Soon to be my new toy – the Blackberry Z30!

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Blackberry Q10 Review

BlackBerry-Q10I wanted to start this review by acknowledging that it is way overdue. I had the intentions of writing this review back in late July, after using the Q10 for several weeks. However, the arrival of my adorable baby Hannah put the brakes on much of my extracurricular activities!

The Blackberry Q10 has been on the market since May 2013 in Canada and the UK, and was released in early June with most major U.S. carriers. When most people think of Blackberry, they think of the iconic keyboard devices which literally changed the way many of us communicate via email and text messaging.

Despite launching several months after the Blackberry Z10 touch screen model (see my Z10 review), the Q10 is seen as the future of Blackberry. The device incorporates that iconic physical QWERTY keyboard along with a 3.1” touch screen, and the new Blackberry 10 operating system.

First Impressions

I have to admit, I was excited to get my hands on the Q10. I have been using the Z10 since January 2013, and I really love it. I remember from the first time I used the Z10, the operating system seemed fast, intuitive and refreshing compared to my previous phone – the Apple iPhone 4S. It had been a number of years since I used a physical keyboard with a previous Blackberry model and I was looking forward to trying a device which combined the best of both worlds.

The moment I picked up the Q10, it just felt so right. It fit perfectly in my hand.  Compared to the Z10 which boasts a 4.2” screen (and I love), the Q10 felt so natural to hold, and admittedly fits better in your pocket than larger smartphones. After using the holster case for several weeks, I opted to go back to just slipping the Q10 in my pocket for safe keeping, and the size really helps.

Hardware

Along with the keyboard and Blackberry 10 OS, the Q10 is packed with some pretty decent hardware including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.5 GHZ dual-core processor, 2GB RAM and 16 GB of storage, an 8 MP rear camera and 4G LTE for fast Internet and downloads.

The 3.1” Super AMOLED touch display offers 720 x 720 resolution – big enough to allow a decent web browsing experience, view photos, videos, email and more. Although full touch screen lovers will miss the screen real estate they are used to, the Q10 does a pretty good job of combining touch screen with the physical keyboard. The screen manages to display three rows of icons compared to four rows on the Z10.

One of the biggest attributes of the Q10 is its large 2100mAH removable battery which claims up to 13.5 hours of talk time (3G) and almost 15 days of standby time. This was an important feature for me, as battery life on the Z10 was typically shorter than my average work day.

During everyday use I did notice a significant difference in battery life compared to the Z10. Initially I could get a full day of use out of the Q10, although this has seemed to diminish somewhat over time. The Q10 also seemed to randomly get very warm, and I would sometimes notice the battery life was sucked up quickly – this seems to me to be software related or perhaps a glitch in the operating system. Luckily this didn’t happen very often.

Thanks to the built in removable microSD memory card slot, I was able to plug in the microSD card from my Z10 to take along my photos and music. Although I assumed syncing the Q10 with my PC using the Blackberry Link software would automatically transfer over all of the apps I had downloaded onto my Z10, this did not happen.

I had to manually download apps to the Q10 – which in hindsight was a better option, because I did not want all of the apps and games I had previously downloaded to be on the new device. I avoided many of the games I had enjoyed on the Z10, and stuck to the key apps I use frequently, such as my CIBC banking app, Skype, Stocks, Amazon Kindle, Crackberry news, and Reebee (shopping flyers). Social networking apps like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare come preloaded on the Q10, along with StoryMaker, Maps, Docs-to-Go and BBM.

Cool Features

There were no surprises for me as the Q10 has the same operating system as the Z10. Therefore the functionality and features were essentially the same, save the larger battery, physical keyboard and size difference.

I have to say though, while using the Q10, it felt more like a business device to me. It is built to be a productivity tool. With this in mind, I wanted to talk about Blackberry Hub – the all-in-one inbox Blackberry has built into the BB10 OS. Blackberry Hub is a killer app if I have ever seen one. While other smartphones have centralized email inboxes which bring all of your email into one inbox, Blackberry Hub is different.

