BlackBerry was once one of the most promising phone brands but in the past few years has seen dwindling sales as people move towards Android and the iPhone. Part of RIMs problem has been a failure to adapt to a changing market and ignoring current trends. The company recently reported a net loss financially and is pinning all of its hopes of a revival on a new generation of phones with a redesigned operating system.
RIM has released BlackBerry 10 for developers so that they can begin working on apps for the new generation of BlackBerry 10 phones ready for when they eventually hit the market next year. This has given us a glimpse of what RIM has in store with its new phones and it is fair to say that the new OS is a vast improvement on earlier versions. But is it enough to resuscitate the BlackBerry brand?
Part of RIMs problem is that its traditional core user base of professionals has largely migrated to other phone platforms, while the company has simultaneously struggled to improve factors that would make BlackBerry phones more appealing to its remaining customer base. In many markets BlackBerry is now largely favoured by younger users who are attracted to the free messaging provided by BlackBerry Messenger.
While this is a big driving force behind sales for these customers, BlackBerry phones do not compete all that well for other smartphone features that appeal to these users. BlackBerry's App World is rather Spartan compared to the App Store, Google Play, and even Windows Marketplace. Likewise, multimedia support on BlackBerry phones has lagged behind competing platforms.
Starting from Scratch
BlackBerry 10 addresses many of these issues while still building upon BlackBerry's core strengths. Like Microsoft, who a few years back decided to abandon its once popular Windows Mobile and replace it with a completely redesigned Windows Phone, RIM has decided to start from scratch with its new operating system.
==> Active Frames
RIM has paid close attention to the best aspects of Windows Phone and Android and also thought up some highly original ideas of its own. Rather than simply displaying a grid of icons or widgets, the BlackBerry 10 OS fills its homescreen with Active Frames. These are essentially smaller versions of running applications, and allow you to get a quick glimpse of information without constantly going in and out of apps.
==> BlackBerry Hub
All of the phone's core communication features are stored within BlackBerry Hub. This displays texts, emails, BBM conversations, social network info, upcoming calendar events, and other information all in one place. This can be accessed from anywhere on the phone by swiping up on the screen, and means that you never need to separately load up an email app, Facebook app or any other messaging app.
BlackBerry 10 also includes many other innovative and intuitive features such as the ability to set the time by dragging the hands around a clock, and an interesting time-lapse feature for its camera app.
RIM has managed to do more than just copy current trends; it has built upon them to offer something entirely new. The early version of BB10 certainly seems to be much more user friendly than iOS or Android and has the added advantage of a vastly improved BBM. RIM's biggest task now is to attract app developers to its new platform so that it is able to offer an app store comparable to Apple or Google.
BlackBerry's new phones will be released in two forms, the qwerty Blackberry 10 N Series and the touchscreen Blackberry 10 L Series. Having two types of handset will allow RIM to appeal to new customers while at the same time having something familiar to offer to its existing followers. RIM has made the changes it has needed to make, and the results are impressive. But if Windows Phone is anything to go by, developing a vastly improved operating system is no guarantee that BlackBerry will climb back to the heights it once enjoyed.
Do you think Blackberry 10 will revive RIM's fortunes?