1-7 March 2013 #645

Not smart enough

BB10 is a beauty to behold and hold. The 356 ppi pixel makes the screen look brighter and sharper than rivals

BlackBerry loyalists have stayed faithful to the classic Canadian-designed handhelds mainly because of their mechanical keyboards and the ease of browsing and downloading emails on the go.

BB was still doing this well until two years ago, but failed to gauge the shift in consumer mood towards touch-screen androids and iPhones which also have browsers and tons of apps. The global market share for smart phones of BB-maker, Research in Motion (RIM), fell from 20 per cent to merely 3.4 per cent this year. Last year, Samsung and Apple made up more than half the market share for smart phones.

RIM watched itself becoming a dinosaur, and this year it released the Blackberry 10 the new handheld on which it is betting its future comeback. The phone was launched last month, but won’t be available in Nepal till mid-year. Service provider Ncell says new BB10 features such as free video chats on BB messenger won’t be available locally for sometime.

For those of us in Nepal who have handled the new phone, the conclusion is that this gadget is too little too late to rescue BlackBerry. New features such as The Hub unified message system, navigation gestures and limited apps don’t really make you go “wow”. While BB may be able to retain some users and even woo back some who have defected to Androids and iPhones with its slick ultra high-res touch screen, the conclusion is that the rivals are way ahead. And for old fogeys like Yantrick, who are still attached to the mechanical keyboard, I think I’ll wait till the Z10 comes out later this year.

But yours truly tested a sample block of text on the virtual keyboard on the BB10 with the phone horizontal and compared it to the mechanical keyboard on his classic BB Bold. And surprise! I could actually type marginally faster on the BB10 with fewer typos because of the unique feature of predictive word completion (New!) on the 10. If this proves that BB can get people to switch from physical keyboards to virtual, then it will be a major coup. Still, will it make me shell out Rs 60,000 when the phones hit the market in Kathmandu? Hmmm (scratch, scratch) have to think.

That said, the BB10 is a beauty to behold and hold. Although it is plastic, it doesn’t feel like a Made in China Khasa knockoff, although many parts of the BB are actually made in China. Since size matters, the 10 fits snugly between the iPhone 5 which is thinner and smaller, and the Samsung Galaxy which has girth and is a bit too bulky for the front pocket. But more importantly, the 356 ppi pixel makes the screen look brighter and sharper than rivals. The 8 megapixel camera is adequate for home use, but isn’t much better or worse than Samsung or Apple.

Yantrick’s Verdict: BlackBerry loyalists will be happy to upgrade to a 10 and the machine may stem the haemorrhage of users, but it is just not new enough to woo back traitors who have deserted BB for Samsung Galaxy.

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