BlackBerry in last chance saloon...

Steve Dinneen
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Blackberry – the company formally known as RIM – yesterday unveiled the handsets it hopes will help keep it in the smartphone space. The new devices, the touchscreen Z10 (out today) and the physical keyboard Q10 (expected in April), are also loaded with BlackBerry’s new operating system, BB10, in the biggest shake-up at the firm in years.

First impressions of BB10 are impressive. Multi-tasking is brought to the fore, with the ability to easily switch between eight apps, all running simultaneously. There is also a handy option to “peek” (their word, not mine) at your social networking and messaging updates without having to quit what you are currently doing.

It has an impressive camera with a very good in-built editing suite, allowing you to add filters and even flick forward a few frames if someone has blinked.

So far so good, but it is the app eco-system that could prove to be BlackBerry’s downfall – it has just a tenth of what is available on the App Store. Here are some of the new phones’ features:

The eight megapixel camera is one of the most striking improvements, with sharp images and enough editing tools to make Instagram junkies burn with envy.

The high-quality 1280x768 resolution makes the Z10 screen stand shoulder to shoulder with the best Android phones and Apple’s iPhone 5.

■ 4G/LTE
Both new phones are 4G compatible, meaning they will be able to run on the new superfast network designed to make mobile web browsing run significantly more quickly. EE customers will be able to start using it on the network today.

The 4.2 inch screen makes the Z10 quite a lot wider and a hair’s breadth taller than the iPhone 5. It manages this without feeling any heavier than its Apple rival. It is marginally thicker (9mm instead of 7.6mm).

The “peek” view (displayed on the screens to the left and right) lets you quickly flick between your apps and messages. The Z10 uses a series of smart gestures (for example swiping your finger in an “L” shape) to access different content without having to close down your current projects.

The Q10 has both a touchscreen and a physical keyboard, allowing you to scroll through photographs and select apps using your fingers. The display is 3.1 inches, giving a surprising amount of real-estate for a phone with a keyboard.

First impressions: “Wow, it looks just like the iPhone”, which is no bad thing. There is no physical “home” button, which gives the front a clean appearance, although plastic bevels at the top and bottom detract. The rubberised plastic back also feels a little flimsy – not something you can imagine Steve Jobs allowing.

This is one of the coolest features on the new BlackBerry Z10. The keyboard features “rails” between the rows of letters, which suggest the most likely next word, which you can select with an upward gesture. It will also learn your most frequent mistakes and mitigate for them when you’re typing.

The feature BlackBerry is most famous for is its physical keyboard, which the Q10 retains. Email junkies looking for the versatility of a touchscreen but the ease of use of actual keys will be impressed, although the handset seems like less of a progression from BlackBerry’s previous 8900 model.

BlackBerry wants to maintain its business ties and offers the ability to switch between “work” and “social” modes, meaning users don’t have to carry two phones. Companies even have the option to remotely wipe information.