Enter BlackBerry 10 OS : Re-Enter The RIM/BlackBerry Brand [Review]


blackberry-z10-backinblack

Image Credit : CrackBerry

Research In Motion..errrr.. BlackBerry have introduced their much awaited BlackBerry 10 OS. How big this is for the Waterloo based smartphone pioneers is evident from the fact that they have decided to completely re-brand themselves as BlackBerry, and why not? RIM have always been known as – The makers of BlackBerry. Smart move, a super smart product to go with it – BlackBerry 10 OS is here and it is here to stay.

“Today is not the finish line. It’s the starting line.” – Thorsten Heins, President and CEO, RIM/BlackBerry.

Bundled with a slew of features the new BB 10 OS is like a breath of fresh air among scores of mobile Operating Systems proliferating the market these days. Android without a doubt dominates the mobile OS ecosystem, iOS does well to hang in there, and Windows Phone OS seems to be getting a foot in the door. Among such industry defining, tall stalwarts of system software is there really a market for a brand new mobile OS? Can any company really make a claim for the top spot ever again?

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Ladies And Gentlemen I give you : BlackBerry 10 (Image Credit : Reuters)

Well if you are a company that revolutionized smartphones before they became smarter and before the century’s greatest innovator Steve Jobs mocked your Qwerty lineage in front of a packed house to laughing, giggling Apple fan boys, if you are a company that’s hell bent and incredibly focused on regaining the top spot  in what was once your sport – the answer is Yes. And that company is the new BlackBerry. That system software is the new BlackBerry 10 OS. And this analyst is not even a BlackBerry fan boy, worst still, he is an Android developer, an iOS patron and for some hysterical reason is even writing a Steve Jobs biography – hence the most neutral point of view you can ever demand to a new product in that tech vicinity.

Heins announced two smartphones that will introduce the BB 10 OS to the market – The BlackBerry Z10 and the BlackBerry Q10. The Z10 has already been released in the UK, hits the Canadian shops on Feb 5 and enters the US market in March. The Q10 is expected to be out sometime in April. And the Asia/India release could be somewhere in that time frame as well.

The BB10 OS has all the right features that a modern mobile OS should have, and then some more.

Features to blow your mind

The BlackBerry Flow – Instead of calling this a feature let’s call this the new way of living/using a new mobile OS. For all those who are used to the Android UI or the iOS way of life, this would take some getting used to. Ask CNET’s Jessica Dolcourt, who in her review of the new OS seemingly found it hard to describe this feature, she called it – a handful of playing cards spread out in an overlapping row. That’s probably because the flow allows users an all-inclusive experience instead of the customary spread-out-one-app/menu-at-a-time experience. The flow allows users to easily move from different apps and features without quitting them altogether.

To add to this, there is the BlackBerry Peek feature which gives users the ability to slide the touch screen from an app to a home screen in order to check notifications.

The BlackBerry Messenger – BBM has always been a BlackBerry fan’s delight. And it just got better with BB10 OS. Apart from the customary photos, contact information, and files the new BBM app adds voice chat, video chat and the uber cool screen sharing feature. And its all free as always.

(Image Credit : Ars Technica)

Screen Sharing. (Image Credit : Ars Technica)

The BlackBerry Social Hub – Then there is the social hub which is BlackBerry’s go to hub for all social networking needs and work place essentials all in one place. Your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Four Square, everything gels smoothly in the Social Hub.

And of course users have the facility to manage all their notifications from within this hub without having to open separate apps for each of the services. Pretty cool, eh?

The BlackBerry Balance – One of the most awaited previously announced features. The Balance as the name suggests allows users to balance their work and fun apps and utilities in a much cleaner yet intuitive way. Unlike other OSes BB 10 allows you to create a kind of a visible partition between your fun apps and the essential office apps.

The BlackBerry Balance

The BlackBerry Balance

Certainly a great feature for the many millions of employees who practice their employer’s BYOD traditions. Helps them sort things out easily. It is such a simple yet powerful feature that one finds it hard to believe just how the awesome Google, Apple and Microsoft mobile teams didn’t see this coming.

The Virtual Keyboard – In the touchscreen smartphone era, a great virtual keyboard is among the most important tools to have for any modern mobile OS. Its ironic that BlackBerry who are famous for their physical Qwerty keyboards should introduce such a great virtual keyboard. The best thing about their new virtual keyboard is the great auto correct feature, its not a novel feature but it’s faster and more accurate than most other virtual keyboards going around these days.

The ultra cool BlackBerry virtual keyboard.

