There’s been a lot of discussion around BlackBerry this week, after the company’s slew of announcements this week. Here are the main takeaways from what the company said, and what others are saying about it this week:
- Research in Motion is now BlackBerry. Ditching the name it’s held for over 25 years, Research in Motion took the name of its smartphone line. That makes it crystal clear that its future lies with the success of its mobile phones.
The rebranding is a strong way for Thorsten Heins — who has been the company’s chief executive officer for a year — to make his mark on the company, said IDC analyst Ramon Llamas.
- There are two new phone models, and a new operating system. BlackBerry is releasing two new models, the Q10 and the Z10, which have both enjoyed favorable news coverage. But the real star of the new lineup is BlackBerry’s completely redesigned operating system, BlackBerry 10. BB10 is loaded with features that BlackBerry users have been clamoring for, such as better multimedia capabilities, easy multitasking and deep social integration.
- One model has a physical keyboard. The Q10 gives users the full QWERTY experience. While the Q10’s screen is just 3.1-inches, that may be a trade-off keyboard enthusiasts are willing to make. Over at Engadget, reviewer Terrence O’Brien notes that the Q10 feels heavier but doesn’t necessarily consider that a bad thing.
“The phone feels like it means business — something we can’t say for some of its plasticky Android competitors,” he wrote after spending some time with the phone at the company’s launch event.
- One model doesn’t. The company’s all-touch phone, the Z10, meanwhile, is a no-compromise device. It packs a 4.2-inch display, 16 GB of expandable storage, and 8 MP rear-facing and 2 MP front-facing camera. It has a dual-core 1.5 GHz S4 processor and has micro USB and micro HDMI posts.
In terms of size, it falls between Apple’s iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy S III and is just 0.35 inches thick. It weighs more than both— 4.85 ounces to Apple’s 3.95 ounces.
- But Z10 typing is still designed to be easy. Despite being an all-touch device, the Z10 is still made to be a typing machine. In a pre-release briefing with The Washington Post in November, BlackBerry executives showed off the phone’s innovative predictive typing system, which adapts as you type and suggests words on the on-screen keyboard to speed up your typing. The keyboard can also switch quickly between languages.
- And it has a much-hyped camera. The camera’s TimeShift feature lets users compile the best picture possible by identifying faces and saving frames that happen moments before and after a picture is taken. Users can then stitch together a picture — good for improving group shots where one person isn’t smiling or another is blinking.
- BB10 is built for business use. The BB10 system is unabashedly aimed at business consumers, as is clear from one of its most-touted features, BlackBerry Balance. Balance lets users separate work and personal data — apps, documents, e-mails — into two parts of the phone. That should spare users the embarrassment of sending an inadvertent e-mail to the boss, and it also gives employers a way to securely clear data on employee phones when needed. The system’s security earned it a nod from the U.S. government in November.
- Major carriers have jumped on board. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile have all announced they will carry one or both phones , but haven’t said when they will go on sale. And only Verizon has announced pricing for the new BlackBerry Z10, which will cost $199.99. A white version of the Z10 will be a Verizon exclusive.
Hang-ups with carrier talks on pricing and service fees, however, may have slowed down the company’s U.S. launch. Analysts expect a March launch. The delay seems even more significant when one considers BlackBerry has already faced two years of setbacks in its efforts to launch BB10.
- It has plenty of apps — but maybe not enough. BlackBerry has also worked hard to build out its app store, and is launching with 70,000 apps. That’s a far cry from the 700,000 that Apple and Google boast, but Heins told the Post in November that BlackBerry apps will be more “meaningful.” The company has also taken pains to get apps from big-name developers like Rovio, Skype and Amazon on its platform and has also made it easier for developers to convert apps made for the Android system to BB10.
- Despite all that, it may still not make it. Pouring water on BlackBerry’s fire, analysts caution that even with strong devices, the company faces high barriers to entry.
Macquarie Securities analyst Kevin Smithen said that investors won’t get a clear picture of BlackBerry’s chances until the May quarter, when the phones have spent enough time on the market. But he did say that the new phones are likely too expensive for many of the company’s global users, particularly in markets such as Indonesia and Thailand, where the company is growing its user base. He expects BlackBerry will eventually come out with mid-range phones, and that the company’s strategy could pay off in the long term — if it survives.
“We like the product,” said Smithen. “We don’t like the stock.”
Sign up today to receive #thecircuit, a daily roundup of the latest tech policy news from Washington and how it is shaping business, entertainment and science.