New system, but BlackBerry's latest models fail to excite

THE maker of the BlackBerry has introduced a re-engineered operating system, two new phones, and a new company name in the hope of reviving its dwindling market share.

THE maker of the BlackBerry has introduced a re-engineered operating system, two new phones, and a new company name in the hope of reviving its dwindling market share.

BlackBerry's chief marketing officer, Frank Boulben, said the smartphone market was currently a duopoly but "the cards can be re-dealt". Referring to iPhone and Android, he said the smartphones of today were based on a "paradigm" introduced six years ago, namely the grid of app icons and home button for users to dip in and out of applications.

"We are not selling a me-too product; what we are selling is a unique and differentiated proposition," Mr Boulben said.

Despite mostly positive reviews, the new models failed to excite investors, and the company's stock lost ground. But it is still trading at more than double its nine-year low reached in September.

While the Z10 is aesthetically similar to the iPhone 5, the new phones feature a redesigned user interface that does away with home, back and search buttons and instead allows users to flow seamlessly between apps using swipe gestures. BlackBerry 10 also offers several unique features such as tight social media integration and seamless switching between personal and work profiles.

The Canadian company also announced it was ditching the name Research in Motion for a single brand: BlackBerry.

Pricing and availability for Australia has yet to be announced by local carriers, however Telstra and Optus have confirmed they will offer at least the Z10 here. In the US the Z10 will be available next month while the Q10 is expected to arrive in April. BlackBerry said Australian availability would be "in line" with the US.

Between 70,000 and 100,000 apps will be available at launch on BlackBerry World, which executives said was "more apps at launch than any first generation platform".

BlackBerry's chief executive and president, Thorsten Heins, said BlackBerry had gone through a "journey of transformation" that was the most challenging year of his career.

"Two years ago we had to make a very serious decision, adopt someone else's platform or build a whole new one," he said. "We made the tough call to go it alone ... we have transformed ourselves inside and out."

That decision meant the new BlackBerry devices were delayed for over a year as competitors such as Samsung adopted Google's Android platform and gobbled up a huge chunk of market share.

Mr Heins described the screen on the Z10 as offering a "cinematic experience", while the physical keyboard on the Q10 was the "best typing experience in the industry, period".

The reporter travelled to New York as a guest of BlackBerry.

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