BlackBerry is back; Wednesday’s digital resurrection is the most unlikely of returns since, well, Nokia performed a similar Lazarus-like feat in 2012.
Yet unlike the Saint of Bethany (he’d only been dead for four days), the BlackBerry brand and its Canadian manufacturers RIM (now rebranded just to BlackBerry) have been rotting in silence since 2007, festering on past glories, seemingly unable to grasp the concept that "business" and "consumer" had somehow converged in the modern mobile handset.
The "all touch" Z10 (left) and it's keyboarded partner, the Q10 (right)
And what is BlackBerry's long-overdue riposte? An “all touch” smartphone in the form of the Z10. Gone is the impish keyboard, loved and loathed alike, to be replaced by the now ubiquitous display (the Q10, a nostalgia version with keyboard, will also be available). Then there’s the Hub, a coalescence of social media streams, news feeds, BBM and, of course, emails on which the original concept thrived.
The operating system too has undergone some much-needed spit and polish, presenting what the manufacturer hopes will be a genuine alternative to IOS or Android, while the device’s app store, the optimistically-named BlackBerry World, has also been given a lick of paint.
One notable feature of the new OS is the phone’s ability to switch between apps without jumping in and out, the Active Frames function. This multitasking seems to be the main point of distinction between the rejuvenated BlackBerry and its erstwhile rivals now far ahead, Apple and Samsung.
Can the new BlackBerry make inroads into the Apple and Samsung duopoly?
Speaking at the UK launch, Libby Plummer, reviews editor for T3 (and Huff Post blogger), said: "BlackBerry 10 has plenty of great new features and a strong selection of top-line apps. The handset looks impressive for the company's first major foray into the keyboard-less phone area. The business users will be hooked straight away but whether the handset will be able to drag average users away from their iPhones and Androids is another matter..."
Ernest Doku, a technology expert at uSwitch.com, agrres. He said: "By offering a robust suite of multimedia features and 70,000 apps upon launch it's abundantly clear that BlackBerry is taking steps to ensure that it's no longer stereotyped as a stuffy, business-only device... today BlackBerry has successfully unveiled striking new look devices and a powerful OS to support them."
This "striking new look" and "powerful OS" suggest that BlackBerry has indeed created a remarkable phone. But so what? The making of a mobile is no longer the device but the services that perch atop. Apps are the key, so much so that even had the designers crafted the most beautiful instrument to date, a digital Stradivarius for the modern consumer, should the services fall short, you might as well cut the strings and use it as fire wood.