UK will be the first country to get the new BlackBerry Z10 smartphone tomorrow

30 Jan 2013

The BlackBerry Z10 smartphone

BlackBerry has revealed that the UK will be the first country in the world to get its latest smartphones built around the new BlackBerry 10 operating system. Smartphone buyers in the US will have to wait until the middle of March.

The new device family will be supported by 70,000 apps upon launch, including apps from Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn and Oovoo. Skype, Rovio and SAP are among the software giants that have committed to bringing out apps for the new devices.

The Z10 is a 4.2-inch touchscreen device that looks a lot like the iPhone 5. The Z10 has a resolution of 356 pixels per inch.

The Q10 shows that BlackBerry is still loyal to its original user base and sports a keyboard.

At the launch of the new devices today, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins demonstrated a new native note-taking app called Remember, which is similar to Evernote and allows users to record details, such as audio from meetings, photo notes and voice notes.

The new OS was also shown to be capable of allowing multiple users to share apps on different devices as you can on PCs today, enjoy split-screen experiences, and split the phone for work and play purposes.

The company also revealed there are 60m users of its BBM service worldwide.

According to BlackBerry (it rebranded today and RIM is no more), the BlackBerry Z10 will be available tomorrow on pay monthly contracts and pre-pay plans from EE, O2, Vodafone, Phones4u, BT, 3UK and the Carphone Warehouse.

It said price points will vary according to carriers and vendors.

In Canada, the Z10 will become available on 9 February and will retail for around Cdn$149.99 on a three-year contract.

The device will be available in United Arab Emirates on 10 February.

The Z10 will hit the US market in March and operators will start announcing pre-registration and price plans from today.

BlackBerry said it expects the first global carriers to launch its Q10 device in April.

So will BlackBerry 10 save BlackBerry?

The launch gives the impression that BlackBerry has gone back to its roots in many ways and is trying to recapture some of the magic and assurance that attracted the original loyal user base it commanded from the early days of smartphones.

It is also trying to make itself relevant to today’s discerning smartphone buyer, who is spoiled for choice. Though we’re not really sure where it is going in appointing singer-songwriter Alicia Keys as its new creative director.

How effective it will be is another matter. There are a lot of nifty new features baked into the new devices and the software is certainly slick and backed by 70,000 apps. Which is not a bad start.

However, it is unlikely to give Apple or proponents of Android, like Samsung, much concern in the first quarter or two from its launch. It will be really a test of BlackBerry’s commitment to this new strategy in the year ahead to see if it can turn its fortunes around. Execution and sticking to its word will be everything.

The one party this will most likely wreck will be Microsoft and Nokia’s Windows Phone celebrations. Some 4m Nokia Windows Phone devices were sold over the last quarter.

I suspect the new devices BlackBerry revealed today will appeal to the very people that Windows Phone had been trying to lure away.

“The Blackberry 10 platform offers a differentiated user experience in today’s crowded and homogeneous smartphone market,” pointed out Adam Leach, a principal analyst at Ovum.

“The Blackberry Z10 and Q10 will stand out from the Android masses and look distinct from Apple’s iPhone. The user experience of Blackberry 10 introduces some nice new features but importantly builds on Blackberry’s UI heritage and therefore will certainly appeal to existing BlackBerry users. However, the challenge for the company will be to attract new users and those that have already moved to alternative smartphones.

“BlackBerry has rightly focused on insuring that the BlackBerry 10 devices have a large catalogue of content and applications, which is now essential for any modern smartphone, and achieving 70,000 applications at the launch of a new platform is good start.

“However, Ovum believes that despite a well-designed BlackBerry 10 platform that will certainly attract short-term interest from existing users, the company will struggle to appeal to a wider audience and in the long-term will become a niche player in the smartphone market,” Leach said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years