BlackBerry updates devices, goes touch

Research in Motion used to own the enterprise smartphone market. So much so, that their primary product, the Blackberry, became nearly synonymous with the smartphone.

In 2007, Apple introduced the iPhone, transforming a previously business-centric device to a hip consumer phenomenon.  Android followed Apple’s lead, developing smartphone and tablet operating systems designed around touch.

RIM eventually responded with the touchscreen BlackBerry Storm in late 2008, but the device received mixed reviews at best.  Meanwhile, Android used an array of solid hardware manufacturers and promising devices to leapfrog the competition and make the modern smartphone market a two-horse race.

Down, but not out, RIM is going all in on the BlackBerry name, announcing plans this week to officially change the company name to “BlackBerry.”  They also introduced two new BlackBerry handsets they hope will interest smartphone consumers from both the casual and business market segments.

Here’s a look at what’s coming from BlackBerry:

Z10

Blackberry’s newest device, the Z10, goes full-touch, becoming the first device from the company that doesn’t have a physical keyboard option.

The Z10’s look is thin and sleek, a departure from the generally rounded a bulky BlackBerry style.  It has a 4.2” screen, which runs at a resolution of 1280 x 768 pixels.  The screen size is a nice compromise between sub-4” screens, which can be a bit small, and somewhat unwieldy 5”+ screens. The Z10’s pixel density is 356 pixels per inch (PPI), which is solid compared to the iPhone 5 at 326 PPI, but less spec-wise than the Droid DNA’s monster 440 PPI.

The Z10 also has rear and front facing cameras, as well as the usual array of now-standard smartphone features, like gyroscope and GPS.  The device’s rear camera and battery have come under criticism is recent reviews, though, so be sure to research more of those are important features for you (which battery should be).

A new version of the BlackBerry operating system, BlackBerry 10, comes preinstalled on the device.  BB10 updates the OS to include support for touch functions, gestures and third-party apps.  Early reports are that the app store is okay, but not great (it launches with 70,000 apps), and that the software keyboard is among the best for touch-only devices.

BlackBerry Z10 is available now in the UK, but won’t be available in the United States until March. It will be available on all four major cellular carriers and will cost around $200 (with contract).

Q10

BlackBerry wouldn’t be BlackBerry without offering at least one device with a physical keyboard.  Enter the Q10, a traditional BlackBerry updated to modern specs.

The Q10 is a hybrid BlackBerry that features both a touchscreen and physical keyboard, providing both options for users that want a physical keyboard in more intense typing sessions.

Retaining the familiar BlackBerry curved form factor, the Q10 offers a smaller, 3.1” screen that runs at a resolution of 720 x 720 (330 PPI).  Like the touch Z10, It also has front and rear cameras for video.  It also runs the new BlackBerry 10 operating system.

The Q10 will be useful for old-school BlackBerry fans that want a business-only device with a modern touch.  While most of the world has gotten used to touchscreens, there are still enterprise users that want a phone they use only for work that does only business tasks well. The Q10 looks like it will do that.

BlackBerry hasn’t released Q10 pricing or availability yet, but reports indicate the device could be out as early as April.

For more information on the new BlackBerry devices, see the company’s United States hub at http://us.blackberry.com/, which features interactive tours and informational videos.

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