Chip-Monks  ⁄  BlackBerry

BlackBerry Limited, formerly known as Research In Motion Limited (RIM) is a Canadian telecommunication and wireless equipment company best known as the developer of the BlackBerry brand of smartphones and tablets.

A global leader in wireless innovation, BlackBerry revolutionized the mobile industry with the introduction of the BlackBerry enterprise solution in 1999. Since then, BlackBerry products and services changed the way millions of people around the world stayed connected.

With its focus on business needs and enterprise security, BlackBerry became the de facto king of business phones.

Such was their focus on business-oriented use, that they created and perfected a keyboard that facilitated rapid, accurate two-thumb-typing. The layout, structure and moulding of keys became iconic and a huge USP, so much so, that almost every BlackBerry device ever made featured this keyboard (or a variant thereof).

However with the advent of the iPhone, and its smart, soft-keys based keyboard that was backed by software-based prediction and auto-correction, BlackBerry started losing its unique advantage. Soon, BlackBerry found itself behind-the-curve to “smartphones”.

In trouble, BlackBerry did try to reimagine its ecosystem and devices – they set up an app platform call BB App World, launched BB OS 10, which was aimed at touch-based devices, and even released two tablets of their own.

Today, BlackBerry makes Smartphones, Tablets, and continues its efforts to building an Enterprise Security-based platform. Rumour has it, that BlackBerry is advising Google with their Android platform, to make it more secure and attractive to Enterprises.

  • With the recent launch of BlackBerry 10, RIM has re-designed, re-engineered and re-invented BlackBerry. It introduce a completely new mobile experience to it’s global community of BlackBerry users. The operating system, as well as two devices, the BlackBerry Z10 (a full touchscreen device), and the Q10 (a device equipped with a physical keyboard), were announced simultaneously around the world on January 30, 2013.
  • The vintage physical keyboard incorporated by BB in their handsets changed the way we interact with phones. Although the dominance of touchscreen devices is visible today, BB’s physical QWERTY keyboard was revolutionary.
  • Call screening apps: BB allowed you to reject calls politely with the BlackBerry ‘Call you back’ application.
  • The BlackBerry Playbook tablet, at the time of launch, was the fastest tablet ever with 1GHz dual-core processors and 1GB of RAM. It featured breathtaking media with support for Adobe AIR Applications and Adobe Flash 10.1.
Chip–Monks Recommend

Updated: WhatsApp Withdrawing Support For These Devices

WhatsApp Withdrawing Support For These Devices Post 2016

This might come as bad news to some WhatsApp users, but the world’s foremost messenger application, with over one billion users worldwide has decided to withdraw support for some operating systems and devices on 31st December, 2016.

What this means is that the users of these devices will no longer receive any future software updates on the App thereafter, though WhatsApp will not be blocking services to the devices. So, WhatsApp will continue to run, but won’t get any more jazzy upgrades.

Well, since you are obviously going to be curious as to which these operating systems are, here’s the list that WhatsApp has published:

  • BlackBerry OS and BlackBerry 10
  • Nokia S40
  • Nokia Symbian S60
  • Android 2.1 and Android 2.2
  • Windows Phone 7.1
  • iPhone 3GS/iOS 6

This does not come as a fresh announcement as it is actually a reminder from their earlier announcement made on their blog back in February of 2016 (around the seventh anniversary of the application). The post had stated: “While these mobile devices have been an important part of our story, they don’t offer the kind of capabilities we need to expand our app’s features in the future. This was a tough decision for us to make, but the right one in order to give people better ways to keep in touch with friends, family, and loved ones using WhatsApp”.

The reasons stated for the withdrawal of support for these devices by the Facebook-owned company are simplified into – they believe that the messenger application and its features have grown far beyond the scope of these operating systems, which can no longer incorporate within them the latest features, in general, or those of security.
The technology over the years has obviously improved drastically, and these older operating systems, even logically speaking, would lack the capacity to withstand the changes.

The WhatsApp announcement post goes further, almost nostalgically explaining: “About 70 percent of smartphones sold at the time had operating systems offered by BlackBerry and Nokia. Mobile operating systems offered by Google, Apple and Microsoft – which account for 99.5 percent of sales today – were on less than 25 percent of mobile devices sold at the time”.

Updates to this Article:

In developing news, however, WhatsApp just launched a video calling feature on its application for all its users. Along with this new feature, it also decided to extend the support for Blackberry and Windows operating systems until July 2017, as of now.

This seems like a move planned as per the market, competing with a number of rivals such as Facebook’s own Messenger, Microsoft’s Skype, Apple’s iMessage, Google’s recently launched Duo, and independent similar applications like Viber, Line, and others.

WhatsApp has a dominant hand in the market, so, it would be wrong to state that WhatsApp is playing catch up with other applications, but what is certain is that WhatsApp is gearing up to retain its position in the market. These latest moves only serve to highlight that intent.

While WhatsApp, back in February, politely requested the users of these older operating systems (and of course, devices) to buy devices running on more recent OS before the end of the year, now, with their latest move they are extending the support for a few of these by six months.

But we don’t think they’re going to be providing any further extensions. So if you’re an avid chatter, on one of the devices on the endangered species list, we recommend you begin saving up and move out soon.

Update (on 8th June, 2017):

The six month extension that Facebook-owned Whatsapp had so zealously provided for the operating systems in concern has now come to an end. As of June 30th, the above mentioned operating systems will no longer receive support for the messenger application. The apps won’t die, they just won’t receive any more updates.

Whatsapp has been making a lot of changes to its ecosystem lately, with talk of bringing in unique features that will allow you to ‘recall’, or ‘edit’ a sent text. and with bringing in features like audio and video calls, stories, and working around the idea of a ‘status’. It is quite clear that Whatsapp is moving towards bringing in more and more features for its users in a crowded market. To keep doing that, it is important for them to invest their energy judiciously. The withdrawal of support for these operating systems is precisely that, a move towards judicious investment of energy.

Update (on June 23rd, 2017)

It seems like the end of life date for BlackBerry OS and Nokia S40 platforms has been pushed back again. WhatsApp, on their website, has reportedly confirmed the extension of its services for BlackBerry and Nokia S40 platforms till December 2017 and December 2018, respectively.

As per a report by Netherlands-based fan website WhatsAppen, WhatsApp for BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry OS7+ recently received an update that extends support for the platforms until December 31, 2017.

As far as support for Nokia S40 platform is concerned, the end-of-life date has been moved from December 31, 2017 to December 31, 2018.
This, however, gives a mixed message, given the extension is not being granted to Nokia Symbian S60 platform. There are very limited number of customers who use the Nokia S40 platform, but the news will be a relief to them nonetheless.

Head over to our D-wise Recommendation Section if you need help deciding on your next device!

 

BlackBerry Branded Appliances And Wearables Might Soon Be A Thing

BlackBerry-branded wearables and appliances might soon be a thing

One of the biggest mobile giants of yesteryear, BlackBerry was known for its various business phones, secure software and most lovingly, its revolutionary messaging app, the BlackBerry Messenger.
I still remember how popular BBM was a just of years ago and considering that everyone from businessmen to young adults and even teens were hooked to the first real Instant Messaging app for their phones. To me, in many ways, WhatsApp is the progeny of the BBM.

However, all was not well in the BlackBerry world, and soon with the advent of iOS and Android Blackberry had to bid farewell.

Almost relegated like a relic of the past, BlackBerry recently shocked the world with its announcement, we, like others, can’t contain our excitement.

As we’d written a few days ago, BlackBerry’s pivoting to a lot of new stuff (you should read that article of ours – to know the kind of exciting stuff BlackBerry’s getting into).

Not only is BlackBerry licensing it’s wares outside the smartphone world, the Canadian company is also going to manufacture several gadgets outside the smartphone domain. BlackBerry has now also allowed other firms to borrow its brand tag and enjoy full support from Blackberry in this endeavour.
Going the licensing way benefits both, the firm in question and Blackberry, and will help the ailing Canadian behemoth to expand its horizons in a multi-dimensional fashion.

BlackBerry wants to bring back its one-of-a-kind security protocol and data encryption capabilities. Things seem to have improved for BlackBerry after it joined hands with TCL in a licensing agreement last year.

Tablets, wearables, medical devices, appliances point-of-scale terminals and other smartphones” are some of the gadgets that will have the Blackberry name on them and this new venture is referred to as the “next phase” of the company. In October, 2016 it was reported that Blackberry had tied up with Ford Motor Co. to develop a special software for the vehicle.

Moving to medicine was another unforeseen pivot. While using any connected medical care device or service, it is of primal importance that patient data is free from external threats and is safely connected with the healthcare system.
Armed with one of the best security encryptions anywhere in the world, BlackBerry jumped in to help ensure that all the data saved on associated mobile devices cannot be hacked. Just the name, should give people a lot of confidence in such devices and services.

Each of these Blackberry proteges will have technology or code from BlackBerry, which is going to have strong resemblance with its rapidly evolving Android model.

There’s more.

The wind has it that BlackBerry-tech based wearables are on their way. Made by non-BlackBerry manufacturers, these will be the beginning of a new line of secure peripherals. Although the details haven’t yet been revealed, but once Blackberry’s wearables and appliances hit the market, the competition will get serious. Apple, probably the biggest nemesis of BlackBerry the smartphone maker, will have to watch out – because BlackBerry’s comeback looks extremely promising and the brand seems like a very determined phoenix about to make a re-entry.

BlackBerry Is Getting A Huge Refund From Qualcomm After A Royalty Dispute

BlackBerry is getting a huge refund from Qualcomm after a royalty dispute

Qualcomm, the chipset maker, is set to return nearly USD 815 million to the Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry. This hard bargain from Qualcomm comes as a return on the royalties overpaid by BlackBerry between 2010 and 2015.

The dispute between the two has been over royalties BlackBerry paid in advance to Qualcomm. These royalties were seemingly for use of Qualcomm parts or patents used in BlackBerry smartphones. While BlackBerry’s argument is that that there was supposed to be a cap on those royalty payments, which was not applied at the time, Qualcomm is saying that BlackBerry’s payments were supposed to be non-refundable. In addition to the base amount, Qualcomm will also be paying BlackBerry an interest and the attorney fee.

The facts of the primary royalty deal between the two are not clear. But what is quite clear is that Qualcomm seems to just be tired of all that is going on with it lately. Qualcomm’s global business has been taking a lot of hits, with lawsuits and allegations, and it finds itself in a position where it is now working on self-preservation.

The decision, for a change, was not made in court but reached upon by the two parties in mutual agreement. While Qualcomm has made it clear that it does not agree with the agreement, it seems to be going ahead anyway, perhaps only to make the matter go away.

There have been a lot of similar matters that Qualcomm has been dealing with recently.

Their much-heated multi-country and multi-lawsuit battle with Apple, of course, deserves a mention. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is also in binds with Qualcomm for alleged anti-competitive practices involving its licensing agreements. There’s even a matter of a commission finding Qualcomm’s “prenup” agreements to be unfair especially with agreements signed almost 20 years ago with Samsung.

Issues of this kind have lately been turning into a bigger and bigger problem for Qualcomm. While most of us know them for their chipsets in our devices, a major chunk of Qualcomm’s business is licensing patents. If issues of this kind keep creeping up, the latter might keep taking hit, or worse, might be in danger of something bigger.

