Mobile Wars: New BlackBerry 10 Launched
A keyboard where users can write without typing and a message hub holding all texts, emails, tweets and Facebook updates are two of the key features of the BlackBerry 10.
Canadian mobile giant Research In Motion (RIM) has finally launched the new smartphone it hopes will revitalise its fortunes.
Simultaneously in New York, London, Toronto, Dubai, Johannesberg and Paris, the company unveiled the Z10 and the Q10 in the hope it will bring it level with Apple, Android and Windows Phone devices.
The company's CEO Thorsten Heins opened the event in New York by announcing the firm would change the name RIM, which it has used since 1985, to BlackBerry.
He said BlackBerry had decided to build the operating system on its new smartphones from the bottom up.
The Z10 marks a departure from the BlackBerry's traditional screen and keyboard approach to a total touch screen experience, though the Q10 model features both.
One of the key features is the gesture-typing keyboard where users can flick predicted words into their messages.
Another feature that has already been warmly welcomed is the message hub where users can access their Facebook updates, tweets, emails and texts without having to open separate apps.
Its version of the Apple Apps Store is BlackBerry World, where customers can go for their apps, music and games.
Mr Heins said: "We have definitely been on a journey of transformation, a journey to not only transform our business and our brand, but one which I truly believe will transform mobile communications into true mobile computing.
"It's been almost one year exactly since I was handed the reins at Research In Motion, and it has been easily the most challenging year of my career to date. It has also been by far the most exhilarating and the most rewarding one."
The new device is slightly bigger and thicker than an iPhone 5 and measures 130mm x 65.6mm x 9mm. The iPhone comes in at 123.8mm x 58.6mm x 7.6mm.
Early reaction has been promising. Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at technology research firm Gartner, said: "RIM has clearly reinvented itself with a new set of devices and a platform. It's definitely met the table stakes for many users.
"The challenge will be to keep the momentum going for developers and apps and leveraging the BlackBerry brand. BlackBerry delivered the first step, but this is a marathon not a sprint."
Ernest Doku, technology analyst for uSwitch.com said that the Z10 handset clearly had been designed to have broad appeal to business users and consumers from the outset, whereas previous BlackBerrys had achieved that a little by accident.
"They have definitely not forgotten their corporate roots," he said.
"Having said that the consumer side does have a plethora of apps and they have shown some interesting multiple-media facilities.
"That has been done to bring in a consumer angle."
BlackBerry saw its market share drop by more than half in the last year alone.
Problems with handsets, coupled with a service outage in 2011 that saw many users locked out of their emails, have tarnished the brand.
RIM sold less than 12 million handsets in the last quarter, compared with 47.8 million iPhones and 63 million Samsung devices.
The Z10 will be available from January 31 in the UK, the first country in the world where it will be on sale.
It will run on the EE, Vodafone, O2 and 3 networks and be available from Carphone Warehouse and Phones4U.
It will also be enabled to run on 4G, the next generation of high-speed mobile internet.
The Q10 is expected to arrive in April.