Not only do all of your emails from multiple accounts show up in Blackberry Hub, but you can respond or send new emails from any of your accounts – not just a default account. One of the most fun and time-saving features is how Blackberry Hub incorporates all of your social media accounts.

All of your social media messages or updates show up right in your Hub. And with Blackberry Hub you can respond to social media posts and messages without even having to open Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others. Simply respond like you are replying to any email, and the message or post goes directly to your social media account. The same applies to text and Blackberry Messenger (BBM) messages. Talk about a convenient timesaver!

I have to be honest. Blackberry Hub is one of my favorite tools, and is what sets BB10 devices apart from the competition. It makes Blackberry 10 devices true communication tools.

Overall Impression

After using the Q10 for several months, I can say without a doubt that it is a productivity enhancer. Combining the Blackberry Hub with multitasking abilities and key apps like Docs-to-Go, banking apps, Bloomberg, Skype, Ebay, Maps and social media apps of course allowed me to get work done while keeping in touch and communicating effortlessly with friends and colleagues.

For those of you who love your Blackberry keyboard, I have no doubt you will love the Q10. It combines your favorite keyboard with a fantastic new operating system and better touch screen than past devices. For myself though, I am going back to the Z10 which I truly enjoy…I just can’t give up that beautiful 4.2″ screen!

The Final Verdict

The Good

  • Solid build, attractive design
  • Perfect size in your hand
  • Best physical keyboard bar none
  • 3.1” AMOLED touch screen is a nice compromise for touch device and physical keyboard
  • Blackberry 10.1 OS
  • Blackberry Hub is a killer productivity app
  • Blackberry Balance allows work and personal modes
  • Ability to side-load Android apps
  • Larger removable battery – extends to all day use
  • Expandable memory

 

The Bad

  • Still a limited app selection – but has most of the apps I needed
  • Screen is too small for those used to all touch devices (especially 4-5” devices)
  • Takes time after boot-up to load Blackberry Hub – must wait before you can access contacts or emails
  • Physical keyboard use is best with two hands – not great for one-handed typing which I prefer
  • Unit sometimes got warm and the battery life seemed to diminish

Update

Since I began writing this review, Blackberry has released OS 10.2 which included a number of enhancements. Most notable were Priority Hub which learns how you communicate and which messages are most important, presenting them in their own folder (as well as in the regular Hub), message previews – which show at the top of your screen, improved Copy and Paste functionality and lock screen notifications (shows recent emails and messages without having to unlock your phone).

I also noticed an improved Internet browsing experience. Before OS 10.2, when browsing websites on the Z10 or Q10 I would often have to pinch and zoom in order to actually read the text on the website. I notice now when websites load the text is automatically larger, eliminating the need to zoom in! I still enjoy using the “reader” mode too which removes the images from a webpage – showing only the text in an easy to read format.

There are several other enhancements in OS 10.2 – click here if you’d like to read about all of them.

Open Letter to Blackberry Customers

20130131-163425.jpgAs a member of Team Blackberry Elite, I received the following letter via email today. Blackberry has published this open letter to top newspapers around the globe:

To our valued customers, partners and fans,
You’ve no doubt seen the headlines about BlackBerry®. You’re probably wondering what they mean for you as one of the tens of millions of users who count on BlackBerry every single day.
We have one important message for you:

You can continue to count on BlackBerry.
How do we know? We have substantial cash on hand and a balance sheet that is debt free.
We are restructuring with a goal to cut our expenses by 50 percent in order to run a very efficient, customer-oriented organization.

These are no doubt challenging times for us and we don’t underestimate the situation or ignore the challenges. We are making the difficult changes necessary to strengthen BlackBerry.

One thing we will never change is our commitment to those of you who helped build BlackBerry into the most trusted tool for the world’s business professional.

And speaking of those dramatic headlines, it’s important that we set the record straight on a few things.

