Just because BlackBerry is done making its own smartphones doesn’t mean it won’t be a big name in consumer tech. The company has unveiled the BlackBerry QNX Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Center (AVIC), a facility in QNX’s Ottawa home that will be key to building the framework for self-driving cars. It’s not crafting the autonomy code, but it will create the underlying platform. One of its first initiatives will have it team up with Renesas, PolySync and the University of Waterloo to build a concept vehicle to test on Ontario roads.
To put it mildly, the Canadian government is enthusiastic. While it’s not funding the research hub (QNX’s John Wall says there’s a possibility down the line), it sees BlackBerry’s work as key to making Canada a go-to source for self-driving car software. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was a key guest at the December 19th inauguration event, where he touted AVIC as both a job creator and crucial to making Canada a “global leader” in autonomous tech.
For BlackBerry, this is a chance to shed its public image as a failed smartphone giant and make a name for itself in a field where even big players like GM and Tesla are just getting started. The problem: AVIC won’t be the only development center vying for attention. Apple also has a self-driving software team in Ottawa, and poached at least some of its employees from QNX — including former chief executive Dan Dodge. BlackBerry will have to convince staff that it’s worth sticking around, and that its technology has a bright future in spite of the competition.
Via: The Globe and Mail
Former smartphone company BlackBerry opened a new autonomous driving research center on Monday in Ottawa, Canada, according to Reuters.
BlackBerry is betting its future on the self-driving car business following its 2010 acquisition of QNX, a company which develops software for multiple in-car infotainment systems and whose software became the foundation of the BlackBerry 10 mobile operating system.
Image via Reuters
The new R&D facility is an extension of Blackberry’s existing QNX operations in the region and is said to be developing advanced driving features like automatic emergency breaking, intelligent cruise, and complete driving autonomy.
The company will use Lincoln vehicles from Ford retrofitted with autonomous hardware and software as a basis for carrying out tests, with a direct partnership with Ford also reportedly in the wings.
Blackberry is one of three organizations to receive clearance from the government of Ontario to test self-driving vehicles on public roads, having avoided the sort of ire brought upon Uber by Californian regulators regarding nascent self-driving laws.
California says Uber needs permits for its cars because they’re equipped with technology that allows them to operate autonomously, but Uber has argued that employee drivers are always seated and in full control of its cars.
Google has also complained about the situation regarding state and federal laws for self-driving vehicles, but Uber has gone further by completely ignoring authorities’ demands. California’s state attorney has threatened to sue the company if it doesn’t take its cars off the roads immediately.
Apple has met with California DMV officials in the past regarding self-driving car laws within the state, with its Apple Car team reportedly focusing on autonomous systems rather than an out-an-out vehicle design. Earlier this month, Apple confirmed its interest in autonomous cars in a letter to federal regulators requesting equal rights for “new entrants” to the auto industry.
Early this year, Apple was also said to have opened an R&D facility in QNX’s hometown of Kanata, stirring speculation that the offices could be linked to the development of its own autonomous car systems.
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BlackBerry’s days of making its own smartphones are over, and that means it’s time to hand the responsibilities over to someone else. The Canadian company has reached a “long-term” deal with TCL (which repurposed Alcatel phones as the BlackBerry DTEK50 and DTEK60) that licenses both the BlackBerry name and software for future devices. TCL will design, build, sell and support the hardware — BlackBerry is just putting its security-oriented spins on the resulting handsets. You’ll learn more about the phones resulting from the deal in the “coming months.”
You could see this pact coming from a mile away: there were already expectations that BlackBerry phones would carry on, and TCL was already a close partner. Even so, it’s an important symbolic step. After years of trying and failing to turn its smartphone business around, BlackBerry is officially handing the baton to another company that has had a much better time in the modern phone market. You probably won’t see a full-on BlackBerry revival any time soon, but that’s not really the goal here. The TCL deal keeps the BlackBerry name in the public eye, and gives its remaining software business a better shot at success.
Twitter is trying to curb the virulent racism on its platform by banning bigots and expanding reporting features, but it’s like whack-a-mole — two pop up for every one banned. However, a new research paper shows that calling out users who post racist and sexist slurs can heavily curb trolling. There’s a catch, however: it’s much more effective if the “white knight” is, well, white
NYU student Kevin Munger started his social experiment by seeking out 231 Twitter users who frequently used the term “n****r” in a targeted manner with the “@” symbol. He chose accounts that were at least six months old with white male users, describing them as “the largest and most politically salient demographic engaging in racist online harassment of blacks.”
