BlackBerry’s wryly jovial CEO Thorsten Heins spent quite a bit of time talking up the new mid-range Q5 at this morning’s BlackBerry Live keynote address, but the folks in Waterloo may be working on a follow-up smartphone that’s staggeringly different from the one we saw today.
According to a report from KnowYourMobile, the struggling Canadian company is working an all-touch BlackBerry smartphone with a 5-inch display. KnowYourMobile’s Richard Goodwin goes on to note that the device is currently in testing being tested at by unnamed Canadian wireless carrier, and the anonymous tester providing the info pointed out that the device would make its official debut within the next few months.
For what it’s worth, Jefferies’ analyst Peter Misek foretold of a 5-inch BlackBerry 10 device last month, but his track record with this sort of thing isn’t exactly sterling. It should go without saying that you should be taking all of this with a mighty big grain of salt, but it’s an intriguing notion to consider.
I mean, let’s assume for a moment that this report is accurate and that such a device really is being worked on behind closed doors — it’d be quite a bold move on BlackBerry’s part. It’s not hard to see that a considerable chunk of people have embraced large form factor smartphones, and it’s possible that BlackBerry wants to cash in on that consumer fervor. Then again, this whole thing is just loaded with question marks that could trip BlackBerry up as it works to reverse its fortunes.
By embracing so many form factors so quickly, BlackBerry runs the risk of alienating users who have perhaps prematurely pulled the trigger on an earlier model. It doesn’t help that there’s plenty of competition in the hefty smartphone space, either. Samsung is leading that particular pack with Android-powered devices like the Galaxy Note II, but rivals like LG and Sony are working to give the Korean juggernaut some competition. Couple that with persistent rumors that Apple is working on a larger smartphone of its very own and BlackBerry’s 5-inch follow-up may wind up facing the same issues with standing out as the company’s current hardware crop does.
The Q5 is a device that needed to exist — after all, a huge chunk of BlackBerry’s userbase can be found in developing markets where relatively few people could comfortably shell out the money necessary for an up-market device like the Z10 or Q10. If all goes according to plan, the Q5 may be the phone that helps BlackBerry maintain its strongholds across the globe. But a 5-inch BlackBerry? Heins and company will have to make an awfully strong argument for if it wants the world to give it a shot.
Today at BlackBerry Live, CEO Thorsten Heins announced BBM will soon be available on Android and iOS. The messaging app will launch globally this summer. This is a huge move for BlackBerry as it brings BB10′s strongest feature to literally hundreds of millions of potential users.
“It is a state of confidence,” Heins explained. “The BB10 platform is so strong and the response has been so good that the time is right for BBM to become an independent mobile messaging platform.”
The app will be free on both Android and iOS. Much like other messaging apps, it will be a standalone application. iOS 6 or Ice Cream Sandwich will be required.
Initially, only messaging and group features will be available. But Heins promised that the rest of BBM will eventually make its way to the Android and iOS versions including screen sharing, BBM voice and the just-announced BBM channels.
We are making the BBM platform more powerful than ever”, Heins proudly stated. And with this very uncharacteristic move from BlackBerry, it’s hard to argue against his statement.
It’s clear BlackBerry is finally waking up. They are no longer the big dog in the mobile war. If they are to survive, the company needs to forge new relationships and learn to work well with the two reigning platforms. This move to put BBM on Android and iOS is a big step forward. BlackBerry might actually have a chance.
Today at BlackBerry Live, CEO Thorsten Heins announced the availability of BB 10.1 for the Z10. This first major update to BlackBerry’s next-gen mobile platform starts rolling out today and packs a moderate amount of updates.
“By the end of this week, the vast majority of our international carriers will offer this update,” Heins detailed. “US carriers will offer it by the end of the month.”
This version brings more classic BlackBerry features to BB 10. Phone contacts can now feature personalized notifications with custom ringtones, vibrations, and LED flashes. Further customization is available with custom notifications for different email accounts.
