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New BlackBerry phones don't wow investors, but analysts see promise

January 30, 2013 02:57 PM ET

But Gold added that BlackBerry must quickly take advantage of interest in the new features. The company said it plans to spend many millions of dollars on advertising, starting Sunday during the Super Bowl.

The company is pushing the BlackBerry Balance feature for people who use BlackBerries at work, along with a so-called "Remember" tool that will allow users to set up folders with names like "vacation" to hold specific emails and voice messages for later review.

Gold said he is very impressed with video chat features that allow workers to easily share PowerPoint slides, graphs and charts. A video chat feature works via Wi-Fi connections and, reportedly, over cellular networks such as fast LTE.

O'Donnell said he was impressed with BlackBerry's initial marketing plans, which include the signing of singer Alicia Keys to promote the devices to her fellow working moms -- an important demographic to address.

Keys appeared on stage at today's event, where she described giving up another smartphone in favor of the Z10. "She's articulate," O'Donnell said, although he conceded that it's not clear how much a celebrity endorsement can do to help promote a smartphone. Previous BlackBerry devices have been promoted by singer Bono and the hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas without great success, he noted.

Observers have said that the relatively small number of apps available in the BlackBerry World app store, now about 70,000, has been a significant disadvantage for the company. In comparison, both Apple's App Store and Google's Android Market each have about 10 times as many apps available.

O'Donnell, though, said the number of BlackBerry apps is sufficiently broad for both consumers and business professionals. "How many apps does a person really need?" he said.

BlackBerry said Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare apps will be pre-installed on the new devices. The devices can also access WebEx from Cisco, Skype and Rovio, among other services.

Several reviews of the Z10 appeared shortly after the device was announced, including some by reviewers who had used it for more than a week.

The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg called the Z10 a "work in progress" while CIO.com reviewer and blogger Al Sacco praised many features, such as a quick-reaction touchscreen and the ability to "flick" corrected words from the virtual keyboard onto the display area of the touchscreen.

The Z10 has a 4.2-in. display with 1280 x 768 resolution. The Q10 has a 3.1-in. display and a 35-key physical qwerty keyboard. The Q10 is not as long as the Z10 and is slightly lighter, but otherwise the two devices are almost the same size. Overall, the Z10 is 5.1 x 2.6 x 0.35 in. and weighs 4.8 oz., and the Q10 is 4.7 x 2.6 x 0.4 in. and weighs 4.9 oz.

Both devices run a dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. Both have 2GB RAM and 16GB internal storage with a microSD slot for up to 32GB for the Z10 and 64GB for the Q10.

Also, both devices have an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 2-megapixel front camera.

Both smartphones have NFC technology for mobile payments and file sharing, and they will support Wi-Fi and 4G LTE or HSPA+.

BlackBerry didn't share details about the Q10's battery life, but said the talk time on the Z10 is 10 hours on a 3G network. Heins said both devices have removable batteries so a power user can carry a second battery to insert once the first is drained.

BlackBerry didn't specify U.S. pricing plans and said that carriers will announce their prices for the devices later. In Canada, the Z10 will ship on Feb. 5 for $149.99 with a three-year contract.

The first shipments of the Z10 will be in the U.K. starting on Thursday. In the U.K. and many other European countries, BlackBerry devices are more popular than they are in the U.S. The BlackBerry Messenger messaging service is also heavily used in Europe and the U.K.

Outside of the U.S., the name will be written as Z10, just as it is here, but unlike in the U.S. it will be pronounced Zed10, according to BlackBerry officials.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at Twitter@matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed Hamblen RSS. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Read more about Mobile/Wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.



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