The company formerly known as Research In Motion kicks off its quest for a second life Friday, as U.S. sales begin for BlackBerry's Z10, a phone that looks a lot more like an iPhone or Android-powered device than the keyboard-prominent devices that launched the smartphone era.
The BlackBerry Z10 has a 4.2-inch, 1280x768 screen with a resolution of 356 pixels per inch. It accesses 4G, high-speed, long-term evolution speed, where available, and packs a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core 1.5 GHz processor. It also can perform as a hotspot for connecting up to eight other devices to the Internet.
Time Shift And Active Frames
With 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, the Z10 offers voice control and has an 8-megapixel camera with an innovative TimeShift function that captures images over several seconds. That way, a user can pick the frame that has everyone's best facial expressions.
But the star of the show is the BlackBerry 10 operating system, years in the making, which has gained notice for the easy touchscreen interface that can suggest words when typing and allows functions with swipes. Blackberry 10 also features Active Frames, similar to the Live Tiles of Microsoft's Windows Phone, which allow up to eight applications to run simultaneously, displaying on the home screen but minimized.
The Z10 has no physical keyboard. But a second device, the Q10, also announced in January at the Consumer Electronics Show, throws a bone to fans of the classic BlackBerry with a full QWERTY keyboard. It will be available in the U.S. late next month.
"They have a large mountain to climb," wireless industry analyst Ken Dulaney of Gartner Research told us. "That said, the iOS interface does need improvements. Its simplicity is clearly a benefit but also a liability as users want to do more."
AT&T is the first U.S. carrier out of the gate with the Z10. It hits the No. 2 carrier's shelves Friday for $199 with a two-year contract. Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile are taking pre-orders and will sell the Z10 over the counter on Monday. It is already available in Europe.
Much Ground to Cover
The Waterloo, Ontario-based smartphone-maker needs a break to get back some of the share it lost to Apple and Samsung in recent years. BlackBerry had just a 5.3 percent share of the market in January, down from 7.8 percent last October, according to comScore. Blackberry's devices were the first to allow business users to access and send e-mail while on the go. But both Android and Apple have gained in that realm.
Enterprise cloud storage company Egnyte recently reported that iOS devices were accessing its services 68 percent of the time -- 28 percent for iPhones and 40 percent for iPads -- while Android devices used the cloud 30 percent of the time.
BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins recently said he was optimistic that people were getting tired of the iPhone because its interface was 5 years old.