We are not yet clear on how much of the Apple scene, or the FTC scene, actually feeds into Qualcomm’s battle with BlackBerry, but we can certainly say that this new deal is a hit to their global patents business.

SIM Cards Rebooted - Say Hello To e-SIMs

Are we ready for eSIMs in India

The traditional SIM card has been dying a slow death over the last few years.
The normal SIM cards (now called “Macro SIMs”) that seem from prehistoric times now, set the ball rolling for mobile telephony. Then we got to micro SIM cards as smartphones arrived. As devices became bigger, the real estate within them became even more at a premium, hence smartphone manufacturers hit upon nano SIM cards.
Now, it’s time for better the technology in an even smaller card – called the e-SIM.

In light of this changing environment, the GSMA (who represents carriers and mobile companies around the world), has announced the specifications for e-SIMs, that are expected to be used in smart watches, fitness trackers, and even tablets. These SIMs will allow users the freedom to activate the SIM embedded in those devices on any carrier of their choice, as well as bring in the convenience of switching carriers and devices without swapping SIMs.

If everything works out as planned, the team behind the development of e-SIM suggests the new technology will be rolled out by 2018.

For now, the leaders of the smartphone industry are in talks with American and British mobile carriers with the intent of making e-SIMs a reality in those regions.
Apparently, conversations are already on with AT&T, T-Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, Orange, Etisalat, Hutchison Whampoa and Teleónica – which are some of the biggest around the world.

The GSMA plans to roll out a similar standard for smartphones themselves in June, at which point the days of the SIM card could be numbered.

Since this specification is also backed by manufacturers such as Apple, Samsung, BlackBerry, LG and Huawei! The freedom and convenience that this welcome ability of switching operators will bring is best understood by device manufacturers – it drives better customer satisfaction and it frees up the manufacturer from having to kowtow to operator-demands. It even helps them move inventory around more seamlessly, instead of suffering the logistical nightmare they currently face – the device is operator agnostic, but since it was packed with a specific-operator’s SIM (at the factory), the manufacturer can’t lift and shift the inventory to other regions/stores/operators at will.

Once implemented, this universal tech will allow users to add mobile devices to a single subscription, in turn allowing them to connect directly to any mobile network. No separate SIM cards, no phone-as-a-middle-man, just an embedded SIM in each device, programmed to connect to a network all by itself!

Not that the GSMA sees it that way. It says “the initiative does not aim to replace all SIM cards in the field, but is instead designed to help users connect multiple devices through the same subscription and will help mobile device manufacturers to develop a new range of smaller, lighter mobile-connected devices that are better suited for wearable technology applications”.

Some Reactions From The Smartphones Industry

BlackBerry:
The technology allows an individual to have both, a personal and business number on a single mobile device, with separate billing for voice, data and messaging usage on each number. People can switch between business and personal profiles easily without carrying multiple devices or SIM cards,” BlackBerry India Managing Director, Sunil Lalvani said at as per Tech First Post.

Apple:
Well, Apple has already explored with its own SIM cards that can swap networks on flights and lets users choose from three different carriers.

For what it’s worth, the first example of a programmable SIM card, is already out there are – notably in Apple’s iPads. But it wasn’t officially recognised by the GSMA.
The GSMA notes there recently announced specifications as “the only common, interoperable and global specification that has the backing of the mobile industry“.

So, the integration of the e-SIM into upcoming iPhones seems like the next logical step for the Cupertino tech giant.

Samsung:
The world’s other smartphone giant also has intentions of using this “programmable” SIM in it’s smartwatch line.

So this isn’t technology that’s a way off-you might be using it yourself by the middle of the year!

BlackBerry KEYone Is Here! Pull Out Your Wallets!

BlackBerry KEYone Is Here Pull Out Your Wallets

As Blackberry works to revive it’s once-legendary brand, it’s going down two different paths – letting out it’s legendary security platform to other enterprises, and embracing Android firmly, for what may well be it’s (BlackBerry’s) final salvo in handset production.

It’s this second initiative that has us interested. BlackBerry’s just released another device with it’s trademark QWERTY physical keyboard that used to once upon a time be synonymous with the Blackberry brand name.

Called BlackBerry KEYone, this new smartphone seems to be a combination of a big screen device (an ode to contemporary market trends), with a physical keyboard from BlackBerry’s old-school phones.

First up, you should read our write up about the device, available here.
Second, the verdict (since most of you will be eager to get to that aspect first) – the device is a fairly solid product, really!

The physical QWERTY keypad is brilliantly made – the keys are the perfect combination of soft, and tactile. The individual keys may appear to be a bit smaller than most would like, but that’s only a initial experience, during the teething phase. Once your hands settle in on the phone, your thumbs find their exact spots fairly quickly.

The phone comes with a 4.5 inch touchscreen display which is kind of a perfect in-between size (between a 4 inch small phone, and the 5.5 inch large-screen layout of most phablets).

The device is powered by a mid-level (but quite adequate) Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor with 3 GB of RAM. Smartly done, the KEYone runs on the latest Android version, the 7.1 Nougat.

Clearly, the KEYone has a screen larger than older Blackberry devices, which is kind of an experiment, I think – to find the sweet spot that BlackBerry is still trying to establish for it’s current line of “hybrid” phones.

Many sites belabour the fact that Blackberry’s place in the market has been on the way down over the past several years, to a point where it almost seemed dead. We have always differed.

If there is one thing that no one can ever, ever brand BlackBerry with – is helplessness. BlackBerry never sits in a corner, wringing it’s hands, or cowers away from trying new things.

One of the grittiest brands ever, BlackBerry has astonished many, many people with it’s desire to try and reinvent itself, and even attempting pivots – finding things in it’s immense arsenal, to bootstrap it’s way back to high ground, and to keep it’s hardware business going.

With this device, and the nostalgia that Blackberry seems to be trying to invoke, the company seems to be planning to return to branding their devices as business phones.
They’re positioning this device as easy to use, comfortable to type and scroll on, blessed with good battery life – all of it with the very famous security and privacy that no other company has been able to topple.

The company didn’t shy away from emphasizing the security of the device. “At BlackBerry, we live and breathe security. Security has been engineered into the entire manufacturing process, throughout the hardware and of course the software“, said  Alex Thurber, the General Manager of BlackBerry’s Mobility Solutions unit.

What is perhaps noteworthy is that the Blackberry KEYone, even though under the Blackberry brand name, is not a device that has been designed or produced in-house by the Canadian company. Back in December, the company had announced that they were halting all in-house smartphone production. Subsequently they signed a deal with the Chinese electronics brand TCL, giving them the rights to produce devices under the BlackBerry brand.

As per the deal, Blackberry will stay in control of the security on the devices, as well as the software, while TCL will produce Android-run devices. The KEYone is thus, the first BlackBerry device that this combination has brought to the market.

The new BlackBerry portfolio has a chance of success because few companies now offer BlackBerry-style design and features, and the productivity-focused smartphone segment is underserved“, said Ian Fogg, Head of Mobile at research firm IHS.

The phone certainly makes it feel like BlackBerry is back, and all set for the competition!

BlackBerry Back From The Brink, Or Teetering Towards A Precipice?

BlackBerry Back From The Brink Or Teetering Towards A Precipice

Sometimes, all it takes is a little fear to get going. Blackberry might have once been the king of the hill, but fate snubbed them and toppled them from their loft perch. They’ve watched the world pass by, for the last 7-8 years.

Now, after years in wilderness, it seems like they may have found their mojo back.

Enter Blackberry Mercury, the old king with new armour, entering the battleground that’s been it’s nemesis over the last many outings.

With the year’s biggest smartphone conference kicking off in a matter of weeks, leaked materials have seemingly confirmed BlackBerry will drop a brand new phone in the days leading up to the Barcelona-based show.

According to the sources, Blackberry’s next flagship phone will be formally unveiled on Saturday, February 25. The timing of the unveiling is set to coincide with the Mobile World Congress 2017, which BlackBerry undoubtedly hopes will give it a jumpstart in terms of competition.

As far as previous ventures go, BlackBerry Priv while considered a nice phone, suffered as its excellence was overshadowed by its expensiveness. In these technological times, progress isn’t progress if it isn’t available to all! Then came the touchscreen-only DTEK50 and DTEK60, neither of which were run of the mill phones. They were strong in their own way, yet curiously, they didn’t set the world alight.

But the point here is that Mercury can finally deliver on the promise of excellence.

We’ve been writing about the Mercury back in October 2016, when we spotted rumours about a smartphone with a physical keyboard that BlackBerry was secretly working on. We’d followed that up with an updated article about all the rumours that we’d heard up until last week.

There’s more trivia to add now.

What is interesting about this phone, apart from the specs is that it is the last phone that will be manufactured in-house by BlackBerry.

On January 6, the CEO John Chen confirmed in a press meet that BlackBerry shall move out of the hardware market after that – “The last model we engineered and designed our self, yes that will be the last one“.

That may sound like bad news for BlackBerry loyalists, but the CEO said the shift will actually enable the company to get more of its handsets to the market via partnerships since it will no longer need to devote its resources to hardware. Instead of investing in costly hardware, BlackBerry will work with partners like TCL, who will create their own BlackBerry-branded handsets (under BlackBerry’s guidance and watchful eye, we presume).

What you’re going to see over time is more phones. There’s going to be more BlackBerry phones out there because now I have multiple parties creating and distributing and I have local party to compete in the local space — countries which I normally can’t compete with“, Chen said.

The leak that got out of the company, showed an iPhone-inspired slick metal design which mixes the old class with the new official look. Throw in a QWERTY keypad in the mix, and you get a firestorm amongst the boring touch phones that are almost passé.

What’s more, the rear of the phone will be strengthened with a carbon fibre plate which will provide a glamorous, almost masculine (and extremely unique) look to the phone.

The rumour mill has further oracled that the device will sport a 4.5 inch display with an easy-on-the-eye 1920x1080p Full HD resolution. This will reportedly be paired with (what folks are calling) a stunning 12 megapixel camera that will feature the same Sony IMX378 sensor as found within the Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL, two of the best smartphone snappers currently doing the rounds.

If you’re excited, and curious to know more about the Mercury’s (née DTEK70’s) specs, head over to our previous article that captures all the rumoured info ricocheting across the internet.

One can expect, a decent arsenal under the hood of the Mercury, but according to the pundits it’s quite possible that technical specs may have be lowered a bit (like a mid-range processor instead of a top-end chip), to make the phone land in as many peoples budgets (and pockets) as possible.

Apart from that, no one is sure if this will be BlackBerry’s swansong or if it’ll give it courage to find a new tune to hum.

BlackBerry's Share Of The Smartphone Market Is Now Virtually Zero

BlackBerry's Share Of The Smartphone Market Is Now Virtually Zero

BlackBerry Limited, formerly known as Research In Motion Limited — ruled the world as a major business-phone player for many many years.

Not only did they produce really good, robust and useful phones, they also had the world’s most secure operating system and software backbone. BlackBerry also had an edge by way of their brilliant BlackBerry Messenger, when all other manufacturers relied on costly and low-tech, unsecured GSM (or CDMA) based SMS’.

However its innings as an operating system of it’s own seems over – dying a slow death caused by newer, sleeker and more contemporary platforms that enable users with cutting edge features and unlimited capabilities via plug-and-play apps.

