Staying Alive: BlackBerry's survival in the modern smartphone war

January ended with the return of a dinosaur: After eighteen months without releasing a handset, there's a new BlackBerry on the market. The phone, made by the company formerly known as RIM but now just called BlackBerry, is part of a new period of reinvention that the Canadian company hopes will allow them to challenge Microsoft's Windows Phone for the number 3 position in the global smartphone market. 


The new phone, the BlackBerry Z10, launches with a new modern operating system that makes use of gesture-based, button-less controls and sports a number of interesting software additions based around BlackBerry's traditional target markets - government, industry and teens. 


For example, there's a toggle between home and work modes (which BlackBerry are calling Balance), video calling and screen sharing have been added to BlackBerry Messenger, and all notifications and messages are collected in a unified BlackBerry Hub. There's even a camera mode called TimeShift that allows you to shoot a burst of photos, then choose the best face for each person in the photo to ensure that no one is blinking or pulling a weird expression. It's a surprisingly capable operating system that feels as modern as any of the other big players in the market.


I think that BlackBerry has caught up a massive amount with BlackBerry 10. When you consider how dated their operating system was, BlackBerry 10 is a massive technical achievement. Their decision to rename themselves is a good indicator too that they're giving it their all to make this thing work. But despite a pair of strong launch devices, BlackBerry are still behind Windows Phone - and way behind Android or iOS.

In order to challenge Windows Phone for that third place spot, BlackBerry is going to need to continue to focus on their traditional strengths: business, security and messaging. We've already seen some of that, with the excellent software keyboard, the new additions to BlackBerry Messenger and being able to switch easily between sandboxed home and work modes, but they need to keep having good ideas and keep refining those features. It's here that they'll win over users from competing operating systems, and regain former BlackBerry users too.


The app situation will also need to be improved. I think that this will largely come with time, particularly if BlackBerry can encourage developers that it will be easy to port their apps over. Still, it seems like the vast majority of their apps are badly designed - even core apps like messaging and email look shoddy, with wonky fonts and bad spacing, and lack the beautiful design reflected in the hardware and accessories of the Z10.


The Android emulation layer is also badly in need of an update; at the moment running an Android app in a virtual 2.3 Gingerbread environment is incredibly outdated and doesn't mesh well with the rest of the BlackBerry experience. I understand the need to allow Android apps to be ported easily, but I feel that BlackBerry would be stronger without these apps at present.


Finally, the BlackBerry Hub also needs work. I feel that the lack of a distinction between notifications and the actual content you're being notified about is an interesting design choice, but right now it isn't implemented well - The Verge highlighted a lot of issues with moving from one notification to another and also the inability for users to dismiss notifications on things that don't require immediate attention, like Twitter mentions.


If BlackBerry can fix these problems, they may have a shot. While they are incredibly late to the modern OS party, they've shown a remarkable rate of improvement that hopefully will be only be hastened in the crucible of public opinion. That number 3 spot is within reach, but this is the Canadian company's last shot to challenge for it. If we don't see improvements before the next cycle of Apple, Android and Windows Phones then BlackBerry may rapidly disappear from the mobile landscape.

-William Judd

Vodafone UK launches its first ‘4G-ready’ phone, the BlackBerry Z10

  • Coming to Vodafone UK: the first smartphone powered by BlackBerry 10
  • BlackBerry Z10 just £29 on a £42 a month deal with unlimited calls, texts and loads of internet
  • The first ‘4G-ready’ phone from Vodafone UK

Vodafone UK is launching the BlackBerry® Z10, the first smartphone powered by the re-designed, re-engineered and re-invented BlackBerry® 10 platform and the first of Vodafone’s ‘4G-ready’ handsets. The new BlackBerry Z10 is the fastest and most advanced BlackBerry smartphone yet and offers customers a powerful new mobile computing experience.

The new BlackBerry Z10 will be available from January 31, in-store, online and through telesales. The smartphone is just £29 on the £42 a month Vodafone Red Data plan, which comes with unlimited calls and texts as well as 2GB of internet. It is free on the £47 a month variant of Vodafone Red Data and costs £69 on the Vodafone Red Plan, which offers unlimited calls, unlimited texts and 1GB of internet for £37 a month. All new and upgrading Vodafone pay monthly customers also get as much internet as they want, for whatever they want, for the first three months, with Vodafone Data Test Drive.

For small business customers, the BlackBerry Z10 is available free on Vodafone Red Business from £40.83 (ex VAT) per month. Vodafone Red Business gives business users the freedom to talk and text as much as they want, enjoy loads of internet and get a landline number on their mobile so they can answer any calls when out and about. For more information, visit

The BlackBerry Z10 smartphone is the first handset from Vodafone that is ‘4G-ready’. Getting one of our 4G-ready phones means a customer will be good to go as soon as Vodafone 4G arrives, bringing them ultra-fast internet and the best mobile video they’ve ever had from us. Once a customer has got their new phone, we’ll let them know the moment Vodafone 4G is available in their area. Then we can talk about adding Vodafone 4G to their monthly plan. For more information, visit We are planning to launch 4G services later this year and we intend to use a signal that travels further into a customer’s home than any 4G signal that’s available now.

Blackberry Z10 Unboxing & First Boot

Blackberry 10 launches today and before the official launch, seems like a lucky person has got their hands on the new Z10 touchscreen smartphone. Check out the video below from MrIgorTV showing an unboxing & first look.

RIM confirms BB10 standard screen resolutions for touch and keyboard devices

RIM took some time out from its worldwide tour to confirm that it's standardizing screen resolutions for BB10. Tim Neil took to the company's developer blog to say that forthcoming full-touch devices will ship with 1,280 x 720 displays, while keyboard-style phones would pack 720 x 720 screens. The only handset that won't play by these rules is the first (presumably flagship) BB10 handset, since it's too late to change its 1,280 x 768 screen. The company's urging developers to get tweaking to ensure apps run properly on the new gear -- or add letterboxing to offer a Sergio Leone feel to your mobile gaming.

[Source: Engadget]