Will BlackBerry 10 phones, which are expected to arrive early next year, be worth the wait? For months, that question had no good answer.
While Apple’s wildly successful ads calmly wrap themselves around a single have-to-have feature (see SIRI) we haven’t yet had the benefit of a full rundown on BlackBerry 10 specs. So we have been left with what we are normally left with in the space before any anticipated consumer device arrives: speculation, rumour, and the odd grainy photo. It’s right around this time in the launch cycle that an iPhone is “accidentally” found in a Palo Alto tavern and pictures show up on various gadget sites, sending fanboys into a predictable lather.
So far, there has been no Canadian equivalent. To date, not one has misplaced a BlackBerry 10 device at a Tim Hortons in Moose Jaw, or a canteen in a Kitchener rink. But a picture has begun to emerge. New RIM CEO Thorsten Heins has been equal parts helpful and feckless, revealing key details of BlackBerry 10 to select media, then reverting to more vague, big picture proclamations that have sometimes provoked ridicule, such as when he said that with BB10 “We’re here to win, we’re not here to fight for third or fourth place,” after the company had fallen to less than 5% of total smartphone sales in Q2.
If RIM is to regain some, if not all, of its lost market share, BlackBerry 10 devices will need to be great, not just good. The good news for RIM supporters is that early indications suggest devices loaded with the new operating system will give RIM every chance. In 2013 will people choose Blackberry or an iPhone? Or will you pick and iPhone over a BlackBerry? We break down five reasons people will want a Blackberry 10 device.
1. Its contact manager will be great
Early last year, RIM acquired Seattle-based Gist, a company that focused on integrating social media elements into contact management. The startup was founded in 2008 by T.A. McCann, who formerly worked in Microsoft’s Exchange Server Group. Gist actually received its initial funding from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital.
Now McCann’s team is taking on a key role at RIM.
“BlackBerry has always had this heritage of productivity. We are just going to make it better yet again, when we launch BB10,” McCann told Reuters recently. He says that in addition to the BlackBerry contacts app, Gist has been tasked with the responsibility of everything social at RIM including BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), the Facebook and Twitter apps, instant messaging as well as much of the identity platform, BlackBerry ID.
A Gist user review hints at the possibilities:
“The main idea behind Gist is pretty similar to other social media aggregators like MyBlogLog, FriendFeed, Seesmic and Google Buzz” says Gist user Dustin Luther. “However, there’s one HUGE improvement they’ve made. Rather than forcing you to view updates based on a timeline (i.e. most recent updates first), they allow you to view updates in a “people” mode where you can view all the updates from that person (whether they are on Facebook, Twitter, their blog, foursquare, etc.) based on the importance that you’ve selected. (Facebook has tried to do this with their “top news” feature, but it’s crude at best and doesn’t do a great job finding updates that are important to me)”.
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2. It will have a cool camera
When new RIM CEO Thorsten Heins offered a sneak peak at some of the features of its new BlackBerry 10 operating system, the things that got the biggest oohs and aahs from the crowd at BlackBerry World were the new camera features. A tidy demo that followed showed the new camera will allow the user to “go back in time” using a circular timeline slider to pick the perfect moment. While the phone looks to be a marked improvement over what is on the market today, it is unlikely that it will present a distinct business advantage, as the technology behind it is licensed from a Swedish company called Scalado that was acquired by Nokia in June.
3. It will have better battery life
The new BB10 devices will feature an OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) screen that, unlike its LED counterparts, doesn’t require a backlight. While some budget devices, such as the Toshiba T-02D and the Samsung Exhilarate, have employed OLED, RIM has the opportunity to bring it to the mainstream. Other details reveal that RIM is extremely battery focused with BB10. The new BBM, for instance, will feature a darker screen that will save battery life by as much as 25%. And for real road warriors, Thorsten Heins told the Wall Street Journal recently that BlackBerry 10 phones will include a removable battery, so heavy users can swap a fresh one in, rather than traipse around an airport for a power source.
4. It will be fast
RIM acquired QNX, which became BlackBerry 10 after a legal spat, in April 2010. The Ottawa-based company was founded in 1980 and acquired by Harman International in 2004. QNX developed an operating system called the QNX Neutrino, which is more familiar to those familiar with OS’s used in mission critical environments, such as high speed trains in Europe and Japan, nuclear power plants, even the Canadarm. Neutrino employs a micro-kernal structure in which each application runs in its own memory space on this operating system, allowing the device to multi-task like nothing that is currently on the market. Recent scores have shwon that the web browser on BlackBerry 10 devices is one of the fastest ever tested, beating every desktop browser.
5. Lack of apps won’t be an issue
One could argue that many apps built for the iPhone were necessary because the device’s browser did not support Adobe Flash. But that’s a story for another day, especially now that that fence has been mended in the post Steve Jobs world. A persistent critique of BlackBerrys has been BlackBerry App World, which is dwarfed by Apple App Store. But Alec Saunders RIM’s VP of developer relations, says the image that BlackBerry is bleeding app developers is simply false. BlackBerry App World, he points out has grown its vendor base by 157% in the past year, and just passed the three billion download mark. The QNX Neutrino operating system, which provides support for Adobe Flash and Air, Java, HTML 5.0 and C++. makes it inherently developer friendly, insists Saunders.
“I have been receiving a lot of feedback from developers personally and I can tell you that I am hearing again and again that developers are amazed by how easy it is to work with the BlackBerry 10 tools, ” he said recently, adding: “They appreciate the open nature of our platform, which allows developers to bring their work and their skills and find a toolset that will work for them.”
Among BlackBerry App World’s more than 90,000 apps, you’ll now find all the regular battery monitoring and texting ones, plus brands such as Pandora, Angry Birds, Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook.