BlackBerry Z10 launches first in the UK

BlackBerry Z10 handset to arrive in UK tomorrow, with keyboard-based BlackBerry Q10 to come later

The BlackBerry Z10 - one of a pair of handsets based on the new BlackBerry 10 OS - will be launched in the UK tomorrow.

The touchscreen Z10 is coming to the UK first, ahead of a February launch in Canada and March in the US. It will be joined later by the Q10, a device with a traditional Qwerty keyboard.

The new phones and operating system aren't the only big news: RIM is also changing its name entirely to BlackBerry.

The Z10 boasts a 4.2in touchscreen, with a 1,280 x 768 resolution. On the inside it has a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. Unlike most modern smartphones, it has a removable back cover allowing users to swap the battery and supplement the built-in storage with a microSD card.

BlackBerry is pitching the new devices as suitable for work and play, and that's reinforced by the connectors on the Z10, which include not only a micro-USB port but a mini-HDMI output too.

Several UK networks will be offering the device from tomorrow, with Vodafone pricing the Z10 at £29 on a £42 per month contract. That pitches the device straight into the high-end territory of the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III.

BlackBerry has yet to announce a launch date or pricing for the Q10.

Below you'll find a transcript of our live blog of the BlackBerry 10 launch, with more details on the handsets and operating system.

  • And after the most awkward goodbye kiss from Heins to Alicia Keys, it's finally all over. Very little detail on the new handsets, but we're expecting more on those at a press event tomorrow. Bye for now.
  • Alicia Keys is taking autocue reading to a whole new level.
  • "I was in a long-term relationship with BlackBerry... and I broke up with you for something with a little more bling," says Alicia. "Then you called... and we're exclusively dating again." This is why Alicia Keys isn't a professional comedian.
  • BlackBerry's doing an Intel - it's appointed a celebrity creative director: Alicia Keys. Presumably she's only working on the Q10 handset with the full Qwerty.
  • BlackBerry will complete testing of the new handsets for all international markets by the end of February. US partners taking pre-orders today. Expect Z10 to launch in US by March, and on 5 February in Canada. $149 on a three-year contract. In the UK, Z10 will be available tomorrow - we're getting it first!
  • "You can install multiple apps simultaneously, and there's no need to reboot your device!" screams BlackBerry demo man. Yes... welcome to 2013.
The first BlackBerry 10 smartphones - the BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry Q10
  • More big name apps: Facebook, Fox, Jetpack Joyride, The Economist... the names go on. BlackBerry has done a decent job of getting all these names signed up, given its coming from such a lowly position in a ridiculously competitive market.
  • BlackBerry claims to have more than 70,000 apps available for BlackBerry 10 today. That's impressive. Now starting roll call of big names: Skype, Amazon Kindle, SAP, Whatsapp, Angry Birds.
  • Showing off an app that allows you to create mini-slideshows containing photos, videos and music. Looks smooth.
  • Now showing off the camera. There's a white version of the Z10, by the way. This gets the mildest ripple of applause you've ever heard. Camera has a rewind-style feature that allows you to wind back and find a snap where the subject wasn't blinking. Intelligent idea.
  • Interesting new feature of BBM: screen sharing. It's essentially remote desktop for smartphones, allowing you to show your screen to someone else over the internet. Presumably they'll lock this down for corporate email accounts and apps.
  • BlackBerry Messenger now includes video calls. This is going to make organising riots much easier.
  • Now introducing BlackBerry Balance. Showing how work and personal apps can sit side-by-side, but are isolated at the system level, meaning corporate data can't be compromised, according to BlackBerry.
  • We're sorry, but Thorsten Heins has all the charisma of a cheese sandwich. CEOs need to learn when to step aside from presentations.
  • BlackBerry software keyboard allows you to "flick words" to the screen - using one thumb to land on letters and then swipe suggested words upwards into the message. Words can be deleted by swiping left. BlackBerry automatically recognises which language you're using as you type - which could be a deal-breaker for the Del Boys of this world.
  • BlackBerry contacts pulls down photos from social networking sites, such as LinkedIn - handy if you're meeting somebody you've never met before, although hardly ground-breaking. Contacts' company info, social network posts and meeting history is all available from the BlackBerry hub. They're clearly playing for the business market here.
  • Demo now showing off multitasking. Video playing on the handset continues playing in the background, as the user swipes in and checks their email inbox. Very smooth, although we wonder what effect that's going to have on battery life. And what happened at the end of the film...
The first BlackBerry 10 smartphones - the BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry Q10
  • And now the handsets: BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry Q10. Z10 is a full touchscreen device. Q10 has the regular Qwery keyboard you associate with BlackBerry devices. "We know there are a lot of physical keyboard lovers out there," says Heins.
  • First big announcement: RIM is changing its name to BlackBerry.
  • Heins thanks former CEO Mike Laziridis "for guiding us into the future". A little rich, given he nearly led the company to no future.
  • "We intended to lead the move from mobile communications to mobile computing," says Heins. "You will be in the middle of your personal internet of things. We will be a leader in connecting you to your internet of things."
  • And finally we're properly off... BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins is on stage. "It has been the most challenging year of my career to date," says Heins, who took over as CEO 12 months ago. "Innovation is at the heart of RIM and that opportunity I saw was BlackBerry 10." Let us see it then, Thorsten!
  • RIM taking product launches to a mind-warping low by cutting the hair of a desperately sad man who said he wouldn't cut his hair until BlackBerry 10 launched. Good. Grief.
  • RIM appear to be treating this launch like a low-rent version of the X-Factor. It's all big stages, cheesy presenters and pitches to camera. No actual details of anything important yet.
  • We're off. We're currently getting a barrage of video testimonials from people who've been paid to be excited about BlackBerry 10. Great.
  • Looks like RIM, like BlackBerry 10, is running a little late...
  • The journalists are being told to turn their 3G Wi-Fi hotspots off. RIM's clearly learned from bungled iPhone demos of yore.
  • The audience are being invited to take their seats - we'll be off shortly...

2:30pm - getting ready for the big launch

The BlackBerry 10 press conference is due to kick-off at 3pm. PC Pro's reviews editor Jonathan Bray is in the hall and will be delivering live updates, so keep coming back for all the latest on the new handsets.

It seems a selected few people are being given early access to the devices. Well, we say "people". Does Piers Morgan count? "I have the new #BlackBerry10 in my hands...and it's VERY cool," he just tweeted.

Looks like he can't tell the difference between an OS and an handset.

12pm - RIM's radio blunder

RIM Europe's managing director has been touring the radio and TV studios, trying to drum up excitement around BlackBerry 10. He may regret having stopped off at Radio 5 Live, where the (ahem) renowned technology expert, Nicky Campbell, repeatedly grilled the RIM executive on what he'd learnt from Apple's iPhone.

RIM's Stephen Bates continually dodges the question and sticks rigidly to his pre-prepared script of "unique features" and "transitions". As Campbell notes, it makes it sound as if he's "reading a press release".

You can listen to to the full, painful interview here.

10:50am – What RIM needs to do today

Despite the positive reception BlackBerry 10 has received thus far, RIM needs to deliver a real burst of inspiration to grab the attention of an iPhone and Android-obsessed market. The new OS has been delayed so long that smartphone enthusiasts have slowly drifted away, losing interest in an increasingly drab, uninspiring BlackBerry handset line-up.

If the rumours are to be believed (and there are plenty around), we might be disappointed. The Z10 touchscreen model looks set have a flagship price – around the same level as the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III – with a bank of familiar-looking specifications. Recent “leaks” put the screen size at 4.2in, the resolution at 1,280 x 768 and the camera at 8 megapixels, with a dual-core TI OMAP processor under the hood.

There’s less information about the keyboard-based X10. Inevitably, the screen will be smaller due to the Qwerty keyboard, with some putting the resolution at 720 x 720.

Perhaps RIM will unveil some magic feature that no other phone has. Maybe the predicted pricing is way off-beam. We hope so, because RIM needs to come up with something miraculous to make an impact today.

8:50am - BlackBerry 10 background

BlackBerry 10 was mostly detailed last year, when RIM handed off the mobile OS to developers, in the hopes of spurring app development.

The OS is a major break from previous versions, and is based on the QNX system that was used on its PlayBook tablet. Key new features include the "flow" interface that allows users to jump between apps without returning to a home screen, an on-screen keyboard that's already winning praise from reviewers, and Balance, a dual-profile system to keep business and personal apart.

With the software already fairly well known, the BlackBerry 10 launch will likely focus on the hardware. Two devices are widely expected, the BlackBerry Z10 and the BlackBerry X10.

The BlackBerry Z10 is a 4G touchscreen smartphone. It's expected to arrive in stores today, letting RIM capitalise on any immediate buzz around the handset. The BlackBerry X10 features a qwerty keyboard, more in keeping with traditional RIM efforts.

The company earlier this week revealed a list of big-name content producers that had signed on to create apps and sell music or video via the BlackBerry store, including Disney, Sony, Universal and Warner Music.

RIM also extended a programme designed to attract developers to work with the OS by guaranteeing approved apps $10,000 in income in the next year, and held a "porting party" over the weekend to help developers move existing apps over, reaching a goal of 15,000 ahead of the launch.

Will it work?

BlackBerry's market share is down 9.6% over the past year in the UK, but it still holds third place with a 6.4% share - just holding out over Windows Phone, according to data from Kantar WorldPanel.

Its position leaves many wondering if the once dominant BlackBerry is set to go the way of Palm, or if it has the ability to rebound - possibly not knocking iOS or Android out of the top two spots, but staying alive in the bottom rung of the rankings with Nokia on Windows Phone.

The new BB10 offers the best UX on the market – not perfect, but certainly a rival to the iPhone 5, with even greater performance

The slick BlackBerry 10 OS has raised optimism among analysts - even if investors have driven RIM's share price down this week.

Gartner's Phillip Redman said that while the handsets matter, RIM was right to focus on the mobile OS - and could very likely find success.

"It’s the user experience that will make the difference, which is where RIM focused its energies. From what I have seen, it pays off," he said in a blog post. "The new BB10 offers the best UX on the market – not perfect, but certainly a rival to the iPhone 5, with even greater performance."

"The question is: will the market take it?" he asked. "So I’ll go on record here saying that it will. Now I don’t expect it to surpass iOS or Android sales, but I think this device has great comeback potential."

If RIM's comeback doesn't succeed as hoped, the BlackBerry platform has a backup plan: licensing the OS out to other manufacturers. Indeed, CEO Thorsten Heins has said it's "conceivable" BlackBerry might be licensed out even if it's a success, suggesting RIM was right to focus on the software rather than only the hardware.

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