BlackBerry’s revitalised operating system, BB OS 10 never really caught on, especially as app developers never really sipped the Kool Aid. Struggling with a lack of apps and novelty, the operating system stagnated, and has now suffocated.

As per a research report published by research firm Gartner, in the fourth quarter of 2016, more than 432 million smartphones were sold, and of those, just 207,900 were BlackBerry devices running its own operating system.

That gives the Canadian smartphone company a share of the overall phone market of less than a single percentage point.

In contrast, a whopping 352.7 million smartphones running Google’s Android operating system were sold in Q4 2016, making up 81.7% of the market. In second place is Apple’s iOS, which sold 77 million units in the quarter, with 17.9% of the overall market share.

BlackBerry also sells handsets that run Android, like the DTEK60 and the Priv, whose numbers aren’t included in that 207,900 figure. But Gartner’s data confirms what we suspected – BlackBerry’s once unassailable independent phone ecosystem is dead in the water.

BlackBerry DTEK70 - Rumour Roundup

BlackBerry DTEK70 - Rumour Roundup

QWERTY-enabled smartphones with their intractable keyboards were BlackBerry’s thing.

Millions bought or upgraded to BlackBerry devices for that reason alone. But times changed. People suddenly craved from full-screen phones and the time of half-screen-half-keypad phones was a bygone era.

BlackBerry stubbornly kept on with their physical keyboards, which near about became it’s nemesis. BlackBerry fell off the most-wanted smartphones list and nearly disappeared from the face of the earth, due to their insistence on staying with their old-fashioned typeset.

Finally, they dusted themselves off and created full-screen phones – which while good, suffered from BlackBerry’s other Achille’s Heel – being an island unto itself, with no Apps to speak of.

Finally, reading the coffee stains, BlackBerry gave up on it’s proprietary operating system and jumped onto the Android ship.

Now, after having gained some steady step in the Android game with their DTEK50 and DTEK60, Blackberry seems to be wanting to go back to what they knew the best; a smartphone with an intractable keyboard.

Back in October 2016, we’d written about a physical keyboard-blessed BlackBerry device we had heard of, ricocheting around the chatter rooms of the internet, and now there’s more news to substantiate our earlier article.

Dubbed as the BlackBerry Mercury, the new BlackBerry handset, which we assume will probably be named the DTEK70, has had a lot of personal information about it leaked online. From this information we can tell that theDTEK70’s design will be quite close to that of the Priv from 2015.

Thankfully, unlike the Priv’s slide-out keyboard, the DTEK70 will have a candy-bar style form factor, which means the keyboard will feature at the bottom of the screen.

There’s a downside of having a physical keyboard though – the screen is obviously going to be smaller (it is estimated at a 4.5 inch, with 1920X1080 resolution). This was the very issue that caused a lot of BlackBerry’s grief – even with newer devices like the BlackBerry Passport.

Moving on, rumours around the hardware that’s packed inside the device, i.e. elements like the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor imply the device is aimed at the mid-range market.

The Snapdragon 625 is a processor for an average mid-range phone, and it is the processor choice that practically all mid-level brands in the market are using right now. One of its main benefits is the power efficiency that it endows the device with.

Powered by a rumoured 4,300 mAh battery, the DTEK70 should last you a day on full charge. The phone might also have QuickCharge 3.0 on board for fast charging, keeping up with what’s out there in the market.

In terms of the camera, the device is expected to have an 18 megapixel rear camera, quite like the Priv did. It is also expected to have an 8 megapixel front camera. The device would come with 3 GB RAM and a 32 GB internal storage option, that will allow expansion via a microSD card slot.

One of the odd rumours out there say that the device will “quite certainly sport” a fingerprint sensor in the space bar of the physical keyboard. The idea seems do-able for sure, but also a little far-fetched at the moment – quite simply because we have all gotten too used to having the fingerprint scanners in the home button. That said, rumours around the iPhone 8 and Samsung’s Galaxy S8 indicate that both the giants are contemplating novel approaches to the fingerprint scanner. So, BlackBerry doing something innovative on this front, should hardly sound improbable.

Of the two Android phones that the Canadian company has in the market currently, DTEK60 was the one that gained more popularity with the users. While both the phones boasted of Blackberry’s blend of Android OS with its BB10 interface, the DTEK60 was more enticing because of the flagship-level specs and excellent camera tech, and of course because it was the first Blackberry device to carry a fingerprint sensor.

How the DTEK70 does after both these phones is yet to be seen, but there are quite certainly some expectations the phone will have to deal with.

The phone is expected to be out in the first quarter of 2017, if money is to be put on the rumours.

While not much can be said about the price as of now, it is expected to range between INR 30,000 to INR 33,000, based purely on speculations. Based on the device specs, those aren’t bad numbers.

There’s some more good news huddled amongst the leaks – while BlackBerry has been said to be moving away from the hardware business after the Priv and Passport bombed, from what it appears from all the information right now, the DTEK70 seems to be being developed by the company itself, and not by a third party. That is of great assurance and we can be fairly sure it’ll be build well and will not be one of those shrinking violets that cringes at the prospect of a few falls and tumbles.

We will have more information on the device as and when we get it, so do keep an eye out, if you’re one of our BlackBerry fans.

Is BlackBerry Going To Introduce Another Phone?

Is BlackBerry Going to introduce another phone

For all those of you who had thought that after the not-so-mind-blowing launch of the Priv Blackberry was pretty much dead, here’s a pleasant surprise.

It’s not!

A reassuring reminder of this is BlackBerry’s brand new phone, just released this past Tuesday! Called the DTEK60, it may have a funny name but it’s a very decent phone.

But that is not the one we are going to talk about here; we’re going to look at what else they might be hiding in the basket.

Flailing around the market, the company might be looking to go back to what set it apart in the past – phones with distinctive QWERTY keyboards. Yes, you read that right!

The company might be planning to bring back it’s distinctive QWERTY keyboard that’s going to answer the prayers of many-a-folk who’ve grown tired of the entirely touchscreen smartphones crowding the market at this time.

A BlackBerry phone that has a physical keyboard might just prove to be a good thing for the brand.

There will be a “keyboard-based Blackberry device, designed and distributed within the next six months”, said Alex Thurber, Senior Vice President for Global Devices, in an interview with the BBC.

I can’t say this enough. A distinctive keyboard-based device would quite certainly set Blackberry apart from virtually all other smartphones in the market today, that are mostly touchscreen-based units that rely on “soft” i.e. digital on-screen keyboards. It might also give Blackberry the advantage they had back in the day, when their phones still sported distinctive keyboards, as recently as about two years ago.

I think there’s a demand for keyboard phones. As we’ve been showing mockups of what we’ve been working on, to our carrier and distributor partners, they are very excited about this“, Thurber expanded.

Of course, this is not BlackBerry’s first tryst with leveraging their physical keyboard as a USP for a smartphone, they’ve tried that a few times now. They’ve tried this earlier with their BlackBerry Q5 and BlackBerry Q10, both of which were very good phones, and were well like for their BlackBerry-ness. What stalled them though, was the BlackBerry OS and it’s rather arid App Store.

Now, with BlackBerry having wisened up and moved to Android, a re-attempt with an Android-based QWERTY-enabled phone makes immense sense.

So, this phone can be expected to do well only if it matches the specs of the all-hailing flagships in the market already; as we all want the best, and then some.

Something else that might actually be a viable USP is if they contradict the market trend and serve customers getting increasingly sick of bigger and bigger devices (Apple has successfully resuscitated their small screen offering with the iPhone SE), that are mostly exceeding 5 inches of screen area.

However, for that, it would have to be meticulously designed to not be clunky, have a headphone jack (pun intended for the iPhone 7!), and offer fast charging capability along with good speakers, a good camera, and an SD card compatibility, water resistance, and a fingerprint scanner, phew! But then, that’s just a modern day smartphone user’s checklist.

What’s quite interesting about this possibility is that it comes at a time when the Canadian company is shifting its focus to software. They recently decided to outsource production of handsets, regarding which the Chief Executive John Chen said: “We are reaching an inflection point with our strategy. Our financial foundation is strong, and our pivot to software is taking hold. In Q2, we more than doubled our software revenue year over year and delivered the highest gross margin in the company’s history”.

We don’t know much about this expected on the new device, because we (and the rest of the world) don’t know anything substantial at all about this device. While it has pretty much been an open secret that Blackberry has had at least one keyboard phone they have kept hidden in their barrel from the good days gone by, but it’s difficult to separate die-hard optimism from facts/leaks these days.

The phone is expected to be a part of the DTEK series (we’re hazarding a vote that it may be called the DTEK70), that the company started in August this year. Which means it would be powered by the Blackberry version of Android, and given that though its launch is projected in six months, early 2017 is when you can expect it to land.

Let’s also have a slight peek at the device that they did just bring out. DTEK60, the phone is BlackBerry’s third Android smartphone. Priced at USD 499, the DTEK60 is a gentle reminder of Blackberry having ceded handset development to third-party manufacturers to focus on software, with the new device being loaded with proprietary encryption technology that protects against cyber attacks and privacy violations.

Amidst all the sublime chatter of an end of an era, with Blackberry deciding to stop making hardware for their phones anymore, this news (and the just released DTEK60) might be the rays of hope that Blackberry lovers have been waiting for.

Till date, despite all the development, novel hardware and excellent R&D, no one has ever really done well in the realm of what Blackberry did best back in the day, and cashing in that card might actually be the right move right now.

That, and well, a complete company overhaul, which is already in-process.

BlackBerry Hub+ Coming To Android

BlackBerry Hub+ Coming To Android

Earlier this month, BlackBerry announced that they would be making their Hub software available for Android devices too, Android Marshmallow 6.0 and newer versions of the same to be precise.

The BB Hub has been integral to the BlackBerry experience, bringing together emails, messages, social media and other accounts together on one platform. It has until now been available only on BlackBerry’s OS 10 and their own Android devices.

BB Hub will be available to all device owners on Google Play Store as BlackBerry Hub+. However, the BlackBerry experience won’t be free for Android users. After a 30 day free trial, the users who wish to opt out of seeing the ads, can do so by paying a premium of $0.99 a month.

The experience would include the Hub, of course, but that would not be all. BlackBerry is throwing in the BlackBerry Calendar, a password manager, BlackBerry’s Contacts, Tasks, Device Search, Notes, and Launcher, but the add-ons are only for the paid version.

The BB Hub+ comes as Blackberry’s first software service from their new Mobility Solutions Group. The move comes not long after the company brought out their first Android device, Priv, and also in the foot of the awaited DTEK50. The company’s version of Android has carried their well-known security features, along with their custom suite of apps on their devices.

BlackBerry has lately been working towards transitioning to a software based company, from a hardware-based company. For one, the smartphone market seems like it has peaked, and lately, there doesn’t seem like there is going to be another boom this year, or sometime soon. Secondly, BlackBerry seems to have taken quite a hit in the market, especially with their latest flagship, Priv, not doing too well with the customer base it targeted.

There are, however, customers that still swear by BlackBerry, BlackBerry’s software to be precise. In the given market position then, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea for BlackBerry to bring its software to the forefront.

While the bulk of BlackBerry’s business remains in providing enterprises and governments with secure device management services (their security and software being what they are known for), a consumer-accessible app service such as the Hub could certainly work in their favour, and add to their revenue stream. Mobility Solutions Group is BlackBerrys’ way of doing just that.

