Blackberry’s last stand? Troubled phone giants aim for new heights with BB10 launch
Friday 4 Jan 2013 7:00 am
Phone giants Blackberry are preparing to launch their BB10 operating system this month – but can it turn the company’s fortunes around? Metro found out more.
January is here and brings with it a new BB for everyone to berate. But instead of the career suicide that is Celebrity Big Brother, I’m referring to the last roll of the dice for BlackBerry.
This month sees the launch of drastically revised handsets and software aimed at rescuing the phone’s sinking fortunes. It’s been blown out of the water by Apple, Android and the new piranha in the tank, Windows Phone 8.
The BB10 operating system is seen as the most important launch in the history of Research In Motion (RIM), the Canadian developer of BlackBerry, whose current handsets, such as the Bold range, feature physical keyboards.
Long delays to the new rollout and repeated collapses to existing email, internet and Blackberry Messenger (BBM) services have seen RIM’s market share threaten to drop out of all significance, while revenues and stocks have also plummeted.
Gareth Beavis from leading consumer website Tech Radar says: ‘If BB10 fails then it’s impossible to see what plan B might be. Its once-invincible servers have crashed too many times for consumers and businesses alike to maintain trust, while an influx of cheaper Android phones and Apple’s iMessage have eroded the popularity of the brand in the youth sector.’
So what does BlackBerry’s brave new world have in store? RIM promises it will be quicker, slicker and stocked with apps. Initial results look promising, with tests showing its web browser works faster than rivals from Apple and Windows Phone.
It will also feature something called BlackBerry Balance, which separates your work and personal life on the phone.
At least two new handsets will be available from launch on January 30, although the familiar keyboard has been replaced by a straight touchscreen. Leaked images of one device show a minimalist matte black handset similar to the iPhone 5. It’s also impressively stacked with mini-HDMI and micro-USB ports, as well as a micro-SD slot and removable battery. RIM has promised that keyboard devices will surface at a later date.
Beavis says: ‘The early view shows the Canadian firm has done its homework. It’s a very intuitive system that’s easy to navigate. That said, it’s not all about the software. It has to be right but, on top of that, it needs quality apps, stunning hardware and low prices to compete. RIM is hoping to compete in the touchscreen market while maintaining its place as the top provider of keyboard-powered smartphones.’
At least the phone networks seem convinced, with every major British provider confirming they’ll be stocking BB10 devices, while EE is also offering 4G connectivity.
‘I still want to see RIM succeed,’ says Beavis, ‘simply because competition engenders innovation, so the more choice for the consumer, the better. However, I can’t really see that a fancy interface is going to be enough to turn the firm’s fortunes around.’
Sam Gibbs from Gizmodo UK adds: ‘RIM’s got a lot riding on BlackBerry 10 and, by all counts, it seriously has its work cut out. Yes, the rumours and leaks do point to something of a rejuvenation for the BlackBerry, but considering competition from the likes of the iPhone and a myriad of quality Android phones is absolutely killing consumer and now even business BlackBerry sales, RIM has a long way to go to reach salvation.
If I’m honest, it’s probably too little, too late.’
Phone Giants: Blackberry’s biggest rivals
Google’s Android operating system featured on 75 per cent of all smartphones sold in the final quarter of 2012, compared to just 15 per cent for Apple’s iOS. That’s huge. This year, expect LG’s Nexus 4 to challenge the Samsung Galaxy S3 as the world’s best-selling smartphone. There will be many more new handsets flooding the market, including something special from Google-owned Motorola and possibly even an Amazon phone.
As Sacha Baron-Cohen stated in his Ali G comeback at the British Comedy Awards recently: ‘The iPhone, the iPhone 2, the iPhone 3, the iPhone 4, the iPhone 5. Who can imagine what is coming next?’ Well, probably the iPhone 5S, a faster, more powerful variant on the current offering. This year’s Apple surprise is expected to be a smart watch, developed with Intel, to work in tandem with the rest of its devices.
If 2012 was the breakthrough year for Windows Phone, then this year Microsoft will be hoping to establish itself further. Crucial to that will be a huge surge in must-have apps to compete with its rivals, so expect a raft of big-name releases between now and the summer. Nokia, HTC, Samsung and Huawei should expand their handset ranges around the same time, with Windows Phone 9 setting the merry-go-round off again in late autumn.