Your McMurray Tech Talk
The Return of the BlackBerry!
This may surprise you, but I was late coming into the smartphone game. I remember hearing about this hot new product called an “iPhone” back in 2007 but never really had an interest in anything other than my trusty LG flip phone and good ol’ T9 texting! It wasn’t until I was forced to carry a BlackBerry (the 7100 “Charm” series interestingly enough) for work that I finally embraced the power of the internet in the palm of your hand. This was the beginning of my mobile technology addiction. I have a vast collection of mobile phones including about 30 different styles of BlackBerry. Suffice to say, I was a fan of the flagship product of Canada’s own Research In Motion, but it was a love/hate relationship.
I was devoted to all things BlackBerry. BBM, the Crackberry website and crew, the high-end camera, its incredibly well-groomed email functionality…they were all very well built phones — until the “App” became popular. When Apple decided to open up its App Store to developers with the second generation iPhone, we started to see some amazing applications being used that enhanced your mobile experience in many different directions. While Apple was embracing these Apps from different developers by dedicating their products to personal consumers, RIM restricted their devices by focusing on business and enterprise development which of course left BlackBerry consumer Apps on the back-burner. Queue the downfall of Research In Motion.
Like I said, I loved BlackBerry but my distaste for the device began while at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics of all places. My brother and I were exploring the city during the festivities but we were having a hard time trying to nail down the public transit schedule (since that was the most efficient way to travel). We turned to our smartphones for help. While I was trying to pan and zoom through the browser on my BlackBerry Storm 2, my brother downloaded a very convenient BC Transit app on his iPhone 3G that had the schedule and GPS location in front of us in no time. That was the day my BlackBerry was almost thrown into the harbor.
I was a dedicated BlackBerry fan, but there was very little App support for their devices. Take the 500,000 Apps in the Apple App Store compared to the measly 30,000 in BlackBerry’s App World at the time, there was a very noticeable difference. Couple this with the major RIM server failure of 2011, when for three days there was no data connection to any RIM device. I was forced to use my phone as an actual phone. This was devastating and led me to jump ship to the Google Android devices.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen the destruction of Research In Motion. Their stock price has plummeted, we’ve seen major cutbacks in the organization, the “resignation” of their founders and the termination of company leadership. It has been nothing but a downward slope…but we all know how fairy tales end. With a new CEO in 2012, a new name technically (Research In Motion is out, company is now called BlackBerry Limited) and in January 2013 they announced a brand new software that will run all their new devices, called BlackBerry 10.
Dubbed “BlackBerry’s Saving Grace,” the new BlackBerry Operating System (OS) has been rebuilt from the ground up. Running on a QNX (Unix-like) system, the new software features a wide variety of features never before seen in a BlackBerry. Gestures is the new swiping system that allows multi-directional use of frames (think Windows on a phone), enhanced multi-tasking with frames, widgets, BlackBerry Balance (enabling users to keep both personal data and office work data separated in its own spaces), Voice Control (think Siri, but worse), a time-shift camera (lets users dial back the time on certain pictures so that people aren’t making less-than-ideal faces in it), BBM Video (exact same thing as FaceTime on an iPhone) and it will have the ability to use SOME apps built for Android software.
To use this new OS, BlackBerry released its new phone called the Z10. A full-touch screen device, the Z10 has your usual assortment of high-end phone goodies including an 8 megapixel 1080p rear camera, full HD 4.2 in screen, 1.5 GHz Dual-Core Processor, microSD slot and 2GB of RAM. BlackBerry will also release the Q10 which is pretty much the same phone, but will have a touch-screen AND a physical QWERTY keyboard that regular BlackBerry users have come to love.
Is the new BlackBerry worth it? Like I said, I never had an issue with the actual hardware of the mobile device. The Z10/Q10 looks nice and comes with the usual features that almost every high-end phone has to be competitive these days. The BlackBerry 10 software appears to be easy to use and still maintains the same functionality that I loved using before. The problem? Once again, there is no App support. While better than before, the new BlackBerry 10 App World still only has 70,000 Apps compared to the hundreds of thousands available for both Apple and Android. For example, Netflix has already stated they will not be creating an App to use on BlackBerry. This is only one company of thousands that has refused to support the new BlackBerry 10 platform.
While the new operating system is neat and sales of the new device have been positive, BlackBerry continues to remain focused on the business user rather than the personal consumer. Without the ability to keep up with the newest and coolest Apps available, I don’t think BlackBerry will be able to keep up in the current market dominated by Android and Apple. The damage has been done and it’s too little too late.
Speaking of Apps, Stitcher is a must have App for any smartphone user. In a day and age when GigaBytes are precious and data connections are available in droves, Stitcher allows users to “stream” their favorite talk-radio or podcast show directly to their mobile device without syncing or downloading.
Available for pretty much every mobile operating system out there, Stitcher aggregates content from thousands of providers such as CNN, CBC, FoxNews, Comedy Central and includes most podcasts found in iTunes. The App is extremely easy to use but will require your email address to log in. This ensures you have the ability to customize your favorite shows and have them readily available to listen to.
The App is available in any of the App stores out there for your mobile device or download it at www.stitcher.com. Be sure to favorite the “YMM Podcast” in the Stitcher App to get the latest show from your favorite folks in Wood Buffalo!