We can expect for more such apps from BlackBerry to be in the works.

The trial version of BlackBerry Hub+ has been available on Google Play Store from the first week of August. BlackBerry reportedly is also working to bring the app to Android Lollipop, and we can expect it soon.

The Hub, and all the other features in the package would remain available to all BlackBerry users, free of any charge, just like they have been before.

Using SMS For Two-Factor Authentication May Be No More

Using SMS For Two Factor Authentication May Be No More

Two factor authentication is the current norm for web services. They provide that additional layer of security during online transactions that makes us feel warm and secure. However, a new draft by the US National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), proposes to rule out the use of Two Factor Authentication as a valid security measure.

The basis for this decision comes from the fact that text messaging is not considered as being sufficiently secure and hence may be barred as a vehicle for such communication in the future.

This may have been prompted in the wake of some incidents like the attacks on political activists in Iran, Russia and USA. They’ve demonstrated that determined hackers can sometimes hijack the SMS messages that were meant to keep the users safe in the first place.

So it seems like a wise idea to welcome a better system – the likes of smartphone based authentication apps that generate one-time codes. Services like Twitter that have yet stuck with second factor protections that depend on SMS, are taking note from the incidents around the world and are apparently switching to more secure methods.

NIST formulates national-level guidelines and rules, which are used as a yardstick by various industries and organisations. Its role in keeping the policies related to secure electronic communications updated has kept us secure for a long time. While NIST guidelines do not have the power of law, still most of major companies do follow by them.

As a parable, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) fills the same shoes in India, albeit only in telecom, and related circles.

The NIST draft reads “If the out of band verification is to be made using a SMS message on a public mobile telephone network, the verifier shall verify that the pre-registered telephone number being used is actually associated with a mobile network and not with a VoIP (or other software-based) service. It then sends the SMS message to the pre-registered telephone number. Changing the pre-registered telephone number shall not be possible without two-factor authentication at the time of the change. OOB using SMS is deprecated, and will no longer be allowed in future releases of this guidance.”

What this implies is that NIST draft wishes that companies must ensure that only trusted phone numbers are linked to a mobile network, and not a virtual number functioning through a VoIP service, as VoIP services can be compromised and tampered with.

The only intriguing and confusing part of this draft is the sentence at the end that mentions ‘Out of band [verification] using SMS is deprecated, and will no longer be allowed in future releases of this guidance.’

The term ‘out of band’ could mean a lot of things in this case, referring to a physically discrete channel, which in the lingo of telecoms is sometimes used to refer to VoIP services.
However, in security parlance, out of band could also mean logging-in on the web and receiving a verification code by phone. In the case of this draft, it seems that the reference here is to the latter, which is to say that use of SMS will be barred.

This is an indication towards the fact that Apple and others might have to bid farewell to this option.
Apple currently provides the options for two-factor authentication: a code is sent to a trusted device which could be an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Mac, a phone call to a trusted phone number or a code sent by SMS to a trusted phone number.

The only question that arises after this ruling is that if two-factor authentication via SMS is barred as an unviable option, then what are the valid options to uphold security of the user and the process?

Tools like Google Authenticator or an RSA token could probably act as an alternative as these work by generating a unique code that matches the one generated on a web service’s server.

This doesn’t involve communication between the two devices, thereby making the whole procedure safer than sending a text message with a one-time code to someone’s phone; however, the convenience has been compromised here and that why that it lags in popularity among users.

And as security related concerns swirl around in the smart devices world, it’s ironical that the erstwhile authority on mobile device security, BlackBerry is almost on it’s way out of the industry. Perhaps it’s decision to exit the Mobile OS market and focus on its’ Enterprise platforms (like the Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) platform) was a foresightful one, and it (BlackBerry) will be able to resurrect itself as the Phoenix that the smart devices world needs desperately.

That aside, authentication via SMS has always been there – it’s ease, convenience and universally acceptable integrations made it so preferable. It will be missed by many of us!

More BlackBerry Android Smartphones Spotted

More BlackBerry Android Smartphones Spotted

BlackBerry recently made it public that it has decided to stop manufacturing its BlackBerry Classic smartphone running BlackBerry 10 OS.

Blackberry had introduced the BlackBerry Classic smartphone in December 2014. It was bigger and better when compared to the BlackBerry Q10 and received critical acclaim as well.

But it seems that lately BlackBerry hasn’t been able to get a hang of the modern day smartphone market and hence it’s decision to put some of its devices and even the development of BB OS 10 itself, on hold. The Classic was officially discontinued starting the 5th of July 2016.

This news comes almost in tandem to BlackBerry being in the process of manufacturing three new Android smartphones to follow in the footsteps of its first Android device, the BlackBerry Priv . While the BlackBerry Priv failed to generate demand due to its sky-high price, yet it’s enhanced security features definitely caught everyone’s eye.

Considering this scenario, one can expect the new BlackBerry-Android devices to arrive with more palatable price tags.

Apropos the news available so far, the three new devices will come with key differences and will be aimed at different user types.

First, a new BlackBerry device codenamed “Rome” was recently spotted on the popular benchmarking site Geekbench.

Listed under the model number STV100-3, this smartphone codenamed “Rome” is set to be released alongside another smartphone codenamed “Hamburg”.

Both are expected to run a customised version Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, similar to that found on the BlackBerry Priv.

The Rome is expected to feature a physical BlackBerry keyboard and have curved sides like the Priv but the speakers on this phone are expected to be on the front this time. Under the hood the Rome will be powered by a hexa-core CPU, paired with 3 GB RAM.

Besides “Rome”, another smartphone codenamed BlackBerry “Neon” was also spotted on the Geekbench listing. It is rumoured to feature a Snapdragon octa-core 600 series processor with ARM Cortex-A53 cores.

The “Hamburg” also expected to be released alongside the Rome, is said to be a bigger all-touchscreen phone with a flat panel on the front.
In case of Hamburg also, the speakers are to be on the front side, just like Rome.

However, like all rumours, things can change. We’ll be back with more info about features and specs as things become clearer, or when the company reveals the details of release day and when the phones see the limelight.

Till then, you simply hold steady.

BlackBerry Classic Shelved For Lack Of Lovin'

BlackBerry Classic End Of An Era

It’s happened – the Ides of July have descended upon the iconic BlackBerry Classic.

BlackBerry’s Chief Operating Officer, Ralph Pini, recently announced in a blog post, that the Blackberry Classic shall no longer be manufactured.

The company’s chief bread winner is about to be discontinued – a thoroughly unanticipated move, but one that needs not much explanation, amid dwindling popularity.

According to recent developments, the company has send a circular to its network partners Verizon and AT &T, stating that all BB10 systems shall be discontinued, once the current inventory is exhausted.

Add insult to injury, BlackBerry’s losing masthead names from the customer roster – marqué client, the US Senate too has apparently moved away from using the Classic.

Late 2014 marked the return of the BlackBerry Classic, a clear ploy by the struggling brand, to provide a boost to its dwindling market share, by returning to its roots.
The then-new Blackberry Classic was hailed by fans and critics alike. The much loved form factor, even more iconic keyboard and the familiarity of the device were all ingredients of a hopefully-successful punch.

Additionally, the security systems the company’s been known for – BlackBerry’s capabilities to insure technological discretion, put the Classic on the shopping list for the entire US senate.

The launch of the Classic was seen as an attempt to rope back its fleeing customers, especially those who were averse to non-keyboard phones. At the time, company president John Chen told an audience in New York that he’d heard a clear message that consumers didn’t want the company to “mess around” with what they liked best about the company’s phones.

The attempt seem half-hearted though; despite having a brilliant battery life and excellent keyboard, critics questioned the abilities of its processor. The decision to have a touchpad too, was termed quaint, at best.

Consequently, the Classic did nothing to increase BlackBerry’s market share,

So, the discontinuation is by no means a surprise move. The company has put to rest many of its other products for the same reason. in fact it is the latest in a series of setbacks for BlackBerry, which saw poor financials for its first fiscal 2016 quarter. The company lost a whopping $670 million, with the device business continuing to lose money.

Yet, BlackBerry CEO John Chen still has faith in the device space, with the company expected to release two phones. One of those phones is rumoured to feature a Priv-like keyboard, and the other is expected to be an all-touchscreen phone.

Although the company defended its choice, saying that “age” was the main factor for the discontinuation of its “the incredible workhorse”.

We are ready for this change so we can give our customers something better – entrenched in our legacy in security and pedigree in making the most productive smartphones” Pini said.

He further added that the consumers will experience an increased focus on its Android devices. “I’m excited for what’s to come and looking forward to giving you a new and better experience”.

This announcement of discontinuation induced a tizzy in the the keyboard fanbase, as it once again spelled the change in company focus towards all-touchscreen phones. To allay those fears and to put such rumours to a rest, BlackBerry Senior Vice President for Global Device Sales, Alex Thurber took to Twitter to clear the air – “In response to some recent press reports, I want to be clear that @BlackBerry users have nothing to fear — the keyboard is here to stay…

Further news has pointed towards the presence of two or three Android phones in company’s devices-under-development list: at least one of which is supposed to have a physical keyboard in it.

While they’ll have much more information of customers’ need analysis than we do, however Chip-Monks does question the veracity of having keyboard based phones any longer. Digital and predictive keyboards have become much more accurate, muscle memory has changed, and  haptic (or Taptic) buttons are just a few iterations away. So we aren’t sure if the physical-keyboard debate has much merit any longer

Argon: Is It BlackBerry's Next Android Flagship?

Argon Where is BlackBerry's next flagship

If you thought that BlackBerry would’ve been cured of it’s Android-adventurism after the Priv launch, then here’s a surprise.

BlackBerry is expected to launch not one, but three more Android phones over the coming year! The new additions to this Android phones portfolio from BlackBerry are reportedly named BlackBerry Hamburg or (Neon), BlackBerry Argon, BlackBerry Mercury.

That’s a lot of Android for a company that couldn’t manage to garner much critical acclaim with it’s first outing!
BlackBerry’s first Android phone, the Priv failed in some respects and the company ended up selling only 600,000 units during its first quarter of 2016.

CEO John Chen acknowledged the fact that Priv was a failure on his company’s part and explained the rationale behind saying, “The fact that we came out with a high end phone [as our first Android device] was probably not as wise as it should have been“. To this he added that the $699 slider phone was “too high-end a product” remarking that “a lot of enterprise customers have told them: ‘I want to buy your phone, but $700 is a little too steep for me. I’m more interested in a $400 device“.

Of the three newbies, the Argon looks like the company’s 2016 flagship phone.
The statement made by BlackBerry Chief Operating Officer Marty Beard in his blog highlighting the company’s “plan to keep advancing our smartphone portfolio” can support this. “BlackBerry is not backing away from BB10. Our customers depend on the BB10 platform and they are the ones that drive our roadmap”, he said adding that BlackBerry was dedicated to “maintaining” BB10 software and advancing it to be even more secure and provide even greater productivity”.

BlackBerry Priv owners who were looking for an upgrade have all the reasons to be excited since this phone seems to be targeted at them too.

