By Ian Bush
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – BlackBerry is hoping for a blockbuster with its new smartphones — even adding Grammy-winner Alicia Keys as a celebrity spokeswoman (see related story).
But do the devices live up to the company’s hype?
There’s the Q10, which has actual keys below the screen.
“It’s going to appeal to BlackBerry’s bread-and-butter audience — the people that really want a physical keyboard,” says Dan Seifert, editor of the tech site The Verge.
And there’s the full touchscreen Z10, which Seifert found easy to use in one hand, although it has no ‘home’ button like we’re used to on other smartphones.
“If you’re coming with something like the iPhone or even most Android smartphones, you’re used to having a button of some sort at the bottom,” he explains. “Everything in the new BlackBerry operating system is gesture-based. There is a definite learning curve to how you exit applications by swiping up or accessing your settings by swiping down.”
He says BlackBerry’s apps need some work, but the web browser — traditionally a sore point with BlackBerry users — is impressive.
“It’s a WebKit browser,” Seifert says, “which is the same technology used by the iOS and Android. It loads heavy sites without any issue, and plays Flash video content.”
While Seifert rates the BlackBerry camera lower than most Android and iPhone models, he likes its Time Shift function. It snaps photos before and after you press the shutter button and allows you to dial up your subject’s most photogenic face.
But even with these new devices, Seifert believes BlackBerry will have a problem winning over iPhone or Android users.
“The people who are already invested in the system, whether they are former or current BlackBerry users — they’re really going to like it,” he says. “The problem for RIM [Research In Motion, now simply ‘BlackBerry’] is how is the company going to capture new users. If you’re familiar with the iPhone and Android, there’s not really much here that’s going to say you need to switch to BlackBerry 10. None of the features that RIM has been touting really feels like they’re compelling enough to make someone switch.”