Best in class productivity tool.
We have completely revamped our device portfolio this year with the launch of BlackBerry® 10. We have four BlackBerry 10 devices – two all touch and two hybrid (touch and QWERTY) – and all are running the third update of our new platform. If what you care about most is getting things done – taking care of your business – we have the best range of devices for you. And we continue to offer the best mobile typing experience – no ifs, ands or buts about it.

Best in class security.
Governments all over the world, global corporations and businesses that simply cannot compromise on security choose and trust BlackBerry. Security is our heritage, and the industry recognizes that BlackBerry is the most secure when it comes to the device, server and, of course, our global data network. Have no doubt that you can continue to trust us to keep your communication safe and private.

Best in class enterprise mobility management.
We changed with the market, embracing BYOD because we understand that as iOS and Android™ devices become common in the workplace, businesses still need to manage all of these different platforms seamlessly and securely.

This is not a trivial task. While there are a number of startup companies that make bold claims, BlackBerry has more software engineers and the most resources dedicated to developing the most innovative solutions to address this complex challenge.

And our customers know it. Over the past quarter, our BlackBerry® Enterprise Service 10 server base grew from 19,000 to more than 25,000. Corporate clients are committed to deploying and testing the latest enterprise technology from BlackBerry. We are committed to evolving with our customers. That will never change.

Best in class mobile social network.
We are bringing the most engaging mobile messaging platform to all, with our BBM™ launch for Android™and iPhone. There are already around six million customers pre-registered to be notified of our roll out. This number is growing every day, and speaks to the tremendous opportunity we have to expand BBM beyond BlackBerry® smartphones to make it the world’s largest mobile social network.

Yes, there is a lot of competition out there and we know that BlackBerry is not for everyone. That’s OK. You have always known that BlackBerry is different, that BlackBerry can set you apart. Countless world-changing decisions have been finalized, deals closed and critical communications made via BlackBerry. And for many of you that created a bond, a connection that goes back more than a decade.

We believe in BlackBerry – our people, our technology and our ability to adapt. More importantly, we believe in you. We focus every day on what it takes to make sure that you can take care of business.

You trust your BlackBerry to deliver your most important messages, so trust us when we deliver one of our own:  You can continue to count on us.

Sincerely,
The BlackBerry Team

Blackberry Q10

Well, this is day 2 with my new Blackberry Q10. The experience so far has been positive.

Blackberry Q10I like the size of the device – it fits nicely in my hand (smaller than the Z10), although I am still getting used to the smaller 3.1″ screen (the Z10 has a 4.2″ screen) and physical keyboard. It has been several years since I have had a “real” (physical) keyboard — it will take a bit of adjustment to move from one thumb to two thumb typing.

Look for a full review of the Q10 model in a few weeks. After spending six months using the Z10 touch-screen model, I want to give the Q10 a fair comparison by giving myself time to use it day to day.

Blackberry Z10 U.S. Launch

Wow is all I can say about AT&T’s lack of promotion for the new Blackberry Z10 launch in the USA! I happen to be in Florida visiting my parents and thought I would stop into an AT&T store at the mall, the day of the launch. Walking in I surveyed the store for signs of a launch promotion, but other than a tiny flyer (a flyer…really? Not even a banner, sign or poster?) at the front of the store there was no sign of it.

I asked one of the sales staff if they had the new Blackberry Z10 and he said yes. “Would you like to see it,” he asked next. I told him yes, thinking he would lead to a display in the store, but to my great surprise, he instead walked into the back room to grab one. After asking a few simple questions, I could tell he was aware of some of the highlights of the new device, but did not have a lot of training using it.

Instead of letting him know that I have had the device since it’s January 30th launch in New York City, I simply handed the device back and left the store.

As AT&T is the first U.S. launch partner for the Blackberry Z10 I am simply blown away by the lack of effort and marketing on its part. What a joke. From my experience, the Z10 is a new bread of Blackberry. It delivers on all of the promises, and I think if people just pick it up and play with it for a few minutes they will love it.

With Verizon launching the Z10 this week, let’s hope that AT&T’s miserable excuse for a product launch doesn’t hurt sales too much. With all the bad things I hear about AT&T service in the U.S. I am just glad I don’t have to deal with them, living in Canada!