Munger created fake Twitter bot accounts using names typically associated with both white and black males, and added racially corresponding cartoon avatars. He then purchased fake followers for some of the accounts, leaving others with a sparse count. When his algorithms detected posts containing the n-word with the right criteria (targeted with “@” replies, high offensiveness score, adult and white male), the bots replied, saying “@[subject] Hey man, just remember that there are real people who are hurt when you harass them with that kind of language.”
The bots showed that rebukes from apparent white male Twitter users with high follower counts caused posts containing n-word slurs to drop around 27 percent. Furthermore, the practice worked even after several weeks, albeit with reduced effectiveness. “The 50 subjects in the most effective treatment condition tweeted the word ‘nigger’ an estimated 186 fewer times in the month after treatment,” the paper notes.
However, white users with low follower counts and apparent black males had little impact on harassment. And many users, even those not anonymous, actually posted further negative replies to the bots in those cases. “This finding concords with my hypothesis that the largest treatment effect would be that of receiving a message from a high-status white man,” Munger writes.
The experiment was limited to white and black male Twitter users to ensure that “the in-groups of interest (gender and race) don’t vary among the subjects, and thus that the treatments are the same,” Munger says. However, he adds that “an important extension to the study would be a manipulation to reduce misogynist online harassment, which continues to be a large problem for women on social media.”
By updating [community members’] beliefs about the norms of online behavior, the [bot] treatment caused a significant reduction in the use of racist slurs.
The usual way of fighting racism on social media (by banning users) can backfire, Munger says, “and cause people to confuse the use of racist or misogynist slurs with defense of free speech.” As evidence of that, he cites the GamerGate movement’s siren call (“ethics in journalism”) and folks attracted to Trump’s “ethnocentric” presidential campaign.
Researchers have long thought that contact between different groups can reduce prejudice, but as Munger notes, that has been difficult to prove experimentally. His paper, he concludes, shows that by “updating [community members’] beliefs about the norms of online behavior, the [bot] treatment caused a significant reduction in the use of racist slurs.” The next step is to test whether this actually changes underlying attitudes toward racism in the real world.
Via: Ars Technica
Source: Kevin Munger
Apple may have put the brakes on plans to build its own self-driving car, but the company’s plug-and-play, self-driving operating system is still moving forward, even if the team has been scaled back. According to a new report from Bloomberg, what’s left of Project Titan is coming together at Apple’s Canadian office in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata, using a big team of engineers poached from BlackBerry’s automotive software division QNX.
While QNX is best known for building in-car entertainment systems, the company started making software for autonomous vehicles in the past year. Former QNX CEO Dan Dodge was actually hired to run Project Titan earlier this year, but as one executive told Bloomberg, more than two dozen former BlackBerry engineers are now commuting to Apple’s Kanata office to build its car platform instead — which must sting a little bit now that BlackBerry has finally bowed out of the smartphone wars.
Since Apple doesn’t have a real world vehicle to build, the company is said to be testing its self-driving platform using VR simulations built in-house by a separate Project Titan team led by VR/AR expert Doug Bowman. While those are a lot of high-profile hires in the past year, the Titan team was hit with a big round of layoffs during its restructuring last month and those that are left are still working to deliver a viable self-driving solution under a hard deadline of late 2017.
BlackBerry has announced the DTEK60, the second in its range of Android smartphones manufactured by a third party. Like the DTEK50, the actual device has been put together by TCL, leaving BlackBerry with the job of making sure that it’s secure enough to be loved by corporations. The biggest new feature, compared to its predecessor, is the new fingerprint scanner that allows you to unlock the device as well as use Android Pay.
The DTEK60 is a little bit bigger than its older sibling, packing a 5.5-inch QHD display and a 3,000mAh battery. If we were guessing, we’d assume it was based on the same design as TCL / Alcatel’s Idol 4S, which packs a similar screen and display, not to mention the same fingerprint scanner. But unlike that handset, this one carries BlackBerry’s security know-how tucked inside, including the hardware “root of trust.” The other big difference between the 60 and the Idol 4S is in the camera, since BlackBerry’s version is packing a 21-megapixel rear camera.
Then there’s the usual raft of BlackBerry additions, including the company’s intelligent keyboard, unified inbox tool and rapid security patches. It’s not clear how much built-in storage the device ships with — we’re guessing 16GB — but it comes with a microSD card slot that’ll push that figure up to 2TB. The BlackBerry DTEK60 is available to buy from the company’s website today, setting you back $499 / $650 CDN / €579 / £475. If you deal direct with BlackBerry and pay before November 8th, you’ll also be handed some form of phone case (depending on your region) and a rapid charger for free.
