No matter how much one enjoys the customizable options of Android, the simplicity of iOS and the dashing looks of Windows Phone, many are looking forward to a competitor soon to be launched on the market. Lurking silently in the darkness, BlackBerry OS 10 may be RIM’s final hope of grabbing a healthy percentage of the mobile world that now became too smart for RIM’s old tricks.

In the era of huge displays and multiple touch layers, BlackBerry is still a name betting on physical keyboards for phones, but not for tablets. A new breed of RIM smartphones are expected to arrive alongside the new generation operating system and today we analyze the existing rumors and facts, to help users understand that although RIM’s appeal may be almost dead, solutions exist.

A bit about BlackBerry 10

blackberry 10 os

BlackBerry 10 is the QNX-based operating system from RIM, which is set to arrive at the end of January 2013, as RIM’s CEO Thorsten Heins stated one month ago. The presentation conference is set on the 30th Jan 2013 and invites are pouring in for cities around the globe, including New York City, Toronto, London, Paris, Johannesburg and Dubai.

A smarter way to type

blackberry 10 keyboard

Android and iOS already have seasoned developers working on their touch keyboards and when smart individuals help innovation, like those who created Swype, ideas are embedded instantly with a new update. On the other hand, I like to believe that BlackBerry has an ace hidden somewhere, when it comes to keyboards.

In the new edition, the BlackBerry virtual keyboard will provide an effortless typing experience, with a specific feature that we are yet to see on any smart mobile OS, so far. Much like any other keyboard we’ve seen, the system will suggest words to help users type faster, which will be displayed intelligently on the keyboard itself and linked to the next letter, not above them, like in Android. I personally believe that RIM’s way is more convenient.

Another intelligent addition relates to the memory, the keyboard itself learning the user’s most frequently used words, its mistypes, and uses all the information to subtly adjust predictions next time. Moreover, swipe is used for typing, the keys are really stretched so they can be easily pressed and in some cases, the space is automatically inserted (just in case you forgot to).

Intelligent Camera

The BlackBerry 10 camera will come with some new-age features, which I personally can’t wait to test. For instance, on 80% of the pictures that I take my eyes are closed, for some reason that I cannot understand. Thanks to Time-Shift, one of these new features, I can swap the awkward situation with a moment when my eyes were opened and save the picture like it was made then. This works for any face detected in pictures, and the rest of the background will not be modified, just like Microsoft did it with Lumia.

Improved navigation experience

bb 10 homescreen

The mobile world is a bit too saturated with Android and Apple rumors, but when it comes to new BlackBerry, I guess that RIM wants to keep things under wraps until launch. At the moment, there has been little demonstrated when it comes to the new QNX-based user interface. From a video posted with an Alpha build of the upcoming operating system, we’ve found out that users can vertically swipe the lockscreen to reveal or hide the homescreen, in a very curtain-ish way.

Moving between different homescreens is done pretty much like in Android, using horizontal actions and by the help of numerical buttons, and application feel normal, for an evolved mobile system. What we loved was the zoom-out feature, which allowed users to slightly minimize an app window so that the background becomes once more visible.

blackberry 10 hub
How the BlackBerry 10 Hub will look like

Just like in any other system, users will have a suite of built-in applications (hub) for Facebook, Mail, Twitter and many others, that may seem a bit different than on other systems, but not in a bad way. For instance, software options will usually be made visible on the right side of the screen, instead of the bottom part like on Android.

A great improvement brought by BlackBerry 10 is the ability to themify your mobile, each one suitable for a different situation. For example, one can have a layout for a day-to-day experience and one to be used explicitly at work, with different apps linked on the homescreen, different visual style and different accounts signed into apps. Known as BlackBerry Balance, this feature is already present in the PlayBook OS and can be activated by swiping down the home screen.

Blackberry 10 also comes with a stylish silencer, that can be activated by pressing once on the upper physical button and then by sliding down the notifications bar. Using this procedure, users won’t receive any notifications whatsoever and a clock for setting alarms will conveniently take over the screen.

blackberry 10 siri-clone
This is the Siri of BlackBerry 10

To integrate perfectly into today’s mobile landscape, it seems that RIM has also integrated a Siri-like voice assistant, which can help users accomplish simple tasks through the use of dictation.

A new breed of BlackBerry 10 Smartphones: L-series

blackberry 10 l series

At this moment, the first truly smartphone generation from RIM is scheduled to land in the first quarter of 2013, with more details being expected on January 30, in the official BlackBerry 10 revealing conference. Those of you who already know, RIM has previously shared a round of testing devices to BlackBerry developers, in order to rush application development and to help polish the system. As hinted by many sources, the upcoming line-up will be at least a class higher.

