OK, so it usually doesn’t cost as much as a car, but a smartphone is still an important lifestyle purchase. And it will probably be at your side 24/7 (if you’re anything like us). There’s always a bit of hemming and hawing, for sure, but we’ve distilled the options down to a short list of the top handsets, with top picks for each OS. Head down to the gallery below for a quick stroll through our selections or check out our full buyer’s guide for the lowdown on the best smartphones, tablets, laptops and wearables that your hard-earned money can buy.
Apple has Siri, Microsoft has Cortana, Google’s got Now voice search and BlackBerry… doesn’t have a virtual assistant of any kind. This morning, however, the Canadian smartphone maker confirmed that it has one in the works and will be showing up on the company’s next major release. Known aptly as BlackBerry Assistant, the new program is a part of OS 10.3 and will be available on the upcoming Passport phone. Assistant is voice-activated and comes with quite a few of the standard features we’ve come to expect on the other mobile platforms, such as the ability to open apps, send messages and tweets, set reminders and change settings. It also is smart enough to learn and adapt to your needs, so it theoretically should become more useful over time as it gets to know you. BlackBerry isn’t revealing all that Assistant can do yet, and it hasn’t offered a firm timeframe for availability aside from the fact that it’ll be part of the Passport, but so far we haven’t seen much to set it apart from the competition. It’s at least a good sign that the company is trying remain competitive, however.
“We’ve gotten an incredible number of requests for BBM to come to Windows Phone,” BlackBerry proclaimed in its post announcing BBM for Windows Phone beta today. Whether that means 10 or 10,000 of you have been begging for the service is unclear, but either way, it’s just about here. You’ll get the usual list of features, such as individual and group chats, contacts and feeds, albeit with a refreshed Windows Phone-esque UI. BBM Voice, Channels and Glympse location sharing won’t be available initially, however. You can sign up for access to the limited beta today, or wait for BlackBerry to open up access to everyone within the next few weeks.
If you’re anything like us, your reaction to the unveiling of BlackBerry’s upcoming Passport smartphone probably involved a few choice expletives — why the hell would you ship such a blocky device in 2014? Thankfully, the company is more than happy to explain in a new blog post. It argues that the rectangular shape of most smartphones is fine for video and quick chats, but lousy for work. The Passport’s square screen may look odd, but it’s supposedly ideal for reading documents; you won’t have to scroll quite so much when checking out a spreadsheet or writing a magnum opus. Logically, that hardware keyboard also keeps the interface out of the way as much as possible.
They’re interesting ideas, and the unusual form factor might just work for BlackBerry’s suit-and-tie audience. Having said this, extra-wide smartphones have rarely fared well in a market that currently favors tall designs; LG’s Vu series (aka Intuition) hasn’t had much of an audience outside of its native South Korea, and the Pantech Pocket quickly fizzled out. The crew in Waterloo may have to do a lot more than write a brief explainer to get people ditching rival devices that are gentler on their hands and pockets.
Source: Inside BlackBerry
Turns out BlackBerry’s stronger-than-expected financial performance wasn’t the only surprise the company had for us today. CEO John Chen took a few moments during this morning’s earnings call to mention its newest phone: it’s called the BlackBerry Passport and it’s, well… just look at it. Bizarre.
BlackBerry teased the existence of a new device with a square, high-resolution screen before, but the Passport’s design isn’t exactly what we were expecting. Unlike other BlackBerrys with squared-off displays, the folks in Waterloo didn’t feel the need to craft a more traditional (some would say more hand-friendly) chassis. Nope, the Passport seems to bask in its angular tendencies, and that 4.5-inch display running at 1,440 x 1,440 — which works out to a pixel density of 452 pixels per inch — is clearly the star of the show. If reports hold true, you’ll also be able to trace out gestures directly on the (now cramped) keyboard, though why you’d do that instead of paw at a touchscreen is still unclear.
The company implored us all to “be bold” a few years back, and it’s definitely taking its own advice this time. Then again, squarish phones don’t have a particularly stellar track record. Remember the Pantech Pocket? The Motorola Flipout? LG’s Optimus Vu? We didn’t think so. The Passport is expected to make its official debut at a September launch event in London, so we’ll soon see if there’s something special lurking in within the Passport’s kooky frame.
