At the end of January, the latest overhaul of the BlackBerry smartphone debuted to a thoroughly mixed response. Proponents said the upgrades and options offered by the latest version are a step toward BlackBerry returning to its roots as the top device for serious business users. Critics said the changes are too little too late from a brand that seems to have lost its relevance.
The smartphone market has certainly swung around from the days of BlackBerry’s dominance. Device makers like Apple, Samsung, HTC, and Microsoft now rule the smartphone space. According to data from comScore, BlackBerry’s market share was down to 6.4 percent for the quarter ending in December 2012.
But is BlackBerry out of the picture entirely? Here are some of the new features of BlackBerry 10 that could convince the corporate world not to switch its allegiance just yet.
Features for the Professional Powerhouse
BlackBerry is aware of the needs of its devoted customer base. BlackBerry is likely to still be a top choice for companies that issue work devices to employees — especially those in high-profile industries such as finance and government. That means security is a top priority for BlackBerry. The BlackBerry 10 has several built-in security features, including the ability to remotely lock or wipe a phone that has been lost or stolen — though Apple offers similar functionality with the iPhone. The smartphone also received certification from the National Institute of Standards and Technology for its data security and encryption technology.
In terms of hardware, BlackBerry has also chosen to straddle the line between its old keyboard model and an all-touch interface. The Z10 model has the touchscreen that has become the smartphone standard. It includes a touch keyboard with common features, such as suggesting words as you type and learning from your common typing habits. But for those who may not be ready to switch over to touch, the Q10 model will offer a traditional keypad. That means equal appeal for people who are comfortable with either the old or new-school devices.
Crossing Over to Personal Users
Another key feature of the new smartphone model is BlackBerry Balance. This is the first sign that the company is serious about bridging the gap between business use and personal use. Balance lets phone owners create separate profiles on the device for their professional work and for their daily lives. That could increase the appeal of the smartphone for those people who want the professional features of BlackBerry without the need for a second device.
There are other features that show the company is clearly making an effort to imitate the popular elements of its competitors. The Z10 has BlackBerry Hub, the company’s new interface for multitasking. Keeping track of all your projects is essential for work, and the Hub contains all your key information, such as messages and conversations, in one place. You can swipe from within any app to access the Hub. Voice control, a powerful camera, and speedy browsing, have become normal features for the latest crop of smartphones, and BlackBerry has them now too.
The Apps Have It
One of the biggest areas where BlackBerry has struggled to keep up with its rivals is the app market. To fix the imbalance, BlackBerry has been paying developers a premium to create programs for the platform. According to the company’s plans, there will be 70,000 apps available at launch in the BlackBerry World store.
This is where BlackBerry could potentially make the device cross over. If the smartphone can offer both a powerful suite of business tools and a solid array of the apps you’d want to have for personal use, it stands a good chance of making a comeback for more than the professional crowd. For instance, most of the popular social media and messenger platforms have free BlackBerry apps. We haven’t seen yet if the options currently available are strong enough to attract those casual users.
Results So Far
The new BlackBerry 10 has been out for less than a month, and only in select markets, but people are already watching the sales figures closely. Analysts have reported that the Z10 phone has sold out in the UK, and it is now available in Canada. Canada is the home market for BlackBerry and the models will likely do well there with the support of top Canadian wireless providers. The company has not released any sales numbers for those countries yet, though.
The Z10 won’t hit U.S. shelves until March, and the Q10 doesn’t arrive until April. The staggered launch is a cause for concern among some analysts, who said it shows that BlackBerry may not have the resources to keep up with the current pace of innovation in the field. That wavering confidence was reflected in a decline of share value on the Toronto Stock Exchange as of mid-February.
With the mixed opinions and slow rollout, it is still too early to project a definite success or failure for the revitalized BlackBerry. The features show a solid grasp on the needs of the business community, but the numbers over the coming weeks will tell whether BlackBerry has done enough to chip away at the positions of other smartphone companies.
What do you think of the revitalized BlackBerry? Let us know in the comments!