The company started the event with an interesting announcement: instead of being called RIM, the Canadian company was permanently and completely changing its name to BlackBerry. That’ll no doubt eliminate confusion in the marketplace, but it marks a potentially ignoble end to what has been one of the most successful and pioneering names in the smartphone business. With that name change out of the way, CEO Thorsten Heins moved on to showing off the company’s new BlackBerry handsets: the Z10 and the Q10.
The Z10 is the one that we’ve seen before and expected to see today. It’s a touch-screen only model, with a 1280 x 768 4.2-inch display dominating the wedge-ended chassis. Inside, there’s a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of internal storage that can be increased via micro SD for an extra 32 GB at best. The phone also includes an 8 megapixel camera on the rear and a standard front-facer too, which is surprising given BlackBerry’s new found focus on photography. The Z10 is about as powerful as Android flagships about 18 months ago, but still represents a much smaller gap between Android and BlackBerry than had previous existed. As the phone was leaked so completely and so long ago, there are already a number of BlackBerry Z10 cases and other Z10 accessories.
The Q10 is the one that we hadn’t heard about before, but makes perfect sense now that it’s announced. It’s a phone with a QWERTY hardware keyboard in the traditional BlackBerry style, augmented with the same speedy internals as the the Z10. Below that keyboard is a square 720 x 720 3.1-inch display. The back of the phone is quite interesting, made of a glass weave material that reportedly feels real good in the hand. While the phone hasn’t yet had a release date announced or even pricing information, it probably won’t arrive too much later than the Z10.
Both phones are running BlackBerry 10, of course. The new OS has a number of new tricks up its sleeve, from photography magic that fixes people blinking through compositing multiple photos to a redesigned software keyboard that looks stunningly effective. The whole OS was fairly commendable, with a home-button free style of navigating that was performed via swipes: swipe up from the bottom to multi-task; swipe from the left to the right to see your notifications. BlackBerry Messenger was also upgraded with a few new features, including video calling and screen sharing – pretty cool to see the latter on a smartphone app. While there wasn’t one killer application, at least BlackBerry have done somewhat well to bring popular games from other platforms to their service.
I was impressed with the BlackBerry 10 event; I went in rather willing to laugh at all the little awkward pauses in conversation but I’ve got to admit that I was a bit excited by the end. While BlackBerry 10 won’t yet power a device on my wish-list, I’m willing to give them a try for the right price. BlackBerry will be hoping that their core demographics of teens and business people will be more enthusiastic about the offer; if they aren’t engaged then BlackBerry will likely disappear from the mobile market forever. But give them this much credit – they’re not dead yet.