Blackberry Z10 Smartphone Review

Blackberry Z10I have been following the development of the Blackberry 10 mobile platform for quite a while. In the months leading up to the launch there was a lot of buzz, speculation and even leaked pictures of the upcoming devices.

I was even more excited when I received an invitation from RIM (now Blackberry) to attend the launch event in New York City. I was lucky enough to be part of a select group to attend, learn about all of the advanced features of the devices and even get to try them out first hand. Please check out my other post on this experience.

To top off the amazing launch event, everyone in attendance got to take home their very own Blackberry Z10!  I have been using mine close to three weeks, and I am ready to share my thoughts on Blackberry’s newest smartphone and BB10 platform.

First Impressions

The first thing I noticed about the Z10 was its sleek and thin design. The Z10 was clearly a different breed of Blackberry.

It felt solid in my hand, and fairly light weight. The 4.2″ screen is beautiful. The colour just pops, and the screen resolution (1280×768) is the same as my 42″ plasma HDTV! The HD screen makes your games, pictures and videos look really sharp and crisp, making for a fun multimedia experience.

Apps loaded quickly, including the camera. The Z10 is fast, and the specs back that up. The Z10 comes equipped with a dual-core 1.5Ghz processor, comparable to other high-end devices. It comes with 2GB RAM, 16GB of Flash memory and the memory is expandable with the built-in Micro SD slot.  This is good news, especially if you plan to use the device to take a lot of video, or download a lot of movies and large files.

Other hardware features of the Z10 include an 8MP camera on the back and a 2MP front camera for self-photos or video chatting. Your wireless options include Bluetooth 4.0 to connect with accessories and other devices, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n for plenty of connection options as well as NFC (near field communication) — a feature becoming more prevalent for sharing information with other devices, mobile commerce and even replacing your security swipe card at work.

The device came loaded with typical apps like BBM, and Blackberry World, Maps, Docs-to-Go, Calendar, Contacts and others you might expect. It also came with some of the top social media apps pre-loaded — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and even Foursquare.

The browser is fast, although I had issues loading some websites — mostly when I was not connected to Wi-Fi. I also don’t like how some emails open bigger than your screen and you are forced to “pinch” them down to see all of it.

Blackberry Hub

After entering my email and social media account information, all of the accounts were now displayed in Blackberry Hub — the heart of communication in the BB10 platform.  The Hub acts as a repository for all communication with your email, messaging and social media. Imagine, all of your messages and updates located in one location — available at the swipe of your finger. Blackberry has alleviated the need to check all of your accounts individually.

I really like this feature. When you receive a message of any sort, you are notified via a customizable sound effect as well as the iconic red flashing light.  Simply swipe the device to get to the Hub from any app, or “peak” at the message without even lifting your thumb from the screen. You can reply to any messages within the Hub as well — no need to launch the Facebook or messenger app to respond.

This convenience is one of the highlights of BB10, something you won’t find incorporated natively anywhere else. (Note: I have seen similar functionality on a Samsung Galaxy Note, but it was achieved via a separate app, and was not nearly as elegant).

Apps

At the BB10- launch, Blackberry CEO Thorsten Heins announced that more than 70,000 apps would be available soon after launch — the most of any other mobile platforms at launch. They will include the top 1,000 apps  — apps like Facebook, Skype, Amazon Kindle and Angry Birds. This was great news for Blackberry fans as a lack of apps was a major concern for the new BB10.

Blackberry 10 AppsI was personally excited to hear that Amazon was supporting BB10 with a Kindle app, considering they had not done so with the Playbook running QNX. I am a heavy eBook reader, and have a lot of Kindle books already on my iPad. This was a big plus for me.

While the initial selection of apps on Blackberry World seemed a little thin, I was able to download a free copy of Angry Birds Star Wars, the WordPress app for managing my websites, weather apps, stock market apps, CBC news , TimmyMe and some others. I have also noticed more of the announced apps have been trickling in each day, including some really fun free games like Beach Buggy Blitz and Riptide GP — a jetski game.  The Z10 can definitely hold its own as a mobile gaming machine, and with EA, Gameloft and Disney on board we should see some good quality games available soon.