Filed under: Mobile
BlackBerry’s plan to cut costs and shift to services is starting to pay dividends. While the company’s latest financial earnings report shows it’s still suffering losses, they aren’t as bad as expected. It certainly wasn’t thanks to its smartphones, which were once BlackBerry’s main source of revenue, as they fell to just 2.6 million units in the last quarter from 3.4 million in Q4. This time around, the Canadian smartphone maker didn’t divulge how many BB7 and BB10 handsets it sold, suggesting the newer OS just isn’t tempting consumers and businesses to part with their iPhones and Android devices. For reference: BB7 smartphone sales more than doubled those of BlackBerry 10 last quarter.
Again, BlackBerry saw the majority of its revenue (54 percent) come from its services, which CEO Jon Chen believes will help the company become profitable by 2016. But that all hinges on whether it can succeed in providing secure communications for large companies and government agencies. Right now, BlackBerry’s cost-cutting measures (and the sale of its Canadian offices) are helping to balance out this quarter’s mobile losses. But if it can’t boost income from the most profitable part of its business, BlackBerry could fit itself back at square one with no room to cut any more costs.
Source: BlackBerry (MarketWatch)
BlackBerry users haven’t exactly had an abundance of apps to choose from lately, due in no small part to the once-legendary phone maker’s dwindling market share. However, the company just reached an app library deal with Amazon that could give you a reason to hang on to that Q10 or Z30. When BlackBerry 10.3 launches in the fall, it will have access to the Amazon Appstore’s catalog of 200,000-plus Android apps — you’ll have little trouble finding Minecraft, Netflix and other big-name titles.
BlackBerry’s own app library isn’t going away. However, you can’t count on the official media stores lasting for much longer; BlackBerry World’s music and video sections are shutting down on July 21st. While you’ll still have access to your existing purchases, you’ll have to look to third-party services for anything new. That’s unfortunate if you regularly shop for flicks and tunes from your phone, but the larger Android library might help mitigate the loss.
Source: Inside BlackBerry
BlackBerry on Wednesday announced a new licensing agreement with Amazon which sees the hardware maker employing the Appstore for its handsets. Once realized, smartphones which run the forthcoming BBOS 10.3 will be able to tap into the Amazon Appstore and its more than 200,000 applications. Yes, this means the same Android apps available to Kindle Fire, Fire TV, and Android devices already running the Appstore. Due in September, the software update will give BlackBerry smartphones access to apps outside of the World store.
While BlackBerry has traditionally been a favorite among business users, Android and iOS have made significant inroads into the enterprise area in the past few years — bad news for a company that’s already been struggling this year. The BBM maker is still in the game, though, having just launched a product aimed at its base of government, insurance and banking customers: BBM Protected, the first piece of its eBBM suite. The “e,” of course, stands for enterprise, and the BBM Protected app lets BlackBerry owners instant-message with several layers of encryption to protect sensitive data.
Originally announced earlier this year, BBM Protected allows users to communicate securely with colleagues and chat with friends and family from the same app. As BlackBerry’s customers require, the protection is pretty heavy-duty: each message has its own encryption key, making it very difficult for anyone to decode an entire conversation. Protected chats aren’t limited to users within a single company, either; all BBM Protected users can exchange messages, even if they’re not on the same BlackBerry Enterprise service. Currently, BBM Protected is available on smartphones running BBOS 6.0 or later as well as handsets running BlackBerry 10 in Regulated mode. Expect versions tailored for Android and iOS — as well as one for BlackBerry 10 using BlackBerry Balance — to arrive later this year.
When you’re in a hurry to get that much needed sugar fix, you can’t be bothered to futz with things like actual currency or debit cards. Thankfully, Tim Horton’s now allows mobile payment options from iOS, Android and of course, BlackBerry devices for nabbing up a half-dozen quickly. A select few locations will accommodate those handset-driven payments via NFC while others allow scanning a receipt barcode to deduct monies from a the virtual Tim Card. iPhone users can also add the donut and coffee outfit to Passbook for easy access when the need arises. As you might expect, useful add-ons like restaurant locator, reloading funds, accessing nutritional information (which we recommend you just ignore, it’s donuts!) and others are baked right in.
You can now scan to pay on your mobile in restaurants with the TimmyMe[TM] App. Also supporting Apple Passbook. Details: http://t.co/kZu6l6pacE
- Tim Hortons U.S. (@TimHortonsUS) May 22, 2014
Source: Tim Horton’s