On Wednesday, BlackBerry (née RIM) announced to the world its new BB10 OS, as well as a pair of new touchscreen phones. But on the minds of many is the question of whether these devices and the new OS will be enough to turn around the fortunes of a company which has, of late, been preceived to be at death's door.
The BB10 OS departs from BlackBerry's previous software by leaning heavily (often exclusively) on the touchscreen. In fact, the first of the new phones, the BlackBerry Z10, doesn't even have a button to get you back to a home screen — everything is handled with swipes. This is a phone that is obviously positioned to compete more directly with the iPhone, Android handsets, and even Windows phones. It's due for state-side release in March and will be available at all four major carriers.
The BlackBerry Q10, on the other hand, embraces touchscreen applications while still giving concessions to those users who think a BlackBerry is synonymous with a built-in, chicklet keyboard. That physical keyboard takes up almost half of the front of the phone, while it rocks a touchscreen up top. This hybrid model strangely isn't mentioned on the U.S. Blackberry site (so far, it's only on the global one), but it's rumored to hit shelves here in April.
Industry experts have largely noted two potential flaws in BlackBerry's latest devices. Some argue that these phones have too many changes to appeal to current BlackBerry users, yet not enough uniqueness to appeal to customers who've been using other touchscreen devices for years. Some also wonder if the app landscape will be robust enough in our app-centric world. BlackBerry is promising that there will be 70,000 apps come March, but Apple and Android offer 10 times as many apps in their stores. These appear to be the same arguments that were leveled against the Windows Phone when it was first announced, and sales for those devices have been ticking along — maybe not at the rate that Microsoft wants, but enough to keep afloat.
Will BlackBerry's revamped smartphones have enough general appeal to become a popular fourth smartphone option? Time will tell! (But you can also tell us, by leaving your thoughts in the comments below!)