The buzz that’s surrounding this phone seems to be due to it’s fairly wholesome package. Apparently, the Argon is fully touchscreen with a large screen at that, packed with a powerful processor, the latest Quick Charge capability and Type-C connectivity to sum up all the main highlights in a few words.

The Argon might see the light of the day in October this year, but bear in mind all these specs are still just speculation, and based purely on the leaks and speculative reports. So don’t scoff at Chip-Monks later!

Back to fantasising…

The first thing that catches the eye, when you see a phone or hold it in your hand is the display and build of the phone. The hype around this phone (the Argon) in particular, is about it being an all-touch device, without hiding that QWERTY keypad under a slider. This indicates to some speculators that the fact that the Priv form is short-term, but there’s a device with a physical keyboard in the BlackBerry-Android line up 2016/17 too – the mid-range phone called Mercury. The specs on that aren’t clearly anticipated yet, but the rumours of a keyboard are ricocheting around. More on that, as things become clearer.

Back to Argon. When talking about the “all touchscreen” display, in order to improve the interaction of the user with the screen, it is crucial nowadays for the screen to be of a considerable size.
In case of Argon, the phablet is expected to feature a 5.5 inch AMOLED display with Quad HD resolution, making it ideal for watching videos and playing games on the phone. The screen could be secured with Corning Gorilla Glass protection, being curved on both the edges.

The speculators also stated that Argon includes augmented camera capabilities this time around. This comes in the wake of the rumoured 21 megapixel rear camera and 8 megapixel front camera that Argon is expected to possess. Perhaps, vivid pictures on a BlackBerry are really on their way, soon.

Since Argon is believed to be BlackBerry’s flagship phone, it is expected to feature the usual hardware specs that most of the other flagship phones have, so, we might see 4 GB of RAM, 32 GB storage and a 3,000mAh battery all assembled into a device that will include a fingerprint scanner, Quick Charge 3.0 support and a Type-C connector. The processor is rumoured to be a slightly down-clocked version of the Snapdragon 820 chip implying it should be fast and fluid.

Now you know pretty much everything about BlackBerry Argon. But wait, the most important question – “How Much”?

This hasn’t been answered reliably, as yet. But, if a member of Howard Forums is to be believed then the BlackBerry Argon will be priced in proportion to the flagship specifications that it offers, although it may still be slightly cheaper than Priv when it was launched, since price played a major role in the market failure of the Priv. Hopefully, BlackBerry would’ve wised up this time around

In the US, it’s said to range between a price of USD 600-700.

All you need to do is wait and see if these speculations materialize into an amazing flagship phone by BlackBerry, and of course, wait till October this year to get your hands on one!

BlackBerry To Launch A Mid-Range Phone By July!

BlackBerry to launch a mid-range phone by July

BlackBerry CEO, John Chen announced earlier this year that the Canadian smartphone maker will unveil two mid-range Android smartphones in 2016, and added that more details about the two smartphones will be disclosed sometime in July.

Aside from a few leaked images of the two smartphones rumoured to be codenamed “Rome” and “Hamburg”, information on the smartphones is scarce at the moment. Chen stated that both the devices will either be in the mid-range or mid to high range segment and BlackBerry will not be unveiling a smartphone for the high-end segment in 2016.

According to earlier rumours, one of the two phones is going to be an all-touch device, while the other will feature a special version of BlackBerry’s proprietary physical keyboard.

Although, tech gurus in the market are predicting of nothing too great from the two phones.

BlackBerry once ruled the smartphone arena with their smartphones running on their properietary operating system. Once its sales dropped down, they started planning on Android-run devices and launched their first Android smartphone, BlackBerry Priv last year, which was introduced to India in January 2016.

Not too long ago, BlackBerry revealed its pretty average Q1 2017 results, which divulged that the Canadian smartphone maker managed to sell just 500,000 phones worldwide in the first fiscal quarter, a let down from the previous quarter. This obviously didn’t paint a pretty picture as it represented an ongoing decline of nearly 54%. But that’s not all, BlackBerry reported a huge net loss of USD 670 million – the company’s biggest loss in over two years.

According to Chen, the strategic overhaul costs in the company are the real cause for the depressing numbers, and he is still confident that BlackBerry can profit from its smartphone business.

In the midst of this financial turmoil, WhatsApp and Facebook have already wrapped up their support for BlackBerry devices. If BlackBerry soon wouldn’t appear to take a leap in the market, there will come a time when many big social arenas will take off their support from the company and BlackBerry will go through huge losses also motivating its closure from the market.

Let us see what the new smartphones would bring to the company. Till then with no further information it is hard to comment on the company’s progress. We can only sit and wait till the month of July start over.

Till then, the most awaited smartphones are making their way in the market!

BlackBerry Messenger Conversations Intercepted Since 2010

BlackBerry Messenger Conversations Intercepted Since 2010

It was only last week that I was writing about the end-to-end encryption that WhatsApp has recently enabled for their users and while I was writing that, I remember reminiscing about how BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) has always had encryption enabled for our safety, since time immemorial.

What now makes me shudder is the news that the Canadian Police have had the decryption key to the BBM conversations since 2010!

Blackberry had been the phone of choice when it came to privacy or security. From corporates to governments, everyone trusted it with their secrets and a leak like this would put that idea is jeopardy.

BBM had been one of the first instant messenger services to boast of its encryption and privacy measures. The company had placed its servers in Canada, a country known for its neutrality as well as non-spying practices. Canada, to be honest, seemed like a really good safe home for the servers, especially since privacy and user security is at stake the world over.

Encryption on an instant messenger service is important as it protects the user’s privacy from snoopers. In a post 9/11 world, if not governmental bodies, then corporate entities have always been out for as much user information as possible. In times like this where information is of value and where every entity with power is a hungry wolf growling at you for information, it is very important to have privacy measures established and enabled; encryption was thus as good an option as it got for most users.

Well it was inadvertently revealed during a high-level surveillance probe (Project Clemenza) of Montreal’s criminal underworld, that the Canadian Police have had the decryption key to BlackBerry’s encryption protocols since 2010.
After a Montreal crime syndicate pleaded guilty to their role in a 2011 gangland murder, a series of documents were released. It was in these documents that this revelation was buried.

What the documents revealed showed the extent to which Blackberry, the smartphone giant, and telecommunications giant Rogers, cooperated with the Canadian administration.

Reports filed by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) indicate that law enforcement intercepted and decrypted roughly one million PIN-to-PIN BlackBerry messages in connection with the probe. This was possible because Blackberry equipped the law enforcement agency with the decryption key, with which they had the ability to decrypt any message.

Every encryption system runs off a key. In layman terms, it is like a lock and you have the only key for the lock. What Blackberry did was that it placed fanciest lock on their door, but it went ahead and gave the key to someone on the outside, on whom they had no control over.

In the light of the recent FBI vs. Apple debacle, where Apple publicly locked horns with the American federal agency over the encryption of one phone, information like this about Blackberry having put at stake, the privacy of its users, is certainly going to raise quite a high cloud of skepticism from the users.

The cloud of ignominy was further muddied by the fact that other cyber-giants have actively stood against any kind of surveillance activities of the sort. Google, has in the past openly refused to give user information as well as access to emails, when demanded by the authorities; so has Microsoft.

Something to take into cognizance though, is that nowhere do the documents reveal that the decryption key was given to the Police by BlackBerry. The documents only show that BlackBerry cooperated with the authorities and enabled them to sift through messages that are supposedly secure and not linked to a corporate account.
The source and the current sharing of the key is not traceable.

The idea that it was given by BlackBerry, since they were already cooperating with the authorities, is a mere joining of dots, if you will. The government’s lawyers had been fighting tooth-and-nail to keep this under wraps, for the mass hysteria such information can raise.

BlackBerry cultivated its servers in Canada supposedly strategically (apart it being the country of origin for them), to avoid any kind of governmental pressure for surveillance from countries where they operated. It had even suffered for its stand not too long ago, when in 2010, the service was temporarily banned in the UAE by the government on the account of the authorities not having access to the servers and the data. After long negotiations, the servers were deemed compliant by the authorities upon the company granting them access to the servers. Something similar also happened in Saudi Arabia the same year, and in India a couple of years hence.

Obvious questions in the light of this news pertain to how deep this leak extends, and if there are more countries that have similar access to BlackBerry’s servers that they are not talking about?

Is this just governmental, or does this go corporate?

It is of course undeniable that if governments and corporates rely on BlackBerry for security, so do those with criminal intent.

The question, however, remains – what does this do to the image of user privacy and security that BlackBerry had so intently created and cherished all this while?

Does Royal Canadian Mounted Police still have the ability to read anybody’s encrypted BlackBerry messages? Well, be careful!

Beleaguered BlackBerry Now Looking To Make Affordable, Secure Android Phones

BlackBerry to launch a mid-range phone by July

After failing to make a mark with the new-age BlackBerry 10 OS, despite launching several good-looking devices, BlackBerry decided to give Android OS a try.

It launched into the Android market with the super expensive BlackBerry Priv which didn’t help the Canada-based electronics company at all.

So you know, in order to keep the company running in profit, BlackBerry needs sales of at least five million units a year. In spite of the drastic failure of the BlackBerry Priv and plummeting device sales (including the BB10 OS devices) dropping to just 600,000 last quarter,

Accepting the failure of the BlackBerry Priv, Chen said, “The fact that we came out with a high-end phone as our first Android device was probably not as wise as it should have been. The $699 slider phone was was too high-end a product“. He mentioned about the feedback received from a lot of enterprise customers saying, “I want to buy your phone, but $700 is a little too steep for me. I’m more interested in a $400 device“.

Even after such a fiasco, it seems BlackBerry is in no mood to shut down its hardware business, as CEO, John Chen announced the launch of two mid-budget Android smartphones – one equipped with a physical keyboard and the other flaunting a full touchscreen display.

This seems to be a brave attempt from BlackBerry waiting eagerly to exert influence on the smartphone market.

Yet, targeting the mid-price range seems like a good idea. BlackBerry will introduce the two new smartphones keeping the USP as truly secure Android devices. Chen believes that “We’re the only people who really secure Android, taking the security features of BlackBerry that everyone knows us for and make it more reachable for the market”.

This seems to be Chen’s last attempt in sustaining BlackBerry as a hardware company and if the upcoming smartphones fail again, Chen will be forced to shut down the hardware sector of the company and move to a pure software or security oriented strategy to stay afloat.

The First BlackBerry Priv OS Update Is Out Now

The First BlackBerry Priv Update Is Out Now

BlackBerry has released the first of its Guaranteed Monthly Security Redesigns with a few changes tossed in, to enhance the device’s camera performance.

The overhaul is out now for gadgets bought specifically from BlackBerry (those bought from carriers i.e. Transporter Bolstered Units will get the 475 MB upgrade on December 7). and the move satisfies BlackBerry’s guarantee to keep the gadget “reliably upgraded”. It also incorporates the most recent Android security patches for December.

BlackBerry says the Priv won’t feel as slow as before, and the additional security will keep the Priv safe from the most recent Android security threats.

The organisation’s attention on successive and convenient upgrades is refreshingly not in line with other Android OEMs who have been infamous in passing up opportunities for security patches for a considerable length of time or years.

Obviously, a portion of the postponement is brought about via transporters; however it appears that BlackBerry has figured out how to make the turnaround snappier for the Priv, as even the transporter overhauls will arrive a week after BlackBerry’s official redesign.