The ultra cool BlackBerry virtual keyboard.

The Voice Control – Apple invented Siri and the rest of the world followed suit. But there’s hardly any voice control software that challenges Siri in its entirety. Perhaps BlackBerry voice control has something to say about that. A very responsive app. Allows the users to search the Internet, leave themselves reminder notes, schedule appointments, and dictate short, simple messages. Not quite Siri yet, but better than most contenders to Siri’s throne.

The BlacBerry Story Maker – This app has a very high fun quotient.  Allowing users to build custom slideshows with music, photos and videos. Also provides the facility to group all your favorite video and music content into one single stream.

The Camera – BlackBerry camera comes with a new feature called the Time Shift. This allows you to edit a photo by going back a few frames. Has a built in photo editor for playing around with images. Another feature very high on the fun quotient.

The BlackBerry World – iOS and Android have showed that in order to be wildly successful as a mobile OS you need to be able to attract  developers to your platform, an app ecosystem is critical to any modern mobile Operating System’s success. BlackBerry have previously struggled to convince developers to build apps for their OSes. But with BB 10 it all seems to be changing, at least for the moment.

Blackberry-World

The Blackberry World

The BlackBerry World is BlackBerry’s app store and has been launched with 70,000 apps including all of Android and iOS’ top 1000 apps. This is without doubt great news for a new OS looking to take the world by storm, if nothing else, it puts them in contention.

“We have literally been to every continent on the planet, except for Antarctica. There are no developers there.” – Alec Saunders, Vice President, Developer Relations, RIM/BlackBerry.

Now here’s what I consider another very smart business move. Amidst all the hype and feature flooding the company has not forgotten its core business roots. One indication of that is that with BB10 OS BlackBerry isn’t going all out with touch screen smartphones, they have decided and declared, in the words of Thorstein Heins that – the company has no plans to leave the physical Qwerty keyboard fans out of the BB10 party. And that’s because the company is aware that a large portion of the BlackBerry customer base prefers physical keyboards.

Here are the specifications for the first ever generation of a BlackBerry 10 OS based smartphone, the BlackBerry Z10.

Specs for the nerds

  • OS – BlackBerry 10.
  • Cellular network – Quad-band GSM and 3G support.
  • Display – 4.2-inch multi-touch.
  • Form factor and weight – 9 mm thick and weighs 135 g.
  • Wi-Fi – Dual-band, 802.11 ‘n’.
  • SoC– TI-OMAP 4470 dual-core from Texas Instruments for the global version and  a Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960T S4 SoC for the US Version.
  • Storage – 16GB, expandable up to 64GB.
  • NFC – Yes.
  • Camera – Primary : 8MP sensor with f/2.2 aperture. Front : 2 Mega Pixel.
  • Sensors – Accelerometer, Gyroscope Sensor, Magnetometer.
  • Battery – Li-Ion 1800mAh, approximately 24 hours backup (real data not available).

The specs for the Z10 are without doubt at par with the iPhone 5 and beats most Android phones. The BlackBerry Z10 is expected to give the two smartest smartphones on the planet – the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S3 a run for their money.

Blackberry-z10-vs-iphone-5-00

The iPhone 5 versus The BlackBerry Z10. Which one would you go for?

Even though I would not put my money on the Z10 just yet, I would still give it a fair chance of putting a dent in the Samsung and Apple smartphone market shares, but that would require a tremendous marketing campaign on the part of BlackBerry, which they are certainly capable of.

A marketing campaign that puts them on millions of billboards around the world. Specially now that they have hired the services of 14 time Grammy award winning singer/songwriter/producer, actress, New York Times best-selling author, entrepreneur, humanitarian and a Rockstar in every sense of the word – Alicia Keys at the helm as BlackBerry’s new global creative director.

“We are excited she will be bringing to us her enormous capabilities, as well as a vast network of relationships in the entertainment, social media and business communities, to help shape our brand and grow our business” – Thorsten Heins, President and CEO, RIM/BlackBerry.

Alicia Keys : The official BlackBerry Global Creative Director

Alicia Keys : The official BlackBerry Global Creative Director

With a total makeover, a re-branding that’s unlike any other in recent tech history and a blockbuster of a product at their disposal – BlackBerry seems headed in the right direction. Considering all the specs, the coolness quotients, the enhanced enterprise support and the high security features which are synonymous with every BlackBerry device, on a scale of 10, all STL analysts agreed with the S in STL in giving the BlackBerry 10 OS a unanimous 10.

End User Warning : Planning on buying a new smartphone? Wait for it.

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