The idea behind BlackBerry 10 L series is to launch a couple of devices to fit every taste. Till now, we know for sure that a model resembling the looks of a casual iPhone 5 but with a stylish touch of RIM will be soon launched. There are few details regarding technical specification and other insides like that, but as it was seen through many leaked videos, the devices runs smoothly. When it comes to looks…

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Rumors also claim that L series models will be also launched in different color variants, white being perhaps the most appealing. On the other side, the L series will also contain a model with a physical QWERTY keyboard integrated, meant primarily for business clients. From what I recall, this model is said to arrive a bit later than its sibling, supposedly until the end of the second quarter.

A leaked slide show also talks about a range of BlackBerry 10 cases, multimedia docks, battery charging bundles, transformer shells, flip shells and even more. Most likely, RIM is betting on accessories to overcome the lack of a physical keyboard on some models, and to fulfill the desire of seasoned clients.

The current market opinion on RIM’s upcoming product

avid consumer

Not many consumers know about BlackBerry 10 and the L series. Those who do are usually tech followers or members of the industry, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Everyone knows about RIM and it’s BlackBerry phones, well enough to acknowledge the new generation, when it will be released. Until then, let’s take a look on the most notable RIM spikes in the news:

  • Stocks are optimistic – due to a positive review from Jefferies & Co analyst Peter Misek, RIM’s stocks grew more than 3% and reached about $10.04 one month ago on NASDAQ. This was the first time in the past few months when RIM reached the two digit mark, and it was mainly based on the potential BlackBerry 10 OS holds and the fact that telecommunication carriers all around the world are supporting the upgrade.
  • Continuous carrier support – Misek’s prediction discussed above reflect BlackBerry 10’s chances of actually succeeding on a market currently owned by Android, iOS and slightly touched by Windows Phone. When it comes to carriers, it seems that RIM has yet to be forgotten and big names worldwide back-up the cause. For example, RIM convinced over 50 carriers to test the new products and ultimately sell it, while the most recent evidence come from Canada, the home-country of RIM, where Rogers has allowed customers to already reserve a BlackBerry 10 device online. Moreover, Bell is also rumored to join the party on December 20th.statistics
  • Proper marketing – letting people know about new products is essentially and as far as we consider, RIM is doing the proper thing. One of their best accomplishments is the inclusion of very large BlackBerry 10 ads in a recent issue of New York Times, a newspaper read by many. Within the pages, RIM managed to speak about three essential features: the HUB, the camera and the keyboard. Also, these new features could as well be explored in the NYT online page as well. Another interesting move was to open access to upcoming devices and features to enterprise customers, just like in a closed beta session.
  • Interface imitations – another evidence of people expecting the upcoming OS is the BlackBerry 10 theme constructed by the drkapprenticeDESIGNS team. Usable on existing devices, this theme replicates the user interface of the new OS and comes with a wide range of customizable options.

Will BlackBerry 10 and L-series save RIM?

This is the question we’ve been meaning to answer all day. In the past five years, RIM’s stock have been retreating like no other, the margin value dropping from a maximum $150 registered sometime in 2008, to today’s $13.93 (things have been even worse). Although the drop is not influenced so much by RIM’s mobile department, we can safely say that phones in RIM’s history have shifted the balance.

When investigating RIM’s mobile segment and its future chances on the market, we cannot ignore the steady support that the company is currently receiving. Since they went public with BlackBerry 10, the stock situation has risen considerably and we expect not to stop growing, at least until the moment of launch.

rim nasdaq
RIM’s stock situation for the past year, courtesy of Google

There are still a lot of unknown elements in the equation, elements that weight heavily against other Android / iOS competitors, but RIM has some advantages. Unlike Microsoft and Windows Phone, where enthusiast was mainly built on the fact that something new is going to be released (that and a big pile of money from Microsoft towards developers, publishers, etc.), RIM already has a decent foundation of loyal fans. There are lots of people who can’t wait for BlackBerry to be back on top and in this circle you can find people ranging from the basic consumers, to celebrities and especially, enterprise clients.

Moreover, RIM has the support of seasoned developers when it comes to mobile applications and some existing names, including the BlackBerry Messenger 7 service, can be truthfully called one of the best on the market. This software is so nicely polished and constructed, that even Android and iOS users want it.

Once again, when it comes to applications, be it old or new, RIM knows how to attract developers. Just yesterday, a developing event ended in Hong Kong and the best of participants received prizes from the company, and promises to be highlighted in front of customers.

The conclusion is quite simple, and predictable. If all goes well, and according to RIM’s plan, we might just see a shift of powers into today’s mobile market. The third place, currently held by Windows Phone, may be won back by RIM in 2013, thanks to the appealing look of the new L series and possible, a successful operating system. Expecting more than that is simply ridiculous, because a newly launched platform cannot beat the biggies within an year.

As for RIM’s grim fate, we will certainly see an improvement, but “how much” remains to be seen.

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