BlackBerry touchscreen model to launch Feb. 5
Published Wednesday, January 30, 2013 6:32AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 30, 2013 10:26PM EST
Research In Motion stock closed down nearly 12 per cent Wednesday -- after hitting a 52-week high just last week -- despite the company unveiling its new smartphones and operating system at splashy launch events around the world.
The company -- now officially rebranded simply as 'BlackBerry’ -- introduced its new BlackBerry Z10 touchscreen model, and BlackBerry Q10, which has a physical keypad. They are designed to compete with iPhone and Android models, offering slick touchscreen performance, video-calling, screen-sharing and the ability to switch easily between personal and professional profiles, said CEO Thorsten Heins.
The Z10 will be available in Canada on Feb. 5, with the Q10 to follow shortly after. It’s expected that the Z10 model with be priced at $149.99 on a three-year contract.
"Today represents a new day in the history of BlackBerry," Heins said at the Manhattan launch, before unveiling the new devices and demonstrating the built-in-house operating system known as BlackBerry 10.
The new phones, which were originally set to be released last year, are seen by some analysts as a make-or-break product for the Waterloo, Ont.-based tech company.
Hours after the launch, RIM stock closed down 11.78 per cent to $13.86, which was already lower after hitting $18.49 the previous week. Shares had been trading at $6.10 just last September.
RIM arguably invented the smartphone, but Android and iPhone have moved into the lead in recent years, setting the standard for touchscreen technology and smooth Internet browsing -- areas where BlackBerry devices have struggled in the past.
Wednesday's launch is intended to put BlackBerry back at the forefront of the industry.
Following are some key points from the Wednesday announcement:
- BlackBerry Balance allows users to switch between professional and personal profiles on a single device.
- BlackBerry Hub acts as a slick centralized location for social media messages, updates and all other incoming messages.
- The phones have a unique word-recognition system that allows users to swipe the word onto the screen -- something Heins called "writing without typing."
- The new operating system allows users to seamlessly switch between the phone's applications.
- 70,000 apps are available for the new operating system, the largest number for any first generation launch, Heins said.
- Video calls can be made directly from BlackBerry Messenger, with the option of sharing your screen.
Among the first critics to weigh in was David Pogue of the New York Times, who started his review with a mea culpa for previously telling people that BlackBerry was doomed.
“Well, BlackBerry’s Hail Mary pass, its bet-the-farm phone, is finally here,” he wrote. “It’s the BlackBerry Z10, and guess what? It’s lovely, fast and efficient, bristling with fresh, useful ideas.”
Charles Arthur, technology editor at Britain’s Guardian newspaper, wrote of the Z10 that he “liked its style” but found fault with the “lack of compelling apps” -- although 70,000 will be available.
The tech blog Gizmodo found fault with the Z10’s camera in low-light. It tried the phone without its flash against the Apple iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S III, and Nokia Lumia 920, and said the initial test “doesn’t bode well.”
Shane Schick, editor of expertip.ca, said the new products are about “reinventing the phone experience.”
“All those things that we tend to find irritating as users when we’re reading an email and want to go and answer a phone call or go from a phone call and then use an app, they’ve really made an interface that’s a lot more seamless,” Schick told CTV News Channel Wednesday evening. “You can just swipe your finger gently across and get to the things you need.”
He said the devices will appeal to new smartphone users, as well as to “more experienced users that really want something that will be a lot faster and will be a lot more what BlackBerry called ‘hyper-connected’ today.”
BlackBerry held events in Manhattan, London, Toronto and in other major centres around the world to reveal the long-awaited phones.
BlackBerry phones have historically been known for their full keypads, but the BlackBerry 10 seems to represent a shift in focus to touchscreen technology, which Apple established as the industry standard with its iPhone.
Still, the company isn't ready to abandon the keypad altogether.
"We heard you loud and clear," Heins told the audience while showing off the Q10. "We built this for those people who said they just had to have the physical keyboard typing experience."
Schick said the new products are not necessarily enough for the company to overtake its Apple or Android rivals.
“What I think you’ll see with RIM and with this release is a chance to become a really strong third player or a third choice in that ecosystem,” he said. “I think the market wants that alternative, and hopefully that’s something they can do with this product.”
RIM is expected to launch a major marketing campaign in the coming weeks to promote the phone, including a Super Bowl commercial on Sunday.
Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for science and technology, said Wednesday’s announcements are indicative of the importance of innovation to a company’s survival.
“I think the lesson we can learn from this is that companies who innovate and push the envelope of technological advancements will be the winners in this global economy,” Goodyear told CTV’s Power Play. “And those companies who don’t do research and develop the results of that research will probably be in trouble.”