After years of watching users ditch its once-popular BlackBerry devices for more modern smartphones, RIM has decided to make one last effort to regain some of its former glory – and market share. The company has changed its name (now BlackBerry, Inc.) and its strategy, this morning announcing the first true BlackBerry smartphone: the Z10.
Question is: is it too late?
The BlackBerry Z10 bears little resemblance to its messenger-class predecessors. With a 4.2-inch touchscreen, rounded corners and flat sides, it’s difficult to escape comparisons with current iPhones – at least in terms of design. The Z10 is powered by a dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 processor with 2GB of RAM, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11n Wi-Fi, LTE, NFC, and 8MP/2MP cameras.
The BlackBerry 10 OS that drives the Z10 has been completely rewritten, and is heavily dependent on touch gestures to get the user from function to function. Engadget has posted a fairly extensive review of BB10, which is a must-read if you want to better understand the direction the OS has taken.
It doesn’t appear that the Z10 has any must-have features that would make a significant number of iPhone or Android users make the switch, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens when the new device is released in a few weeks. It will be available from the four major U.S. carriers, with LTE support from all but T-Mobile. Price with two-year contract will be around $200.
Watch the BlackBerry 10 & Z10 launch event video.
Two mobile platforms dominate the current smartphone landscape – iOS and Android – with two others hoping to gain ground – Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10. But there’s a fifth mobile OS on the horizon that may make an impact as well – Firefox OS.
Developed by Mozilla , Firefox OS is based on open web standards and APIs, and would, at first, be aimed at low-end devices that would be affordable for consumers.
The first developer hardware for Firefox OS is set to launch soon: the Keon (seen above) and the Peak, with a larger screen and more advanced hardware. Both will be sold by GeeksPhone. These handsets are not aimed at consumers, but at developers who wish to write software for the new OS.
No pricing or release information has been made available, but the hardware is expected to begin shipping soon.
It remains to be seen if Firefox OS can be a serious player in the mobile market, or if it’ll be more of a boutique project.
NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 System-on-Chip (SoC) powers a range of current high-end tablets including the Google Nexus 7 and the Microsoft Surface RT. But the company is hard at work on the next-generation of their ARM platform, the Tegra 4.
According to a newly leaked document, the Tegra 4 – codenamed Wayne – will (like its predecessor) include four application cores, but will move to the latest Cortex-A15 architecture. It will also have 72 graphics cores, besting the Tegra 3’s 12-core GPU handily. These extra cores will enable screen resolutions up to 2560×1600.
The Tegra 4’s app cores will likely be clocked between 1.2 and 2.0GHz. It will also include support for USB 3.0 and DDR3.
NVIDIA is expected to unveil the new SoC in Q1 2013, with the first devices powered by the Tegra 4 likely shipping mid-year.
As expected, Amazon announced its updated 2012-2013 Kindle family this afternoon. In addition to two new eInk readers, three Android-based Kindle Fire tablets were also introduced, two with HD displays.
The Kindle Fire HD models are available with either a 7-inch or 8.9-inch touchscreen, the smaller costing $199 with 16GB of internal storage, the larger priced $100 more. Both screens are HD, with the larger 8.9-inch model featuring an impressive 1920×1200 display with 254PPI (a slightly less-dense pixel count than the iPad 3). New display construction methods are said to reduce glare and increase effective viewing angles.
The larger Fire HD includes the new TI OMAP4 4470 ARM SoC processor, which Amazon says outperforms even the NVIDIA Tegra 3, currently considered to be the fastest tablet SoC.
Amazon also has a 4G version of the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD, which gives you 250MB of use per month for an annual fee of $50. Impressive. This model comes with double the storage, 32GB, and is $499 – $230 cheaper than a comparable iPad 3 and far more affordable once you factor in the monthly cost of 4G access on Apple’s tablet.
The standard Kindle Fire also received a reported 40% performance bump, improved battery life, and a price cut – now $159 rather than $199.
Pre-orders start today with the new Kindle Fire and 7-inch Kindle Fire HD shipping in mid-September. The 8.9-inch models will ship in November.
Nokia’s adoption of Windows Phone has, as yet, yielded less than outstanding results, but the company is pressing on, planning to announce two Windows Phone 8 handsets at a press event scheduled for September 5th, just as Microsoft finalizes the second full version of their smartphone OS.
The first Windows Phone 8 smartphones on Nokia’s calendar are said to be codenamed Arrow and Phi, both in the Lumia family that now includes the Lumia 900 and Lumia 710. It’s possible that the Arrow and Phi will be given similar numerical names upon release.
AT&T will be selling the Phi, a high-end model similar to the Lumia 900, with LTE onboard. The Arrow, a mid-range Windows Phone 8 handset from Nokia, will debut at both AT&T and T-Mobile according to The Verge – LTE details unknown.
Nokia is also rumored to have a CDMA/LTE Windows Phone 8 device, codenamed Atlas, in the works. It will be headed for Verizon later this year.