BlackBerry first update is actually quite a big one. Here’s what you can expect in the first release:

  1. An improved camera: The updates includes tweaks that improve the speed of the camera app, and also improves low-light image quality.
  2. Better performance: Overall system performance should be snappier.
  3. Improved stability: Includes a number of software adjustments designed to improve device reliability and reduce instances of crashing and freezing.
  4. Enhanced security: Includes December’s security patches – allowing you to rest easy, knowing your device is protected against the latest Android security threats.

BlackBerry will also update its Blackberry Keyboard, Blackberry Hub, Blackberry Camera, and DTEK by BlackBerry on December 14 with the following attributes:

  1. Camera will now support 16:9 photos
  2. Keyboard will now have an increased language support and emojis added to improve predictive typing
  3. Hub & Contacts now includes WhatsApp
  4. DTEK by BlackBerry includes more notification options when apps use your info

BlackBerry Priv bucks that trend with its specs, cutting edge design and awesome hardware and nowhere is this more apparent than the Priv’s utterly gorgeous, 5.4 inch curved QHD display which is by far, one of the most impressive looking panels and the bent QHD board looks absolutely dazzling.
The completion and stride of the handset is immaculate BlackBerry, with its conventional silver-on-dark livery.

Good stuff, BlackBerry!

BlackBerry-Secured Android On The Priv - Now That's A Win-Win!

BlackBerry Secured Android On The Priv

BlackBerry OS was the first to secure applications and emails on devices, ever.

It also pioneered the notion of app permissions and of giving users extreme control over their personal data.

Thus it’s no surprise that BlackBerry became the de facto platform of choice for a large chunk of humanity, back in it’s heyday.

Over time it became relentless in it’s pursuit of building private and secure mobile solutions, and became the gold standard of enterprise security on mobile devices.

As a part of business expansion (especially since it’s own device sales plummeted since 2008), BlackBerry tried changing it’s OS to become more trendy, colourful and touch-based, the OS never took off. Primarily because unlike iOS and Android, the app store on BlackBerry never really caught the imagination of app developers.

So, BlackBerry became smarter – and started “sponsoring it’s weakness” – they started allowing Android apps to run on their own BlackBerry OS 10 devices.

They redesigned the OS 10 platform to support Android apps with the secure Android App Player, and gradually modified it to support direct (APK) downloads and later, introduced the facility to download Android apps directly from the Amazon App Store.

Chief Security Officer, David Kleidermacher explained in his blog on how they are planning to integrate the most secure mobile platform (BlackBerry) with the most flexible ecosystem (Android), to bring in transformation in the smartphone market.

BlackBerry Priv is a product that has been built as a result of constant efforts and years of experience integrating Android technologies. To ensure that the upcoming smartphone running the Android ecosystem is as secure as the traditional BlackBerry devices, the BlackBerry team has adopted steps and that make the Android-powered BlackBerry Priv as secure as expected.

Here are some of the security tactics that come inbuilt on the BlackBerry Priv:

  • Hardware Root of Trust – It is a unique manufacturing process that pushes cryptographic keys into the device hardware, thus providing a secure understructure for the entire platform.
  • Verified Boot and Secure Bootchain – It employs the embedded keys to check every layer of the device ranging from hardware, OS to applications, thus ensuring that they haven’t been tampered with.
  • Hardened Linux kernel – The kernel is modified with numerous patches and configuration changes to improve security of the platform.
  • FIPS 140-2 compliant full disk encryption – It is switched on by default to protect the privacy of the users.
  • The BlackBerry Infrastructure – It is a secure distributed global network that transmits petabytes of encrypted data to and from the world’s most powerful leaders and professionals.
  • BES12 – It is the leading Enterprise Mobility Management platform used by the world’s most powerful governments and corporations.
  • DTEK application – It is a built-in application which gives information about the personal data accessed by other applications, and also displays the overall security of the system based on the strength of the password and encryption settings.
  • Android for Work – It allows the users to separate the personal and work data and applications, by providing separate spaces for both the utilities.  

In summary, Blackberry Priv itself is a very decent device and it has the one feature Android was sorely missing – Security.

It seamlessly integrates with the Work and Personal side (Priv comes with full access to the Google Play Store) of your life while effectively protecting your personal privacy and securing your corporate data.

What’s a better deal than that!

Multi-Layer Security For Android On BlackBerry

Multi-Layer Security For Android On BlackBerry

Blackberry’s concern and consideration regarding the security of its users and their data is legendary folklore. Its proprietary OS, it’s secure servers and it’s staunch Swiss-Bank-like stand against data requisitions have helped BlackBerry sell its devices and its brand to even the most security-conscious people in the world.

What could’ve been better testimony of user confidence, than US President Barrack Obama’s emphatic insistence that he be allowed to continue using his BlackBerry after ascending to his Presidency!

Despite the current downturn in its fortunes, the Canadian firm continues to adopt stern measures to ensure secure user experience with all its current devices. And this becomes even more important with the upcoming PRIV smartphone, as the company is preparing to wet it’s toes in the Android ecosystem – one that is said to be not very secure due to vulnerabilities arising from being based on an “open-source” platform. True or not (and we at Chip-Monks believe in the latter – Android is fairly secure, especially with Google playing a watchful benefactor), the BlackBerry team is pushing boundaries to ensure a secure experience through its maiden Android device.

In fact, we’ve known for a while that BlackBerry has been working very closely with Google to make Android safer and stronger

Blackberry’s Director of Security, Alex Manea, in response to unvoiced, but allusive questions has published an article titled “PRIV is for Private: How BlackBerry secures the Android platform”, which talks about the measures that the company has adopted, so as to address the community’s doubts.

Building on decades of experience securing mobile devices and years of experience integrating Android technologies, the brand new PRIV by BlackBerry is the perfect smartphone for businesses and consumers looking for productivity, privacy and security.” writes Manea.

First off, BlackBerry has sought to create a version of Android, similar to what is present in BlackBerry’s own Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) platform called BES12.

Additionally, BlackBerry has employed its Hardware Root of Trust which basically assigns a completely unique cryptographic key deep inside each device’s hardware.

Using this cryptographic key, BlackBerry uses the Verified Boot and Secure Bootchain system, to verify that the device, the OS and even the apps running on the device at any point of time are all clean and pristine. It will thus be able to identify and mitigate any apps or other attempts with malicious content.

That’s not all, the Linux kernel on which the Android OS is based, is strengthened with various top-secret patches and configuration changes.

Furthermore, for pushing data between users, the Priv smartphone makes use of the secure network developed by BlackBerry itself, thus putting restrictions on all the backdoors possible.

Blackberry has also launched a new app called DTEK that monitors the security-health (I couldn’t coin that differently) of the device looking at numerous factors like the strength of your passwords, apps installed on the device, the level of encryption applied by the you and even displays app-level permissions you’ve allowed at any time. Consider it a security dashboard of sorts; one that even advises you on how to improve the privacy and security of your device and data.

Since the PRIV is still to be launched and full-scale security testing hasn’t yet been done, one does feel that BlackBerry has studied consumer needs, understood platform dependencies and characteristics, and then created viable safeguards to ensure a secure Android experience; but we’ll only get to know if it really delivers what it promises, once the phone comes out in the market.

We really hope the BlackBerry and Google partnership would change how we protect user data on Android, may the force be with them.

Blackberry's Venice Rumored To Be Powered By Android

Blackberry first android phone The "Venice"

Blackberry, once a stalwart of the mobile phone industry, hit a fairly big speed breaker over the last 5-7 years. Having boarded the smartphone train late, they tried really hard to catch-up.

Releasing a reworked and contemporary smartphone-oriented operating system, the BB OS 10, full with large icons, touch-oriented and even an App Store; and to harness that they created one of their best phones ever, the Z10 (it won the Red Dot Award in 2013 for Product Design).

They then followed it up with their beautifully executed Porsche-designed Porsche P’9981 smartphone (won the Best of the Best category award in 2013), the Q10Q5Z30 (all won Red Dot Awards in 2014). They even launched their most innovative smartphone ever – the  BlackBerry Passport.

Each of these devices was very well appreciated in the marketplace, respected for their great build quality and decent pricing (by and large); yet, none of these attempts helped BlackBerry revive customer interest to the point of winning sales.

We believe that happened largely because of two reasons – the interface of BB OS 10 isn’t exactly in the same league as Android or iOS, and because their app store called BlackBerry World is a fairly desolate place. Most app developers have forgotten about it, considering how busy they remain in just having their apps be compatible to 9 gazillion Android handsets of varying families ages, capabilities and OS versions.

in an effort to make a comeback in BlackBerry is rumoured to be doing what Nokia said they’d do – launch a smartphone that’d be a blend of Android and BB features. Expected in November 2015, the device codenamed ‘Blackberry Venice’ is unique in two ways.

First, it is the first BlackBerry phone in eons to bear their trademark and exceptionally popular slide-out physical QWERTY keyboard, and second, it will be the first BlackBerry phone ever to run on a non-BlackBerry OS.

Talk about firsts!

Some leaked images of the phone clearly display an Android OS (probably Marshmallow), with BlackBerry apps installed on the device – it seems that trademark BlackBerry apps like the BlackBerry Hub, BBM, Worklife for BB, BBM Meetings, BBM Protected along with their famous proprietary security apps are all on there!

Let’s get back to that beautiful keyboard. Traditionally BlackBerry’s keyboards have been stellar, and have been one of the biggest causes of undying love from their user. The keyboard on the Venice is even better!

It’s slim, it looks comfortable, and we’re sure it slides out effortlessly from below that screen. While its a fully functional keyboard meaning it has all the keys you need, its not a passive one. This is the bound to be the same hybrid keyboard first seen with the BlackBerry Passport – it supports and partners with the screen via capacitive touch on the keys! Picture yourself scrolling through documents, images or surfing the internet just by flicking your thumb up/down (and in other directions) over the keyboard!

We tried it on the BlackBerry Passport and absolutely, absolutely loved it. It’s the perfect solution to bridge the user-interaction gap faced when using a touchscreen+keyboard device. It really does provide an edge to the Venice.

Based on preliminary rumours the Venice will feature a 5.4-inch QHD (2560×1440 resolution)  Super AMOLED display and is powered by 1.8 GHz hexa-core 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, 3 GB RAM, an 18 megapixel rear camera (with Optical Image Stabilisation, and dual-LED flash) and a 5 megapixel front camera.

Design-wise it looks attractive in the leaked images – the power/sleep button is on the left, the  volume rocker on the right, along with the famed & patented customisable smart button. A microUSB charging port and 3.5mm audio jack is located at the bottom with slots for the SIM card and microSD card located at the top of the device for easy access. The speaker grill is located at the bottom of the front panel as we have seen in recent HTC devices.

The launch dates aren’t precisely known yet, nor the price, but it’s confirmed that the Venice will land in US markets around November 2015.

Don’t expect Venice to be inexpensive though, as it packs high-end specs with a great focus on security making it a suitable buy for the enterprise users. It will be a talk among the existing BlackBerry loyalists as they won’t have to sacrifice or choose sides between usability and security, for much longer and will be able to enjoy the best of both worlds with the first fully Android-powered Blackberry handset.