I would suspect that we will see more of the top apps appearing before the U.S. launch of the Z10 in March.  But if you are like me and need your apps now, you can always side-load your favorite Android apps to get you through.

You can’t simply download and install Android apps on your Z10 though. There are a few steps necessary. Websites like www.goodereader.com explain exactly how to do it and also have the software necessary. It involves putting your Z10 in developer mode and loading the apps from your PC or Mac. It is quite simple actually, if you follow their instructions closely. They also have almost 1,000 apps that you can download which will work on your Z10.

I downloaded my CIBC banking app, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble NOOK app, Ebay, Overdrive (borrow ebooks) and the PhotoShop Express app. All of them worked fine on my Z10 and I can now wait a little longer for the native apps to be released for Z10. If you’d like to see what Android apps are available and learn more about side-loading, click here.

Cool Features

The Blackberry Z10 comes with a few standout features and apps. As I mentioned, with 8MP, the camera is pretty decent and after taking it with me sight-seeing in NYC, I can attest to the quality of the images. But the Z10 also has a really neat feature called “Timeshift’.

Have you ever tried taking a picture of your group of friends? Invariably someone is always blinking, looking the other way or not smiling yet. Timeshift helps you fix that without reshooting the photo. In fact, when activated, Timeshift actually takes 10 shots at once, and then using face recognition, gives you the ability to isolate each person’s face and choose the best shot. It works amazingly well.

The Story Maker app included with the Z10 makes it so easy to create your own high-quality movies in minutes. To test this function, I selected a number of photos of NYC, and a video clip I had taken of the Brooklyn Bridge. Next I chose the background music, added the title and credits and chose a theme from the six available. Within minutes I had made a fun video of my trip and uploaded it to YouTube. You can check it out here.

Unless you explicitly close an app on the Z10, it will remain running in the background utilizing true multitasking. Simply swipe your thumb up from the bottom of the device and the app will minimize into an active frame on the screen. You can have up to 8 apps running simultaneously, and you’ll notice that even in minimized form, the information or images in the app are changing or updating. To get back to an app, simply tap it with your finger. This feature makes it easy to jump from app to app without closing and restarting the apps.

The virtual keyboard on the Z10 is one of the best I’ve used. With next word predictive type, Z10 will begin to show words above the letters on the keyboard as it tries to anticipate what you will type next. You simply swipe up from the key to use the word it is suggesting.

It actually works really well and according to Blackberry it will learn from you so that it will get more accurate over time. I have typed some messages using all swipes after entering just two letters, and this really speeds up your typing, as you can imagine. This feature will impress even diehard physical keyboard lovers — but if you can wait until April 2013, the Blackberry Q10 with keyboard will be available.

Blackberry Balance is a great feature, allowing you to separate your work from your personal accounts, apps and data. The IT department can still choose what apps are available to you on the corporate side, and still have some control over your work side, but they can’t see the personal side. Although I haven’t yet been able to try this feature because I don’t yet have a work account on my phone, I think the separation is important and will please a lot of Blackberry users.

Blackberry has really focused on giving the user the ability to share information, pictures and videos easily on social media and other mediums and devices. If I snap a picture for example, I simply press the “Share” icon at the bottom of the screen and I can share the picture on BBM, text message, email, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, via Bluetooth, or even via NFC to another person’s Blackberry. Talk about options!

But that’s not all. One of the coolest features of the Z10 is the ability to play your music, videos and even pictures on your Smart TV or other DLNA devices (Blu-ray players, media players) without wires! Unlike the iPhone or iPad which require you to buy an adapter and HDMI cable, or an Apple TV device ($99) to play your media directly on your TV, the Z10 allowed me to stream my video clips right to my TV over Wi-Fi.

Overall Impression

After using the Z10 for a couple of weeks, I really like it. I think BB10 and the Z10 have delivered on the promise of a re-designed, re-engineered and re-invented Blackberry experience.

