Can the Blackberry 10 Put the Company Back on the Smartphone Map?

Remember the Blackberry? The sleek smartphone was all the rage in the late-2000s, with its QWERTY keyboard and efficient screen, much larger than any flip phone of the era. The phone was popular among business professionals, college students, and even President Obama. Blackberry enjoyed a nice rivalry with Apple’s iPhone, but the popularity quickly waned. RIM’s shares plummeted, and Blackberry seemed more like a punch line, and physically, a paperweight. Well, those days could soon be over!

This morning, Research In Motion (RIM), the phone’s Canadian manufacturer, officially unveiled the Blackberry 10 in six cities around the world: NYC, London, Dubai, Toronto, Paris, and Johannesburg. The company is actually offering two different models, the X10, a throwback to the classic Blackberry, including a physical QWERTY keyboard, and the fully-touchscreen Z10. Despite the “old school” look, the X10 comes with a larger screen, and eliminates the trademark trackball/trackpad found in older Blackberry Bold and Curve models. In addition to the grand unveiling, RIM also announced that it has officially changed its name to…Blackberry.

Blackberry 10

The new Blackberry 10 models: X10 (l) and Z10, unveiled Wednesday.

Chief Executive Thorsten Heins promised fans “more ways to connect your mobile experience to the world around you.” As a result, the newest Blackberry phones offer more apps such as Youtube, Skype, and WhatsApp, along with games like Angry Birds, which wasn’t available on prior models. The popular Blackberry Messenger returns, now with video calling capabilities, along with an 8 MP rear camera (2 MP front facing), and a function called “Screen Share”, which allows users to display images and screenshots. Also offered are Instagram-like photo filters for editing, and an app called “Blackberry Story Maker”, which allows you to create slide shows, complete with graphics.

At the unveiling, Super Bowl XLVII anthem singer Alicia Keys made a cameo appearance. It turns out she’s now Blackberry’s “global creative director”, and will help the company regain its status as a popular smartphone, and get the word out to others who, like her, switched to another phone. Said Keys, “I’m going to work closely with the app designers, the carriers, to explore this BB10 platform.”

In the United States, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile plan to announce pricing and availability later today (January 30), but many anticipate a late-winter release date and a retail price of about $200 with a contract. Check with your provider for the specifics.

It’s been a good 3 or 4 years since Blackberry’s true heyday. Will RIM be able to keep up with the heavy hitters in the smartphone market – Apple and Android? Only time will tell, but so far, it’s looking pretty impressive! What do you think? Will you consider getting one, or are you content with your current smartphone?