WATERLOO, Canada – Research in Motion (RIM) has finally announced the first BlackBerry 10-based smartphones, the BlackBerry Q10 and BlackBerry Z10, as well as renaming the company to the brand name, and hiring Alicia Keys as its creative director.
The long-awaited launch, which has seen leaks of the BlackBerry L and N Series, as well as a BlackBerry X10 – devices and names that never materialised, culminated in RIM announcing that its name is now BlackBerry only, and its stock ticker will appropriately indicate BBRY. The company further dedicated itself to the new platform by revealing that the handsets will be available as early as tomorrow, with 70 thousand apps available in the BlackBerry World app store.
Both BlackBerry Q10 and BlackBerry Z10 feature 1.5 GHz dual-core processors, 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, support for microSD memory cards, NFC and Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, GPS, and removable 1800mAh batteries. Depending on the region, the devices will carry 4G LTE and/or HSPA+ connectivity.
The Q10 employs the standard business phone layout, with a 3.1″ Super AMOLED touchscreen (720 x 720 pixels in resolution), a hardware keyboard, and weighs 139g.
The Z10 on the other hand is a full-touch handset, with a 4.2″ HD (720 x 1280 pixels) touchscreen, an 8 megapixel camera with autofocus and LED flash, full HD video recording, and weighs 135g.
In terms of specifications, both devices have lower resolutions that what can be found in the high-end smartphone segment (nowadays full HD displays), they lack Gorilla Glass (although that will hardly affect sales), but like Windows Phone 8 handsets, the processors are limited to two cores, while in late February Android smartphone manufacturers and rumoured to unveil 8-core-powered devices.
BlackBerry has been working with carriers worldwide, arranging for UK customers to be able to purchase the device as soon as tomorrow from EE, O2, Vodafone, Phones 4u, BT, 3UK and the Carphone Warehouse. Canada, the home country of the smartphone maker, will only get the handsets by February 5th, for around $149.99 on a three-year contract. The UAE will be the third country to receive BlackBerry 10, and if unsubsidised, the devices will cost AED 2 599 (US$ 707.57). Lastly, the Z10 and Q10 will arrive in the US in March, but prices aren’t available as of yet.
The company further unveiled the improved camera user interface with Time Shift; Flow and Peek, the new BlackBerry Hub, and even an improved keyboard (videos below).
One of the most used apps on BlackBerry devices, BBM, has also been updated with the addition of video chat and screen sharing, one of the first mobile apps where the latter functionality is available.
The appointment of singer Alicia Keys is more of a marketing stunt than actual productivity hire, even though her official title is Global Creative Director. The company says that the 14-time Grammy Award winner will work with “app developers, content creators, retailers, carriers and entertainers”, and calls the new endeavour “Keep Moving Project”.
Investors aren’t too confident on the platform, given that shares fell 6.39% during the course of the day, or a total of a 12.5% drop over the last five days – and they have a reason not to be optimistic, as even though the software looks impeccable and the partnerships with brand ambassadors may attract users, the actual hardware value of the devices showcased is well below industry standard, with the only way out for BlackBerry is to provide affordable prices for customers, and healthy profit margins for carriers that it has partnered up with.