So, BlackBerry could well be hitting a home run with the Venice (update: apparently this device is named the Priv, as per official announcements from BlackBerry). They’ve got some great hardware, good looking design and build, trademark apps and security, and have possibly plugged their two biggest stumbling blocks – a contemporary smartphone OS, and a thriving app store that is well tended to by developers. At the same time, BlackBerry has shrewdly leveraged their two biggest USPs – device and data security, and the brilliantly designed keyboard which gives BlackBerry a leg up in the entire marketplace (not only amongst Android brands) as almost all smartphone brands have dumped physical keyboards or touch+keyboard designs a long time ago, yet users have been secretly wishing for them.

Run with it BlackBerry! You just might have that winner you needed. We’re rooting for you!

Apple’s Not The First To Use 3D Touch On A Phone.

Is Apple force touch already patented by Blackberry

Force Touch née 3D Touch, a highlight of Apple’s forthcoming iPhones 6s and 6s Plus (lined up for release shortly), has been developed to provide the consumers an identical user experience as that of Apple’s recent Macbook notebooks.

The ‘brand-new’ feature promises an enhanced user experience by adding a new dimension: the perception and manipulation of the user inputs using the sensitivity to touch-pressure.

The integration of the haptic feedback with the touchscreen devices however dates back to the introduction of BlackBerry Storm by BlackBerry in 2008.

The first built-in touchscreen device without a physical keyboard, BlackBerry Storm presented the company’s “SurePress” technology providing tactile feedback to touch-based interactions. While the Storm did not do tremendously well in the market (by way of unit sales) when compared to the likes of Apple, Samsung, and HTC – it still was a pioneer device.

BlackBerry had filed numerous patents relating to this technology and technique, which are currently being analyzed by Envision IP to check patent transgressions, ahead of the Apple’s iPhone 6s launch.

This will establish if there is a parable and also whether Apple needs to restrict the Force Touch terminology and/or pay for the patent use.

BlackBerry US owns at least 40 in-force patents relating to the integration of the touchscreen devices with the haptic feedback and BlackBerry’s US patent number filing 9,092,057 which clearly states, “Electronic device including touch-sensitive display and actuator for providing tactile feedback” seems to unequivocally pertain to a mobile device having multiple disk actuators beneath the touchscreen display that understand touch, and provide feedback to the user.

It seems that BlackBerry has specifically patented the integration of the touchscreen display with the click mechanism that lets the user experience a tactile feedback similar to that of the physical keyboard.

Yet, Apple too, has patented this technology for the iPhone providing force-based feedback, with fourteen issued US patents identified, relating to the same. Apple’s US patent 8,462,133 says that, “Clickable and tactile buttons for a touch surface” describing the iPhone’s display having multiple click-like tactile surfaces”. So, Apple may well be in the clear, as any Patent Office by design and decree can issue patents only after meticulously checking for duplicacy and also facilitating any counter-claims prior to awarding patents.

So, while users are breathlessly waiting to check out the new feature that Apple will roll out soon, at the same time Apple too, if going to be having a busy time analysing BlackBerry patents before releasing the technology in its upcoming device, avoid any mobile-patent related lawsuit.

Ah! The shoe is on the other foot. Must pinch, a bit, at least.

What Is BlackBerry Natural Sound Technology

Blackberry natural sound technology

BlackBerry recently unveiled a new smartphone, the BlackBerry Z30, with a stunning 5 ­inch screen (the biggest ever on a BlackBerry smartphone), featuring the BlackBerry 10 OS, version 10.2.1 and is packed with some new features that exemplifies the BlackBerry experience.

BlackBerry has clearly focused on improving the user experience for BBM Voice and BBM Video Chats such that conversations sound more natural and realistic, letting you hear nuances and variations in tone more clearly.

BlackBerry call this its Natural Sound Technology, and claims will improve the audio quality not just from the phone’s speakers, but also when used in tandem with a pair of headphones, making users (callers on both sides) feel like they are in the same room.

The Natural Sound Technology has two aspects to it – the ProVoice and the ProReceiver.
Blackberry natural sound technology
The ProVoice feature allows you to experience high quality audio quality not only on the device but also on your external audio devices, and even during less-than-adequate network connections, by leveraging the BlackBerry Network.

The ProReceiver feature uses the external speakers in the mobile device to negate ambient noise and amplifies the useful parts of the audio, thereby resulting in a clearer call quality in noisy environments.
Most phones have a noise cancellation where the receiver of the call enjoys the rewards of the feature, however with ProReceiver the user would also be able to enjoy a clearer call when they are in the noisy environment while making or receiving the calls.

The flipside of this feature is that it requires additional hardware. While the Z30 comes with stereo speakers allowing you to enjoy ProVoice, users can currently enjoy ProReceiver only on their BlackBerry Passport devices as it has the required army of external microphones needed to enable this feature.

It’s hard to believe such claims without having devices to compare directly with but BlackBerry has done its best by uploading a video to its YouTube account (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6D3oKNJwBeI) demonstrating the difference between the regular phone’s speakers versus the Z30’s speakers with natural sound technology.

The clip uploaded has a noticeable difference in the audio quality demonstrated using an audio visualizer. The video demonstrates that the sound from the existing devices usually tend to lean more towards lower frequencies with the bass getting a preference and high frequency sounds muffled, while with BlackBerry’s Natural Sound technology, the entire spectrum is used and we start to hear more highs and thus a clearer audio.

This would be a welcome addition to the BlackBerry users and allow them to enjoy high quality audio calls and audio playback while listening to music or playing a movie on the device or an external add-on.

BlackBerry Loses Users In The UK

Blackberry losses users in UK

BlackBerry, the Canadian smartphone maker, is continuously losing its loyal user base in the United Kingdom and could result in them having non-existent market share (amongst non-business users) in the UK by 2017. The market share has plummeted from around 8% in 2012 to a meagre 1.9% this year, according to a research from eMarketer.

According to two research firms, by the end of this year, BlackBerry’s market share in the UK is estimated to be less than one million users (outside of business users), down from the massive eight million user community in June 2012. The drop from the zenith is nothing short of debilitating and has the near-certain propensity to trigger bankruptcy, at worst.

Kantar Worldpanel, a company that deals in consumer knowledge and insights, stated that even though BlackBerry’s market data discloses that it currently has a user base of 1.4 million users in the UK, it is losing 56,000 users to other phone platforms such as Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows Phone every month.
Dominic Sunnebo, Global Strategic Insight Director at Kantar, has predicted that is this trend continues, it is expected that fewer than a million people will use BlackBerry devices as their primary phones by around September 2015.

Another study from research firm eMarketer asserts that the current count of non-business users in the UK could be as few as 700,000, with the level likely to fall to 400,000 by 2017.

To add yet another straw to the proverbial camel’s back, Windows Phone conversely, is gaining popularity in the UK smartphone market, and has already left BlackBerry behind in terms of market share and prised out the third place in the British smartphone market.

A look at the UK’s corporate sector which was once ruled by BlackBerry, Windows devices have got the edge over BlackBerry’s hoary devices. This is being attributed to the fact that Windows devices have more productivity features than BlackBerry, are reasonably priced, and most uniquely, enable seamless integration to Windows platforms and MS Office suites at the workplace.

Perhaps another precipitous reason behind this stiff drop is BlackBerry’s in undesigned role during the London riots in the summer of 2011 – where BlackBerry Messenger was cited as the vehicle used by trouble mongers to spread chaos. Later, two consecutive blackouts left all BlackBerry users without emails, BBM and Data connections for about two days. This prompted many to explore other operating systems.

BlackBerry did not see the writing on the wall and continued to overlook the inherent inabilities and shortcomings of their ecology. They were also glacial in embracing the change in the consumer preferences, furthered by their own paucity of technology offerings to keep up with the shift.

BlackBerry faced stiff competition from its rivals with the growing popularity of Apple’s iPhone and the wide range of smartphones along with Google integration that Android offers; yet they had no response. Finally, they launch a revamped operating system (BB OS 10) as well as a few new-age handset models, in an  attempt to catch up with its rivals. But the devices turned out to be a series of high-priced disastrous devices – first the PlayBook tablet followed by a touchscreen Z10 smartphone. Nothing really seems to revive BlackBerry’s fortunes, or turn the tide.

The British smartphone market at this moment seems to be governed by the Android and iOS devices with a combined 96.3% market share, after getting approval from the UK government for their devices to be used in low-level security. The UK, which used to be one of the biggest and most loyal community of BlackBerry users, with the fall in consumer base resulting in fewer sales, is building strict concerns for the company. The revenues of the company which relied highly on handset sales is declining, thus worsening its finances. With wider challenges to face in the smartphone market, BlackBerry may be planning for something big to retrieve its position in the British market, let’s wait and watch.

Huge BlackBerry OS 10.3.1 Update Should Delight Users!

Does the 10.3.1 update satisfy the BB users

BlackBerry’s latest OS (BB OS 10), has evolved unbelievably since it’s launch in November, 2012.

Some major updates, coming in one after the other, have taken the operating system to the peak in just over 24 months.

Keeping that momentum, all-new BlackBerry version 10.3.1 gives the device a refreshed look and feel, along with innovative new features designed to boost productivity and communication capabilities.

There are a lot of new features and enhancements, and also a lot of improvements over the earlier version. In fact, there are a total of eighteen new features in the new version, as described by the BlackBerry Product Manager, Michael Clewley.

User Interface

The app icons have been redesigned by BlackBerry giving it a totally refreshed look. It may come as a surprise after using the BlackBerry 10 for a while, but this change has made the icons fit and look better on the home screen. The boxes around the app icons are removed, thereby giving the screen a better look overall.

The active frames are also redesigned by the company featuring some new signature features. The see-through action bar which displayed the name of the opened app has been replaced by the stylish solid bar highlighted with a blue colour.

BlackBerry Hub

BlackBerry Hub, one of the most distinguishable features of BlackBerry 10, becomes more useful with a few modifications.

Now, there is an option to quickly organize and action your inbox without the need to go into each individual message. A new button has been introduced allowing the user to download multiple attachments in an email at the same time. Also, all of the text in an email reply can now be directly deleted.

The sent messages can be clubbed together to form a specific folder. Through the remote IMAP search, the email items not even present on the device, can be searched and viewed. After thirty minutes of inactivity, the BlackBerry Hub will auto-save the open content and then close it.

Camera

The new update of BlackBerry puts forth a strong effort to improve its camera, by introducing a new UI, and making it enjoyable for the users to click. The update brings a dedicated on screen button to snap pictures. It also included the native panorama view for a super wide shot.

Apps

In Blackberry 10.3.1, the use of various apps has gotten a lot smoother. In addition to this, 10.3.1 also bring to it users, the comfort of using Android apps on the BlackBerry Passport and P’9983. As we all know about the tie-up between Amazon and BlackBerry, Amazon makes it first official appearance. Also to add to this, HBO Go, Hulu+, Roku, Flixster, Fandago, and many more, is quite a jump for BlackBerry.

Blackberry Assistant

The best addition to 10.3.1 is the BlackBerry Assistant. It is something like the more productive version of Siri or Google Now. It lets the user use natural speech to perform several tasks such as setting up alarms, reminders and many other productive things. The user just needs to speak over the microphone which is immediately understood by the BlackBerry assistant and the task is performed.

The best thing about the BlackBerry Assistant is that it can be reached from any screen by pressing and holding the Play button. It can also be reached through the home screen.

