There once was a time when BlackBerrys — not Apples — ruled the (tech) Earth. That seems like ancient history now, but at the turn of the century, BlackBerrys were the gadget to have, sported by the cutting-edge early adopters and ultra-busy businessmen who were too important to miss a single email. The bread and butter of the device was its keyboard. It featured actual physical keys resembling tiny Chiclets that made typing nearly effortless. But the introduction of the iPhone (and subsequently, Android devices) all but relegated the BlackBerry to corporate offices. Plus, touch screens have essentially wiped out the public’s desire and need for physical keyboards.
But now Research in Motion Ltd., the company responsible for the BlackBerry brand, has decided to change its name to BlackBerry and bet the farm on a new device called the Z10. It’s expected to hit the U.S. market in March and features BlackBerry 10, which is an updated, slick operating system, along with polished-looking hardware. And here’s the shocka: The Z10 won’t have the brand’s famed physical keyboard.
The Z10 reviews are already coming in. So far, it’s a mostly lukewarm to positive batch of roundups. The performance of the 8-megapixel camera isn’t getting rave reviews nor is the battery life, but the tech world is praising the physical design of the device as well as its fluid software, which has a more unique look than Apple’s or Android’s operating systems. In a way, BlackBerry 10 recalls the software of the recently released Windows phones, relying on bold, interactive graphics and images rather than small, static icons. Although the camera’s overall performance was deemed lackluster, the critics are excited for the Time Shift feature, which allows you to scroll a second or two earlier than when the picture was snapped to get the perfect shot. And remember phone calls? They sound really crisp on the Z10. Not surprisingly, the one feature that everyone loves most is the one that BlackBerry does best: the keyboard. “It may be the best for any platform,” writes GigaOM.
Although the BlackBerry likely won’t persuade people to abandon their iPhones or Android devices (especially those folks who have bought into the app ecosystem of Google and Apple), it might persuade those who have an aging BlackBerry to stay with the program.