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The company formerly known as RIM announced on Wednesday new BlackBerry Z10 and Q10 handsets running the BlackBerry 10 operating system, as it attempts to regain ground lost to Apple and Google.
The Z10 is BlackBerry's most direct competitor to Apple's iPhone, sporting a 4.2-inch display with a density of 356 pixels per inch. Like the iPhone, it features an all-touchscreen design and eschews a physical keyboard.
But BlackBerry also hopes to retain its devoted users who remain attached to the company's tactile keyboards. Those users will be served by the QWERTY-equipped BlackBerry Q10, which also features a 3.1-inch touchscreen.
The Z10 launches in the U.K. tomorrow, in Canada on February 5, and in the U.S. in March. Pricing will vary by carrier. The Q10 is expected to debut on the first global carriers in April.
Both devices run BlackBerry 10, the company's latest mobile operating system designed to take on the market leaders: Google Android and Apple's iOS.
At Wednesday's event, the company showed off applications for BlackBerry 10 that will offer connectivity with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare. In all, the company has promised 70,000 applications will be available in the BlackBerry World store at launch.
Features of BlackBerry 10 highlighted by the company include:
- BlackBerry Hub: A single place to manage all conversations, BBM messages, social media updates or notifications.
- BlackBerry Flow: Enables features and apps to flow together. For example, tap on an attendee listed for a meeting to see their latest tweet or LinkedIn profile. Or tap the thumbnail of a picture to launch the Picture editor and quickly apply a transformation or filter.
- An adaptable virtual keyboard.
- BlackBerry Balance: Separates and secures work applications and data from personal content on BlackBerry devices.
- Time Shift: Captures a group shot where everyone is smiling with their eyes wide open.
- Story Maker: Bring a collection of photos and videos together, along with music and effects, to produce an HD movie.
- BlackBerry Remember: Combines memos, tasks and more into a single experience. It helps organize and manage information around projects or ideas, letting users collect content such as websites, emails, photos, documents, and other files, and then create tasks, assign due dates, and your progress.
Among those to get a first look at BlackBerry's latest devices was Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal. The seasoned technology journalist tested the Z10 for about a week, and said that the virtual keyboard on the touchscreen device is the best and fastest out-of-the-box option he's used.
"Master BlackBerry thumb typists might not find it as fast as the traditional physical keyboard, but, for a one-finger typist like me, it was faster and more accurate than either the native keyboards on the iPhone or Android," Mossberg said. "This is partly because it features predictive typing."
Ultimately he found that the hardware on the Z10 was "decent," while the user interface with BlackBerry 10 is "logical and generally easy to use." He's of the opinion that RIM could see a resurgence in the smartphone market if it can bolster the number of available applications for the platform.
In changing its name from Research in Motion to BlackBerry, the company's new stock ticker of "BBRY" will reflect the change. The company said BlackBerry 10 represents a reinvention of the company's brand, and the new name will reflect that.