HDR support should improve the Z10′s lackluster camera performance. The software also updates the camera software with improved red eye reduction.
The update also supercharges the BlackBerry Hub. Everything should be more fluid and seemless as the Hub can send PIN to Pin messages and offer contact suggestions.
International carriers should get the update by the end of the week with availability on US carriers by the end of May 2013. Look for the update here or through the Z10′s software update section.
BlackBerry has just announced the BlackBerry Q5 smartphone, the latest BB10 handset to come out of the Waterloo-based firm. Like the Q10, the Q5 has a QWERTY keyboard and comes in a host of colors, including red, black, white and pink.
“I know it’s going to be a big hit,” said Thorsten Heins, as he made the announcement.
According to the CEO, the Q5 will be aimed at emerging markets, as BlackBerry sees an opportunity to infiltrate markets in which most people might not have a computer or laptop, but where they do need a smartphone.
In today’s press event, Heins let slip that the Q5 would launch within BlackBerry’s global carrier network starting in the summer, but he failed to mention pricing.
Not much is known about specs, but we can tell you that it has a 3.1-inch touchscreen to go along with that Qwerty keyboard.
It also comes pre-loaded with the latest version of BB10, which brings with it features like Time Shift and Story Maker, ensuring users get a good photo each time they use their camera. BB10 also has BBM Video, letting users video chat and even share their screen, which comes in handy for enterprise users.
But perhaps most important, BB10 offers the BlackBerry Hub, which lets you get instant access to all your notifications, email, etc. without ever leaving an application window.
Here’s what Thorsten Heins said about it in a prepared statement:
BlackBerry is excited to bring the new BlackBerry Q5 smartphone to our customers in selected markets around world. The BlackBerry Q5 gives you the best of everything with its cutting-edge BlackBerry 10 functionality and a physical QWERTY keyboard. It is for youthful fans that are passionate, confident and bold, and it makes it easy for them to have fun, create, share and stay connected.
Even back when the company went by Research In Motion, BlackBerry has always been focused on developing markets. The company’s 70-80 million subscribers are mostly in regions like the Middle East, India, Europe, and Africa. That said, the Q5 will be available in July in select markets in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins seems to be among the most transparent executives in tech in terms of showing his hand regarding future product plans, which may be partly because he doesn’t have much to lose at this point. In an interview yesterday, he downplayed tablet computing in what looks to be an indicator that BlackBerry will drop the PlayBook, its own lame duck tablet and the first of its devices to sport a QNX-based operating system.
Heins should’ve stuck to specifics, however, as he went way overboard and came off as though he was losing touch with reality in the interview as quoted by Bloomberg, with broad sweeping statements like “In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore,” and “[t]ablets themselves are not a good business model.”
Tablets may not be a good business model for BlackBerry, which took huge writedowns on BlackBerry PlayBook inventory, were forced to run massive fire sales with price cuts of up to $400 to clear out inventory, and even finally discontinued the entry-level 16GB version entirely. By any real measure, the PlayBook was and is a failed product. But to say tablets won’t last five years, or that they aren’t a good business model requires that you completely ignore Apple’s tremendous success with the iPad, including the 19.5 million iPads it sold last quarter, an all-time record that came in well above analyst estimates.
Heins has recently made remarks that indicate BlackBerry may be experimenting with alternate device form factors, possibly taking a cue from hybrid gadgets like the Asus PadFone which combine a smartphone and tablet or mini-notebook style device in one. Once again, Heins said that he would need a BlackBerry tablet to be a unique device in an increasingly crowded market.
BlackBerry may have blown it on the PlayBook, but trash-talking tablets in general is worse than sticking your head in the sand: it makes the company look hopelessly out of touch. There’s definitely a lesson to be learned in the fact that Apple is the only company that’s really been able to succeed with a tablet device, but that lesson isn’t that the tablet market is a write-off entirely.