To me the Z10 is refreshing. The interface is innovative, Blackberry Hub and other functionality is unique and works well together. The ability to stream music, video and pictures onto my HDTV with no cables or accessories is exciting and impressed every person I demonstrated it for.

There are still some challenges ahead for Blackberry as they try to convince existing Blackberry users and new users to give them another look. But I think people will be impressed with what they see.

As more and more apps enter Blackberry World, and more phones hit the market (Q10 in April and perhaps others this year) Blackberry may prove to be a solid contender and alternative to Apple and Android.

The Final Verdict

The Good

  • Solid build, nice design
  • Beautiful HD screen
  • Unique functionality
  • Built for sharing media and information
  • Blackberry Hub is excellent
  • Great camera + Timeshift feature
  • Blackberry Balance
  • Ability to side-load Android apps
  • View photos, music and videos wirelessly on HDTV
  • Battery can be easily replaced or swapped out
  • Expandable memory
  • Price

The Bad

  • Small app selection – although more and more each day
  • Boot-up time was over a minute – 30 seconds longer than iPhone
  • Decent battery life but not as good as I hoped – won’t last full day with heavy use
  • Voice control – SIRI like functionality is just OK
  • Maps function is decent, but not as good as Google Maps

Blackberry 10 Launch – My Experience

I attended the Blackberry 10 Launch event in New York City last Wednesday. As a new member of Team Blackberry Elite, I was invited by RIM (now Blackberry) to attend the event as well as several other events and activities exclusive to the Elite program.IMG_0406

My first impression of the event was the grand scale of the location, and setup. Walking into the building at pier 36, which looked deceptively unassuming from the outside, I was met by a large crowd of people registering for the event. After obtaining my name tag and checking my coat, I shuffled to another much larger area filled with hundreds of reporters, analysts and other invitees enjoying a nice spread of bagels, pastries  fruit and more.

Surrounding us were large images of the back of new Blackberry, imagery outlining the new features of BB10 and screens showing live Tweets of the event. After having a bite to eat I wandered around taking it all in.

This was a huge day for RIM.  Some would say a “make-or-break” day. BB10, now over a year behind schedule, is in many people’s eyes, RIM’s last hope for survival in an industry it created a decade earlier.

Glancing down at my watch, I realized it was getting close to 10:00AM. I checked my email and had received a message from a RIM staffer who was to seat me that morning. I located Kari and she led me through the crowd into the main venue. An even bigger room, filled with rows and rows of chairs, even more people, and a large stage at the front. As we approached the stage, Kari led me to the 2nd row centre where I took a seat. Wow. What a seat!  The reality of the whole even was starting to hit me.

IMG_0418I removed my camera from its case and began snapping pictures. As people moved into the main hall, the atmosphere began to grow with excitement.

We were moments away from the biggest announcement in the company’s history. The previous year had been one of struggles, layoffs, bad press, the appointment of a new CEO and plenty of nay-sayers calling for the death of RIM.

Some said it was too late for RIM. The Blackberry’s world market share had gone from close to 50% 4-5 years earlier to just over 5% today. Apple’s iPhone and the newer Android phones had changed everything. Each new model stealing more and more of the market away from RIM. As the bring-your-own-device movement has grown, more and more people have gone from having a work phone or carrying two devices, to using just one device of their choice.

But during this time, even with plenty of defections to the competition, RIM had still managed to grow their user base to 80 million. Nothing to sneeze at for sure. But can it hold onto them? If RIM can help it…BB10 will change everything.

Thorsten Heins takes the stage to great applause. CEO for just a year, Thorsten has had his work cut out for him. He begins by welcoming the crowd and acknowledging the difficult year leading up to now. One of the first announcements made is that Rim (Research in Motion) will now become Blackberry, one brand.IMG_0428

The next hour or so are full of announcements,  demonstrations and plenty of cheering from the crowd. As Thorsten introduces BB10, dubbed a “mobile computing platform”, he goes on to explain that BB10 represents a platform for the next ten years.

