Saturday, March 2, 2013

BlackBerry set to launch innovative features

By SAM WAMBUGU

For many years, the word smartphone was synonymous with BlackBerry. Research in Motion (RIM), now known as BlackBerry, the makers of Blackberry phone defined the first generation of smartphones by offering fast email and messaging services as well as full QWERTY keyboards at a time when the competition was nowhere close.

It used to be the darling of corporate workers who needed to communicate in a secure email infrastructure. Then the industry progressed and smartphones became the wave of the future.

Companies new to the cellphone market, like Apple and Google, introduced more advanced handsets, leaving many to question whether RIM had the firepower to compete with its competitors.

But instead of adapting with the times, the RIM dismissed Apple’s game-changing device as its biggest threat, along with the idea of dynamic software, touchscreen functionality, and an ecosystem built upon mobile apps becoming the wave of the future.

Customers left in their millions and profits plummeted. In search of a saviour, the company placed its final bet on an all-new platform, one built from the ground up around the very same principles it once shunned in the past. The new platform is called BlackBerry 10.

Introduced in December 2011, the latest operating system has a number of changes aimed at making it competitive with the current crop of smartphones.

Unfazed by the criticism of its year-plus long delay, BlackBerry looked to ring in 2013 with a bang and has done just that, unveiling its new OS, along with the first of two upcoming BlackBerry 10 devices: the BlackBerry Z10.

Scheduled for launch this month, the Z10 ditches the company’s patented physical keyboard in favour of a full touchscreen, bringing forth quite possibly the best virtual keyboard on the block.

Those of you with reservations about adapting to a non-physical QWERTY BlackBerry can breathe easy and put the storm nightmares to rest, because the Z10 arguably has the best virtual keyboard on the market. The degree of input accuracy on the device is quite amazing.

In addition, the larger on-screen keys provide for smoother typing. But it’s the predictive text that steals the show. The feature adapts to your typing style and vocabulary, shooting suggestions above a set of different letters to accommodate faster sentence creation.

It takes some getting used to, but it’s only a matter of time before you start shooting long-winded messages at a ridiculous pace. What’s also incredible about the keyboard is it supports and recognises three different languages simultaneously.

So, let’s say you jot down a Kiswahili word, the keyboard picks up on it and allows you to finish a message without enabling any settings.

BlackBerry Hub is the new messaging centre on the Z10 and within the BB10 operating system. Calling it a “hub” was a good choice of words, as the BlackBerry Hub is the core of the Z10’s communications powers. Every type of message is funnelled into the Hub, which includes email, text messages, instant messaging and social networking.

Giving users’ one place to see absolutely all their messages makes it a powerful and convenient tool. The Hub is also infinitely customisable, and it lets users turn on/off mailboxes at will, as well as separate them for easier viewing.

The phone has a mobile hotspot functionality, which supports up to eight devices, sharing its internet connection.

It is not the best-looking or the highest-quality smartphone ever made, but BlackBerry got the basics of the Z10 just right.

It has a good size and weight to it, the screen offers enough real estate for whatever you need to do, and features such as a removable battery and memory card stand in stark contrast to the many devices that don’t offer such flexibility.

BlackBerry hopes that this new toy will revive her ailing profit margins.

Sam Wambugu is a monitoring and evaluation specialist. Email: samwambugu@gmail.com