In a morning of busy news from the Waterloo, Ont.-based smartphone maker, BlackBerry Ltd. announced two new smartphones from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
That includes a new flagship phone for its beleaguered BlackBerry 10 operating system, the BlackBerry Q20, which will follow the BlackBerry Q10 with a hard QWERTY keyboard. The Q20 will also see the return of BlackBerry’s trackpad and its classic hardware buttons familiar to users of previous generation BlackBerrys – the Menu, Back, Send, and End buttons. The aim of returning the hardware buttons to the design is to enable fast, efficient navigation and one-handed use, according to BlackBerry.
In a press release, newly installed BlackBerry CEO and executive director John Chen said this is a phone for the BlackBerry loyalists and users who value productivity.
“In my first 90 days on the job, I consistently heard from our ardent BlackBerry customers that the hard buttons and trackpad are an essential part of the BlackBerry QWERTY experience, that made their BlackBerry smartphone their go-to productivity tool. I want these customers to know that we heard them, and this new smartphone will be for them,” Chen said.
Aside from delivering the software features bundled with BlackBerry 10 OS, the device will have a 3.5-inch screen size, larger than the Q10’s 3.1 inches.
For one BlackBerry user who has been holding on to his Bold 9900 and waiting to make the leap to a newer model, the Q20 is just what he’s looking for. Ryan Lake, a lawyer with Reisler Franklin LLP in Toronto, said he’s not one to upgrade for the sake of upgrading – BlackBerry makes a reliable, durable phone, and that’s why he likes them – but he’ll pull the trigger on an upgrade to the Q20 when it becomes available.
“Maybe I was reluctant to get the Q10 because of the fact it didn’t have the end button or the trackpad. It made things seem less obvious, and friends using it expressed that to me,” said Lake. “Now that the Q20 is coming though the barriers are down. It’s exactly what I want.”
If there’s one potential in Lake’s upgrade plans though, it’s the lack of specificity from BlackBerry on the timeline for the Q20’s launch. Currently, BlackBerry is just saying it will be available in the second half of 2014.
“I think (a specific launch date) would definitely work in their favour, because that’s the day I’m going to buy it,” said Lake. “Not knowing when it’s going to be released for certain means if something does happen to my phone and I have to make a decision, I might pursue something else and may sample the market.”
Since Chen has taken over BlackBerry from previous CEO Thorsten Heins, he has said BlackBerry’s hardware will focus on its traditional users that use BlackBerry in a professional context.
While BlackBerry says the Q20 will be available in the second half of 2014, it doesn’t have a prototype device to show off, or any images to show off. No details on pricing have been disclosed.
Value BlackBerry Z3 targets Indonesia
Also this morning, BlackBerry announced the Z3 smartphone, an all-touch screen phone with a 5-inch display similar to the Z10 and running BlackBerry OS version 10.2.1.
It’s the first smartphone to be manufactured with BlackBerry’s new Chinese partner, Foxconn. The device will be released first to Indonesia and features local apps and content for that market. It’s expected to sell for under US$200 without subsidies.
Chen also said BlackBerry would target Indonesia with new hardware late last year. While the smartphone market in much of the developed world is at saturation, the developing world is still growing in terms of smartphone adoption.