BlackBerry 10 unveiled — My post-launch thoughts

BlackBerry Z10The launch event for BlackBerry 10 has finished, the reviews have made their way out, and the dust is beginning to settle. BB10 is here for everyone to see, with sales of the Z10 beginning tomorrow in the UK, February 5th in Canada, and closer to the end of February/beginning of March in the US. Here’s what I think.

First off, one of the bigger and perhaps least-expected announcements today was that Research in Motion is no more. The company’s name is now BlackBerry, to unite everything under one brand. This seems like a fairly sound move considering that the RIM name was rarely used, but it will take some getting used to for the BlackBerry faithful.

Secondly, the app numbers weren’t quite as phenomenal as rumours suggested, but pretty impressive for a brand-new platform — over 70,000 apps. This includes many major apps that people were worried would not make it to the platform, such as Skype, WhatsApp, and Rdio. Word on the street is that Instagram is coming too, but just hasn’t been announced yet.

BlackBerry Q10Then we had the physical keyboard model unveiled today — the Q10. We haven’t seen much of this leaked, but that’s because the Q10 is going to hit stores later than the Z10. A definite time frame was not released, but 30 to 60 days later has been estimated among the community. I feel that it looks a lot better than leaked images suggested, but thanks to the great job they’ve done with the virtual keyboard, I still prefer the Z10.

However, one thing that struck me as odd is that RIM BlackBerry promised a number of launch surprises, claiming that not everything about the OS had been shown off or leaked. But frankly, the biggest surprises weren’t even directly related to the phones. The renaming of RIM and their new Global Creative Director, Alicia Keys, were the only things I didn’t really see coming. Skype and WhatsApp were somewhat surprising, as there were plenty of rumours suggesting that they were not coming to BlackBerry 10, but otherwise it seems to be predominantly the same OS we’ve seen for a while now. From my personal point of view, that’s not a bad thing. I love the OS, and I will be pre-ordering a Z10 from Telus later today. Hopefully, the average consumer who doesn’t keep track of leaks will be impressed as well. There are, however, a lot of underwhelmed people in the BlackBerry community.

More importantly though, if BlackBerry wants to regain market share from Apple and Android, they need to give those people incentive to switch platforms. Is it there? Well, that depends who you ask. I think anyone on those platforms who is looking for a more productive platform that excels at communication will be very pleased with BlackBerry 10. A lot of previous BlackBerry users who ended up defecting to Android or iOS will likely be interested in BB10 as well. But if you look at initial reviews, most reviewers seem to be underwhelmed. They say the phone has caught up to the competition, but it doesn’t excel at anything enough to entice users to switch platforms. When I get my hands on my own Z10 I’ll be able to judge for myself, but bad reviews is the last thing BlackBerry needs right now.

There’s also one bizarre issue that some reviews are reporting — a lack of push e-mail. Although BlackBerry 10 supports certain push protocols (namely Push-IMAP and ActiveSync), it supposedly does not have any native push abilities like old BlackBerry’s do. The word on the street suggests that this is because BlackBerry still hasn’t been able to get QNX to cooperate with BlackBerry Internet Service successfully, which could be true as BlackBerry 10 devices no longer requires a BIS data plan. However, that seems a little odd considering how much time they have been working on this.

My carrier, Telus will be receiving the Z10 on February 5th, and I’ll be able to dissect any potential issues on my own at that point. So, stay tuned!

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