Smartphone company BlackBerry confirmed today that it will cease internally developing its own handsets and rely on partnerships with other companies “for any future hardware efforts,” lining up with company CEO John Chen’s estimation that he would know by September 2016 whether or not BlackBerry would continue participating in the hardware manufacturing business (via Recode).
Chen said the decision was a monetary one, as the brand’s presence continuously dwindles in percentage stakes of the smartphone market, capturing only 0.2 percent of the market as a whole in the fourth quarter of 2015.
“The company plans to end all internal hardware development and will outsource that function to partners,” CEO John Chen said in a statement. “This allows us to reduce capital requirements and enhance return on invested capital.”
“We are reaching an inflection point with our strategy. Our financial foundation is strong, and our pivot to software is taking hold,” Chen said. “In Q2, we more than doubled our software revenue year over year and delivered the highest gross margin in the company’s history.”
Over the summer, the company announced the discontinuation of the BlackBerry Classic as a way to pave the way for more “state of the art devices.” Since then, it’s released the security-focused DTEK50 smartphone powered by Android, and Chen has stated that the company plans to release two phones by February 2017.
BlackBerry today also announced a net loss of $372 million on revenue of $334 million, but the company noted that it “essentially broke even, on adjusted revenue of $352 million.” Coinciding with all these announcements, chief financial officer James Yersh has left the company “for personal reasons,” and is being replaced by Steven Capelli, a former executive at Chen’s last company Sybase.
The company has been battling against the surging popularity of iPhone and Android smartphones for years, last year announcing a new physical keyboard-enabled, Android-based device on the same day that the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus launched. It’s also been phased out of some popular mobile apps, namely PayPal, which discontinued apps for BlackBerry, Windows Phone, and Amazon Kindle Fire earlier in the year.
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In BlackBerry’s latest quarterly financials released today, the company revealed it’s getting out of the hardware business once and for all, choosing instead to “outsource that function to partners.” It’s not a huge shock given BlackBerry CEO John Chen has foreshadowed the cut and run several times. Earlier this year, he warned that if hardware wasn’t making a profit by September it would be time to call it quits, and he’s kept his word after the Mobility Solutions division posted an $8 million loss for this past quarter. This doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of BlackBerry handsets, though; they just won’t be produced in-house anymore.
With a review headline that reads “cheap, secure and better than expected,” you might expect the device in question to have earned a high score. As it turns out, this is a BlackBerry we’re talking about, which is to say, “better than expected” doesn’t necessary mean you should actually buy one. The good news is that the new DTEK50 offers solid build quality at a reasonable price: just $299. For the money, you also get improved security over typical mid-range Android phones — a potential selling point for prospective business customers. While this is indeed a decent choice for IT departments, individual users can get more for their money at a similar or slightly higher price (read: faster performance, longer battery life and superior image quality). Basically, then, while the DTEK50 surpassed our admittedly modest expectations, you can still do better.
BlackBerry launched their first Android smartphone ever last year, and while there were a lot of people who were eagerly awaiting its launch, the Priv fell short of expectations. Granted, there were some good things going for it, but a lackluster camera and premium pricing meant that their first effort wasn’t exactly a smash hit.
- BlackBerry PRIV review
- BlackBerry DTEK50 hands on
Now, BlackBerry is back with their second attempt, and what BlackBerry is touting as the most secure smartphone in the world. What else does this device have to offer, and is security enough of a selling point to make this phone worth buying? We find out, in this in-depth BlackBerry DTEK50 review!
Buy the BlackBerry DTEK50 now
When looking at the BlackBerry DTEK50, you will find that this device appears to be eerily similar to another phone that we’ve seen before, but not to worry, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. The design of the DTEK50 is actually based on the same TCL reference design that Alacatel used with the Ido 4, making them pretty much identical.
Everything from the curves at the top and bottom, the rounded corners, flat sides, and the dual front-facing and rear-facing speaker setup is found with the DTEK50, and the only distinguishable design element that separates this from the Idol 4 is on the back. Instead of a glass backing that is available with the latter, the DTEK50 features a textured material with a silicone-like feel.