Capable of running powerful devices, connecting devices like your car, and launching Blackberry into a new era. With growing anticipation, the new Blackberry smartphones are finally introduced to the crowd to great applause. As anticipated, they include a touchscreen model, dubbed the Z10, and a physical keyboard model — the Q10. Both models boasting larger screens than any previous Blackberries. The Z10 features a full 4.2 inch screen with higher resolution than the iPhone 5!

New features are highlighted, like Blackberry Balance — the ability to separate work and personal files and apps,  Timeshift photos, peek, and flow, Blackberry Hub and more. The integration of all social media together with email and instant messaging is RIM’s solution to information overload and the need to open various applications to check for updates on other devices.IMG_0452

Through various demonstrations we preview the new BBM video chat function and BB10’s ability to share a user’s screen with another across the country or across the globe. Next, the subject of apps!  Over 70,000 apps will be available at launch — the largest number of any “new’ platform at launch. Apps like Skype, Amazon Kindle, Angry Birds and over 1,000 of the tops apps for other platforms.

For me personally, a native Amazon Kindle app is absolutely huge and a welcome addition. As an ebook author and reader, the lack of a Kindle app for the Blackberry Playbook tablet had always left a big hole in my user experience. I look forward to trying it out on the Blackberry Z10!

At one point during the presentation, Thorsten pointed out that there were six launches happening around the world simultaneously — New York, Paris, Toronto, Dubai, London and Johannesburg — before pulling up a live screen showing the crowd at each event.  Truly a global launch!

Blackberry also used the launch as an opportunity to announce that Alicia Keys, the singer and performer, will be Blackberry’s new Global Creative Director. Alicia used an analogy about dating to describe how she had been a faithful Blackberry user years before, but began to notice newer, cooler looking devices at the gym and began “seeing other phones”. With the launch of BB10 she was now going steady with Blackberry again because it now met both her work and personal needs and looked sexy again. IMG_0451As one of her first assignments, Alicia will be travelling around the world, talking to customers and Blackberry users — and will document her experiences using her Z10.

When would the new devices be available?  The Z10 will be released first followed by the Q10 in early April.

Due to carrier testing they would not be available in the U.S. until March, but were available the next day in the UK, and on sale in Canada February 5th! Although prices may vary, Thorsten did acknowledge that the Z10 would be priced at $149.95 with a 3-year contract in Canada.

The one month delay for a U.S. release was a disappointment to many and could have a negative  impact on the momentum Blackberry is trying to build around the launch. Both the UK and Canada represent large, important markets for Blackberry and it will be interesting to see what sales look like in the next few weeks.

In his closing remarks, Thorsten told the crowd that everyone would leave with their very own Blackberry Z10 so they could try out all of the exciting new features for themselves. The crowd erupted!  It felt like an Oprah moment when she would give everyone in her audience one of her favorite things!

As things wrapped up, we all made our way to another room to demo the phone for ourselves and get some lunch. The event had left me feeling positive about Blackberry and its future. The devices looked great, and some of the new features were really cool. I was looking forward to trying one out myself!

I have now been using the Z10 for 5 days and I really like it. I am hoping to do a full review next week. Stay tuned.

To watch the live event, you can see it here.

The events didn’t end there for Team Blackberry Elite members. Following lunch we boarded a couple of buses and the Blackberry staff took us on a tour of the city/scavenger hunt type event. It was fun and we got to try out our new phones while seeing incredible NYC. Blackberry really went out of their way to not only show us a great time, but also to meet with all of us and answer our questions. I even met Thorsten Heins.

Later that evening my wife and I attended the Blackberry Fan Event at Milk Studios, where we were treated to free drinks and great music.  The place was packed and when Thorsten arrived he received a rockstar welcome! He even posed for pictures with all of the excited fans. What a fantastic trip, event and experience. Kudos to the Blackberry staff and management for a great day!

Blackberry 10 Launch

Blackberry 10 launchI attended the Blackberry 10 Launch event in New York City on Wednesday. As a member of Team Blackberry Elite, I was treated to a day of fun, food, excitement and city tours and ended with a Fan Experience party. I also left the event with a brand new Blackberry Z10 smartphone!

