 has a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, though the Z10's is a TI OMAP where the Samsung uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon; the iPhone 5 uses a dual-core 1.02 GHz A6 processor.
The Z10 has a 4.2-inch display versus 4-inches on the iPhone 5, 4.8-inches on the SIII, and 5-inches on the Droid DNA. The Z10's resolution is actually better than the iPhone's "Retina Display," boasting 1280 x 768 pixels versus 1136 x 640 pixels on the iPhone 5; the SIII matches the Z10's resolution. The Z10 supports LTE on the cellular side as well as 802.11a/b/g and n Wi-Fi, and it operates in both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. It also has NFC capability like the BlackBerry Bold 9900. If you'd like a full feature-by-feature comparison, Daniel Ionescu did a good one in PCWorld.
However, anyone who has had any exposure to the smartphone business will know that a feature-by-feature comparison will yield little insight into how a device will fare in the market. Hey, WebOS got great reviews. As I regularly point out to my pals who try to get me to dump my iPhone for an Android, this business isn't about "speeds-and-feeds", it's about the overall user experience, which is greatly influenced by the "feel", the user interface (UI), and app availability.
It is clear that RIM has not forgotten how to build good solid mobile devices with good battery life and excellent audio quality. The Z10 went for the "thinner-and-longer" profile of the iPhone 5 rather than the "my-screen-is-bigger-than-your-screen" posture of the Galaxy SIII.
For the core software functions, the Z10 has some well-thought-out features. The BB10 software provides three primary views: the Apps Home Screen (that can display up to 16 icons); Active Frames (similar to Windows Phone's "Live Tiles") that allows you to see all open applications and any updates they receive; and the clever BlackBerry Hub.
The Hub is a customizable central repository for all emails, messages, and other notifications. The nice thing is that you can view the Hub at any time by dragging your current application to the right, and the Hub appears on the left side of the screen. It's kind of like the Hub is "hiding" back there all the time and you can peek at it any time you like.
BlackBerry Hub Display
RIM continues to offer BlackBerry Balance, which they featured in earlier releases, that allows a corporate "sandbox" to be configured on the device, allowing business and personal information to be kept separate. Not only is the information separated, no business information can be transferred out of that sandbox.
Finally, BB10 devices will be compatible with the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), and with the addition of BlackBerry Fusion, the BES management platform can now support iOS and Android devices as well. RIM has also added video chat to the popular BlackBerry Messenger service, and the browser is also greatly improved, something that's long overdue.
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