This difference actually works in favor of the BlackBerry smartphone, with it not attracting fingerprints, and allowing for a lot of grip. The general shape of the DTEK50 is reminiscent of the Nexus 4, especially when looking at it from the front, so I’m definitely a fan of the design. It’s simple, clean, and easy to use with one hand, thanks to the thin side bezels and small top and bottom chin.
Taking a look around the device, the SIM and microSD card slot is on the right side, and the headphone jack and microUSB port are at the top and bottom respectively. The volume rocker is also on the right, and below it is a large circular button that you would expect is the power button. Instead, it is what BlackBerry is calling the “convenience key.” This is a completely programmable button that can be used for a variety of functions, like composing a text, controlling the LED flash, toggling Wi-Fi, or opening any app.
The power button is located on the upper left side of the phone, and that is actually my biggest gripe with the design of the DTEK50. Unless you use the phone with your left hand, it can be quite awkward and difficult to reach the power button, and will certainly take some getting used to. Thankfully, the phone does come with a double tap to wake and sleep feature, and even though it may not work as well, and can be quite slow at times, it’s still better than having to reach for the power button all the time. The convenience key can be used to lock the device, but unfortunately cannot wake it.
The BlackBerry DTEK50 comes with a 5.2-inch IPS LCD display, with a Full HD resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 424 ppi. It’s not a display that is going to amaze, but you certainly won’t have any complaints either. It gets bright enough to see outdoors, has decent viewing angles, and offers a good amount of color and contrast, without being oversaturated. 1080p is more than enough at this display size, and reading text, watching videos, and playing games are all enjoyable on this screen.
Under the hood, the DTEK50 comes with an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor, clocked at 1.5 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 405 GPU and 3 GB of RAM. This processing package is pretty standard fare when it comes to mid-range smartphones in 2016, but the performance is a little bit of a mixed bag. With normal, everyday use, the smartphone works perfectly well.
The touch responsiveness is good, and opening, closing, and switching between apps doesn’t result in any problems, even if there is an occasional stutter here and there. While gaming, however, is where you will notice a lot of hiccups. Games are very playable for the most part, but load times can be pretty long, and there tends to be a lot of choppiness and lag when playing a game as basic as Pokemon Go.
This issue is even more pronounced if there are a lot of graphical elements on the screen at the same time. Games like CSR Racing 2 have to render graphics at a much lower resolution, and also limit some in-game functionality in order to run smoothly, which is a little disappointing. If you’re big into mobile gaming, the DTEK50 won’t make the cut, but for everything else, this phone will certainly get the job done.
You only get 16 GB of on-board storage with the DTEK50, but the device does offer expandable storage via microSD card up to 256 GB, so if you are looking to download a lot of apps and games, you will definitely need to pick up a microSD card.
One of the best aspects of the DTEK50, as is also the case with the Idol 4, is the speaker setup of the device. You get dual front-facing speakers as well as dual rear-facing speakers, and the sound quality is pretty good. They get plenty loud, and the audio doesn’t sound tinny, or become distorted at the highest volumes. Since the speakers are also mirrored on the back, and you can put the phone face up or down without any deterioration in sound quality. The only issue with these speakers is that because of the tiny machined holes, they are very prone to getting dirty and trapping dust.
On the battery side, the DTEK50 comes with a 2,610 mAh unit, which is rather small when compared to other similar smartphones that are available. As such, battery life proves to be a weak point for this device. You can get a full day of battery life with light usage, but if you are someone who likes to play games, watch videos, and check social media often, the phone will unfortunately not last a day.
With similar usage, I needed to charge the device after just 7 or 8 hours. You do get Qualcomm QuickCharge 2.0 support, so it doesn’t take long to get back to a full charge, but if you are on the move often, picking up a battery pack may be a good idea.
The BlackBerry DTEK50 comes with a 13 MP rear camera, with a f/2.0 aperture, phase detection auto focus, and a dual LED flash, along with an 8 MP front-facing shooter, with a f/2.2 aperture.
As far as the camera app is concerned, it is quite simplistic, with not a lot of bells and whistles. You don’t get any extra shooting modes beyond the standard video, photo, panorama, but it does have a bunch of live filters built in. There is also a HDR Auto mode, and a built-in manual mode for controlling the focus, white balance, shutter speed, ISO, and exposure.
To get a great looking photo with this camera, the lighting conditions have to be perfect, but even then, there is a noticeable lack of sharpness and detail when zooming in. The color reproduction is good though, when shooting outdoors or in well-lit areas.
