BlackBerry Live 2013: BBM, BB10.1 and BB Q5
BlackBerry 10 - Built for Mobile
Three months after the official launch of the BlackBerry 10 platform, the company made several announcements at its annual conference, Live 2013 in Orlando. Let's check out what's new in BlackBerry 10.
BlackBerry Messenger Goes Cross Platform
Perhaps the most important and surprising announcement at BlackBerry Live 2013 is the announcement that BlackBerry Messenger, the once-exclusive and one of the most enticing things about BlackBerry phones, has gone cross-platform.
The decision to open up BBM to other mobile platforms is unexpected as it is widely believed to be the major reason why existing BlackBerry users refused to ditch their phones and switch. According to BlackBerry, this is very true as BlackBerry users are found to be using BBM as a means to do businesses and stay in contact with their loved ones.
In fact, the user engagement is so high in BBM such that almost half of BBM messages are read within 20 seconds of being received. Therefore, there are worries that BlackBerry has made a wrong move and gave up their only asset. The company doesn't think so, and has bigger plans for BBM.
The timing for making BBM cross-platform comes at a time where mobile messaging apps are growing in popularity. For example, WhatsApp is one of the most popular cross-plaform messaging services which has more than 200 million monthly active users. Kik Messenger recently hit 50 million users.
In comparison, BBM has more than 60 million monthly active users, with more than 51 million active daily users sending more than 10 billion messages each day. The company believes that for a social messaging platform to remain relevant, it has to be available across all plaforms.
With the momentum gained from the launch of BlackBerry 10, CEO Thorsten Heins said "the time is right for BBM to become an independent messaging solution". Dubbed as "a statement of confidence", Heins wants to maximize the reach of BBM to as many people as possible, and though the process, let BBM flourish on its own as a messenger service. The first version of the BBM will have the following features for iOS and Android users:
- immediacy of BBM chats
- multi-user chats
- voice note sharing
- BlackBerry Groups, where groups of up to 30 people can be set up to share calendar, photos and files.
Another new feature integrated into the messenger service is BBM Channels, a new social engagement platform that will allow users to connect with business, brands, celebrities and groups that they are passionate about. A Channel can be created by anyone for others to "follow" to receive updates. They also can comment or like the posts in the Channels.
BlackBerry is planning to add support for BBM Channels, as well as voice and video chatting for iOS and Android later this year. BBM will be available as a free app for iOS and Android users (Android 4.0 and above) later this summer if the respective companies (Apple and Google) approve the app submission. More details about system requirements and availability will be announced closer to the launch.
BlackBerry's decision to open up BBM is a double-edged sword. While this move may attract more users to using BBM, it is also possible that existing BlackBerry users may finally take the plunge and switch to other mobile platforms since BBM is available on the top two most popular mobile platforms. This certainly does not bode well for a young mobile platform (BB10) which requires more users to grow.
BlackBerry 10.1 Update
The BlackBerry 10.1 update is available soon for Z10 users. It will be rolling out with carrier partners over the coming weeks, and comes with several new features. Let's take a look at the new features.
BlackBerry Hub, a central feature of BB 10 can now support PIN to PIN messages for direct communication between BlackBerry devices. Moreover, there is improved attachment support to make it easier for users to view emails which are sent as attachments to other messages. Notifications can now be personalized for your accounts and contacts via ringtones, vibrations and LED light.
Another new feature is the fine cursor control, which makes it easier and more accurate to pinpoint the exact location you want to type. Tap once to bring up the cursor, then grab the blue circle and and drag it around to place it on the particular location you want it to be. Tap on either side of the circle to move left or right by just one character.
High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode is added to the camera on BB10, enabling it to capture multiple photos at different exposure levels and layers them automatically to produce a single photo that combines the best of the dark and light areas.
On a side note, BlackBerry World currently has over 120,000 apps. Several notable apps such as Skype and SoundHound will be available for download in BlackBerry World following the update to BB 10.1. While Blackberry is catching up with Windows Phone (145,000 apps), it is still a far cry from the Apple App Store and Google Play, which boast more than 700,000 apps each.
BlackBerry Q5 - An Entry-Level BB10 Device
Designed for the emerging markets, the BlackBerry Q5 seems to take the place of the previous Curve line of devices. Similar to the Q10, the Q5 is equipped with a 3.1-inch display (720 x 720 pixels) and a 35-key physical QWERTY keyboard.
BlackBerry replaces the AMOLED display on the Q10 with an IPS LCD panel on the Q5, hence colors do not look as vibrant and rich. The QWERTY keyboard sports a different layout compared to the Q10; it has isolated keys which feel noticeably flatter. Due to its target price point, the Q5 also does not feel as premium as the Q10. It has a glossy plastic build. Here's a quick look at the specs between the Q5 and Q10: -
|Specifications/Device||BlackBerry Q5||BlackBerry Q10|
|Display Size / Type||
The BlackBerry Q5 will be available in selected markets in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia (including the Asia Pacific region), and Latin America, with expected availability beginning in July.