I am still in New York and have been using the phone quite a bit. I hope to do a full review soon. Stay tuned!

Is RIM Finished?

I feel compelled to write something following the most recent quarterly earnings by Research in Motion (RIM).

I have defended RIM over the past couple of years as it has taken its lumps from haters and analysts alike.  The company is going through a significant transition, not only in product lines (BB7 to BB10 platform) but with senior management as well.  With co-CEO’s Balsillie and Lazaridis stepping down in January 2012 due to significant shareholder pressure, and the appointment of Thorsten Heins as new CEO, the company got a bit of relief from the relentless thrashing and death knells in the media.

With new leadership came the hope that the company could make changes and right itself in time — before RIM’s plummeting market share did further damage to the brand and the company’s future.  Many feared it was too late to fix, and BlackBerry would go the way of Palm and Nokia.  Nokia is still with us, although barely — they have partnered with Microsoft and have abandoned their own operating system, Symbian, as it was suddenly outgunned by the Apple iPhone and Android-based smartphones on the market.  Nokia continues to struggle, lose market share and their future is very much uncertain.

Many call for RIM to make similar moves — abandon their BlackBerry platform all together, or sell off pieces of the company, get out the hardware business and just focus on their Blackberry platform and BBM messenger product or even license their platform to other companies like Samsung to produce their own phones.  The company continues to explore all strategic avenues, and cut costs.

But with their earnings report today, the company announced it lost $518 million, it will layoff another 5,000 employees and perhaps most devastating — the company is once again delaying the launch of its BlackBerry 10 smartphone line.  The company was to launch the new platform and phones this fall, but is now pushing the launch back until early 2013.  The company will now be another 6 months behind Apple and Google Android phones. Apple is set to launch the iPhone 5.0 in October — which is rumored to have a 4 inch screen and will sport iOS 6 to boot.

I fear that BlackBerry users and investors will now completely lose faith in this company.  The further delay of BB10 is perhaps the worst thing they could have possibly announced today, and shows that the company cannot execute.  The platform is now more than a year behind schedule, and RIM’s current crop of BB7 phones are growing older and older each day.  The company is only growing in developing markets.  Their market share in the U.S. and even Canada continues to plummet.

It is growing more and more doubtful that RIM can survive.  The company’s value is shrinking and will increasingly become a target of a buyout, which some see as their only hope anyway.  It has been a sad fall from grace for this Canadian icon.  The company created the wireless email and smartphone industries, but has now been overtaken as the industry leader and fights for its very survival.

Only time will tell if RIM can survive as a company.

 

 

 

 

Adventures in Computing Camps Sold

Great news for me this week. I am happy to announce that I have sold my computer camps business which I created and grew for over 10 years. Adventures in Computing camps operated on the campus of Algoma University, and offered fun and interactive summer camps for kids 7-16. Initially offering general computing and web design camps with a bit of game design mixed in, due to its popularity the focus of the camps eventually moved towards game design. Camps including Adventures in Video Game Design, 3D Game Design, RPG Game Design, and Pro Gamer camps as well as Adventures in Computing.

Over the years, I worked with some great people, and met tons of great kids — including a number of really smart, really talented kids. One of these kids even became my business partner in the venture, several years later. It is a great feeling to mentor a 13 year old over the years and then have him become an instructor and eventually offer to buy 50% of the company! Kevin has since moved on to further his career in web design. I’m also really please that another former camper and instructor has purchased the camps and will continue to operate them, and hopefully take them to the next level!

The camps were a great learning experience for me and I had a lot of fun. But a year ago I made the decision that I was ready to move on. Since I work full time, and operate Digital Adventures (in my spare time) and I am writing a book for young entrepreneurs, and doing tons of other stuff, I simply don’t have the time, and frankly after hitting the 10 year milestone — I was simply ready for some new challenges.

I am happy to see the camps live on…and I want to wish Stephen all the best in the years to come!

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