However, in low-light conditions is where the image quality really deteriorates. The camera constantly hunts for focus, making it very difficult to take a photo, and when you do take a shot, they’re usually very noisy with a lot of artifacts, and the images just look soft and muddy.
The front-facing 8 MP isn’t particularly noteworthy either. You can take some decent selfies with it, and the notification LED can also double as a front-facing flash to help you get slightly better results in low-light situations, but the results are still typically not that great.
The big selling point of the DTEK50 isn’t the design, the camera, or the specifications. It’s all about the software, and the security that comes along with it. The majority of the security comes from the DTEK application, which is also what gives this phone its name. DTEK will show you the security status of the device, and this can change over time the more you use the phone. With DTEK, all your data is encrypted, and you can control the permissions of individual apps and what they’re allowed to access, so you never have to worry about apps having access to things that you don’t want it to.
There’s also a factory reset protection, so in the event that someone steals your phone and factory resets it, they still won’t be able to use the phone without knowing your Google account info. Whether it really is the most secure smartphone in the world is pretty tough to say, but BlackBerry is promising that they will be very quick to release security patch updates as soon as they are available.
The rest of the software is a very stock-like Android 6.0 Marshmallow experience, with a lot of Blackberry’s software enhancements on top, many of which were seen with the Priv last year. It comes with BBM installed by default, which is something I personally don’t use, but could be ideal for those who still love communicating via BBM.
However, I do like a lot of the features from BlackBerry, and many of them are actually pretty useful. You have the productivity tab, which you can access by swiping from the right, to see your current calendar events, emails, tasks, and your most recent contacts.
My favorite feature of the lot definitely has to be the BlackBerry Hub. If you aren’t familiar with it, the BlackBerry Hub is your one stop shop for virtually all your notifications. It aggregates your BBMs, text messages, emails, phone calls, and social media, all in one place, making them very easy to check. It does have some issues, such as Gmail not rendering properly through the Hub, but for the most part it does what it is suppose to do extremely well.
You can also swipe up from the bottom, similar to how you would access Google Now before, but here, you get access to three app shortcuts, which are set to BlackBerry Search, the dialer, and the Hub, by default. You can change them to whatever you want though.
BlackBerry gives you a lot of room for tweaking and customization, and something that I really enjoy is the fact that you can use third party icon packs to customize the default launcher. If you’re a fan of widgets, the Pop Up widgets is another very useful feature. Basically, any app that you have that supports a widget will display 3 dots beneath it, and all you have to do is swipe up to open the widget. It’s a really elegant solution to using widgets without having them take up any space on your home screens.
Of course, you can’t talk about a BlackBerry without talking about keyboards. The DTEK50 is an all touch screen device, so it obviously doesn’t have a physical keyboard, but it does come with BlackBerry’s own software keyboard. It’s accurate and easy to type on, and I like that the predictive text allows you to swipe up on a letter to quickly complete a word.
BlackBerry’s software isn’t perfect, and it does have some minor quirks, like the way the app drawer looks when the apps are sorted alphabetically. They’re not only sorted alphabetically, but it’s also sectioned out by the letter, and visually just doesn’t look very appealing. Overall though, I’m a fan of the software package, and their features add a lot of value, without making the experience feel boated, or taking away from the stock Android experience.
|Display||5.2-inch IPS LCD display
1080p, 424 ppi
|Processor||1.5 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617
Adreno 405 GPU
expandable via microSD card up to 256 GB
|Camera||13 MP rear camera, f/2.0 aperture, dual LED flash
8 MP front-facing camera
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
GPS + GLONASS
|Software||Android 6.0 Marshmallow|
|Dimensions||147 x 72.5 x 7.4 mm
Pricing and final thoughts
The BlackBerry DTEK50 will be priced at $300 in the US, and will be available unlocked, and can be used with AT&T and T-Mobile.
There you have it for this in-depth look at the BlackBerry DTEK50! $300 is relatively cheap, especially if you want a smartphone that prioritizes security. If that is the case, you’re probably not going to find a better deal.
However, as far as phones go, there are a few better options out there that offer a lot more for similar prices, like the OnePlus 3, the Moto G4 Plus, and the Axon 7. If you do store a lot of sensitive information on your phone, the DTEK50’s top notch security will be well worth the investment, but if there is one major flaw, it is that BlackBerry didn’t make it a better phone all around.
What do you think about the BlackBerry DTEK50 and would you buy one? Is smartphone security as important to you as say, things like the camera, display or battery? Let us know your views in the comments below!
Buy the BlackBerry DTEK50 now