No Limit of Apps in Folders

The new update let the users keep as many apps as they want to in a single folder, without worrying about running out of space in any one of them.

Advanced Interactions

One great new feature added to the OS is the Advanced Interactions.

It lets the user do pretty cool stuffs with their phone on the basis of how it is oriented. On the BlackBerry Passport, ‘Lift to wake your device’ can be used to turn its display on if it is facing down and the user picks it up to have a look at it. Also, some additional interactions can be set up which also helps to boost up the battery life.

BlackBerry has brought up this update keeping all of its users in mind. With the focus on efficiency and getting things done for its busy users, it also offers them the “entertainment” side. The OS is smooth, beautiful and lightning quick, and offers better productivity and fun.

BlackBerry Sues Typo... Again

Blackberry sues typo again

BlackBerry, the ailing smartphone maker is resuscitating a legal battle against the startup, Typo Innovations.

Typo Innovations, co-founded by Ryan Seacrest and Laurence Hallier in 2013, designs and manufactures human interface devices and mobile accessories.

Their keyboard (which includes a phone case) for the iPhone was positioned as providing a 2-in-1 solution to two major needs of iPhone owners – provide protection to the device while adding the absolute minimum possible bulk to the device, as well provide a sorely-missed physical keyboard. Well, useful as it may perhaps be, the Typo Keyboard Case became the eye of a legal storm at BlackBerry’s behest. Typo Innovations was made to pay almost a million dollars to BlackBerry and was banned from selling the case.

BlackBerry won a preliminary injunction in September 2013, which included a ban on Typo Innovations from selling the case any further. Typo Innovations didn’t heed, and was then ordered to pay BlackBerry nearly USD 1 million for continuing to sell its original Typo keyboard case after it had been hit with a sales ban.

BlackBerry sues Typo - Again
A year or so later, Typo Innovations released the Typo 2 Keyboard and case for the iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, and iPhone 6. The Typo 2 too gives iPhones a physical keyboard below the touch screens and on the lines of the keyboard loved by many former BlackBerry users.

BlackBerry wasn’t the least amused and has now filed a second lawsuit against Typo Innovations asserting that the second­ generation keyboard is still violating BlackBerry’s patents, including the patents related to design, backlighting and typing automation technologies. In its complaint, BlackBerry states that it wants a ban on the sales of the new Typo 2 Keyboard cases too.

BlackBerry sues Typo - Again 1

Typo Innovations meanwhile claims that the new Typo 2 Keyboard case has been redesigned by groundup and its new look and certain functionality do not make it not look like the traditional BlackBerry keyboard.

Prima facie, the Typo 2’s keyboard does have dissimilarities with the BlackBerry keyboard, however many aspects like the lettering, spacing of keys, backlighting still share significant similarities (read: inspiration and/or influence) for BlackBerry’s liking. The way BlackBerry sees it, the Typo 2 being a “minimally modified derivative version” of the original Typo keyboard, continues to allegedly violate some BlackBerry’s patents.

With the two lawsuits pending against Typo, from an erstwhile mobile device giant, the ball is in Typo’s court on whether they continue to flirt with danger, or actually do live up to their self-decreed title of “Innovations“.

Will BlackBerry Revive Itself To Its Former Glory With It's Upcoming Models?

Will Blackberry revive its former glory

BlackBerry is all set to try and reclaim its market popularity through two new smartphones it’s just announced – the BlackBerry Passport and the BlackBerry Classic.

With the unveiling taking place at a Toronto hockey bar in the presence of Wayne Gretzky, it seemed to be a noticeable effort by BlackBerry to regain its fan base in Canada.

John Chen, President and Chief Executive of the Canadian smartphone maker, made it clear that they wanted to win their home country back.

BlackBerry had ruled the smartphone industry for a considerable period, being the pioneer of the keyboard-enabled smart devices, however stiff competition (and truth be told, superior, desirable products) from Apple and some Android brands, has pushed BlackBerry to reconstitute its market strategy to get back in the game.

The latest BlackBerry devices will come once again launch via AT&T first and then move overseas in due course.

Following the dull response from consumers for its Q10 and Z10 models, BlackBerry had asked U.S. telecom carriers (who primarily work on a contract-based discounted entry price model) to cease offering the phones at subsidized rates. The devices were available at regular retail prices only. Such was the dire state of financials.

The Passport has a square 4.5-inch display, and the look of a phablet.
The phone comes with a decent 2.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor and a 13 megapixels camera at a street price of USD 600. It comes with an improved battery life over earlier BlackBerry devices.

Priced as par with the other smartphones having similar specs, the device doesn’t appear to be very appealing to the consumers just on the basis of that metric. Add to that, The device looks a bit weird presenting an odd viewing structure – as the squarish shape don’t seem to promise a nice viewing experience.

Even the keyboard looks unconventional appearing to be designed for the typos. All that said, the device has many many tricks up it’s sleeves. You should read our detailed assessment of the device here, before you make the mistake of discounting the device in your mind.

Now, having a look at the Classic which resembles the traditional BlackBerry, the large space used by the keyboard domineers a smaller touch display of 3.5-inches.
The device is a bit heavier and thicker than earlier BlackBerrys, like the Torch or the Bold.

The device is priced at USD 400 and looks to be promising – especially with it’s attractive price tag. Read more about the BlackBerry Classic here.

It really could do wonders for BlackBerry striving to make a comeback in the smartphone industry.

The company seems to have other initiatives in mind which it hasn’t revealed yet.

The next few weeks could prove to be crucial for BlackBerry as it will decide its path in the future.

BlackBerry Still On It's Own - A Denial On Reports Of A Samsung Takeover

false-rumours-of-Samsung-to-takeover-BlackBerry (1)

The markets have been abuzz with rumors and speculation that Samsung and BlackBerry were locked in potential tie­-up talks. But both companies have recently denied any such speculation.

That said, Reuters disagrees with the outright denial. It says there were indeed some grounds for the buzz.

Some reports yielded that perhaps this was a one-sided affair at the behest of Samsung, who wanted to develop its partnership with the Canadian smartphone maker so as to increase the use of the BlackBerry technology in its devices. There was no intention of any acquisition per se.

Yet, other reports had claimed that Samsung had offered to buy the company for as much as $7.5 billion, in hopes of gaining access to its patent portfolio. Samsung has recently been showing a clear interest to enter the enterprise business and also to launch mobile devices with flip screens and physical keyboards.

Now, official statements from the companies put paid to those rumors. Blackberry denied the rumors and clarified to the world with the statement: “Blackberry is aware of certain press reports published today with respect to a possible offer by Samsung to purchase Blackberry. Blackberry has not engaged in discussions with Samsung with respect to any possible offer to purchase BlackBerry. BlackBerry’s policy is not to comment on rumors or speculation, and accordingly it does not intend to comment further.”

Samsung has also issued a similar statement.

Reuters though, have held their ground on their news of the executives representing both companies had met to discuss a transaction, with a high probability of a purchase.
false rumours of Samsung to takeover BlackBerry1
BlackBerry’s stock price surged about 30 percent when the report claiming Samsung takeover bid was released, its biggest gain in more than a decade.

From the closing price of $9.71 on January 13th, the stock price spiked to $12.60 at the close on January 14th.

However, after the Samsung report was shot down, BlackBerry’s stock price tumbled 17 percent on January 15th to $11 per share.

This however is not the first time we have heard of a bid by Samsung. There have been speculations since 2012, when BlackBerry was still Research In Motion (RIM).

Samsung’s current strength lies in being one of the largest global smartphone makers, and in developing progressive mobile devices for the consumer market. But that market has become increasingly saturated in the past years. Hence with a takeover of Blackberry, Samsung could gain traction in a new market and focus successfully on a more lucrative and long-tailed enterprise business.

BBM For Android And iOS Adds Voice Calls, Amongst Other Freebies.

BBM

BBM version 2.0 has been released for Android and iOS users, and it’s for free.

The BBM app for Android and iOS saw over 20 million new users within the first week of the BBM Apps hitting the App Stores.

This new version has a lot of new features that were already part of BlackBerry, but will now be available for Android and iPhone users. There were speculations that the exit of the head executive of BlackBerry Messenger, Andrew Bocking could have delayed this release.

With this release, users can now connect with their friends and colleagues using BBM exclusively on their BlackBerry devices.

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BlackBerry is known for its line of wireless handheld devices and services that are designed and sold by BlackBerry Limited that was formerly known as Research In Motion (RIM).
These devices have features like video shooting, play music and also take pictures, they also allow the user to connect to the internet, securely send and receive emails, and of course connect using their trademark app – BBM (BlackBerry Messenger).

Before the advent of apps like WhatsApp, Viber and WeChat, it was the BBM that kept us connected on BBM across geographies.

The new version of BBM has features like BBM voice, where the users can make calls without actually using the phones minutes, just a Wi-Fi connection or a data plan on your smartphones. It also allows you to have the capability to attach files, media and voice notes directly into your chat from your smartphone.

Dropbox has been incorporated to send files stored on the cloud, saving you your precious space on the device.

Like WhatsApp, the users can now add 50 people in a BBM group. New additions where the users can join their areas of interests, known as channels have been added allowing users to follow brands or people. The choice to choose from is vast and diverse, allowing the users to connect and interact with people following their areas of interests. The app now has 100 emoticons and the ability to share your location within BBM.

With so many services BBM is trying to keep up its value by competing with services like WhatsApp, Viber and WeChat.

Kill Switch – What Is The Fuss About?

Kill switch

There’s been a lot of media buzz about the “Kill Switch” on your mobile device, with a lot of back and forth between the government officials, mobile device manufacturers and mobile phone carriers. Each party has their perspective justifying which side of the fence they are on w.r.t. the Kill Switch.

Let us explore the Kill Switch, why it’s creating such big fuss and why a consensus may not be in sight any time soon.

A Kill Switch as the name suggests, is a panic button, which can “kill” your mobile device, also referred to as an emergency switch.

This will enable the owner to render the phone useless in case of loss or theft and works with software that disables the phone on a command.

The major mobile device manufacturers like Samsung, Apple, Blackberry and Microsoft have listened to their users when they voiced concerns over loss of data via theft. To minimize the loss they have propagated online cloud storage.

Now in a step to minimize the intent (or conversely, benefit) of theftthey’ve come up with the “Kill Switch”. Most major manufacturers have included a Kill Switch on their devices out of the box, enabling their owners to take control and brick their phones thereby rendering the phones useless.

Samsung has offered Absolute LoJack in select Galaxy devices (Samsung is the largest producer of the Android phones). In fact, Samsung, Apple and Sony are all trusted partners for Absolute LoJack, with it available in the App Store and the Play Store.

LoJack

The software allows the owner to locate and recover their device using WIFI, GPS or IP geolocation. It also allows the user to remotely lock their device and even wipe-off their data to protect against identity theft.

In fact, Apple has introduced its own propitiatory app “Find my iPhone” a standard feature for their iOS 7.

The app has useful features, wherein it allows the owner to reactivate their phone upon recovery and also prevents the app from being uninstalled on the stolen devices. All you need is your Apple ID to log in and access the app.

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Even Sony has come out with “my Xperia”, which allows the users to locate their lost or stolen devices on the map with the added feature to wipe down their phone to prevent it from being misused.

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BlackBerry, has also been active and have “BlackBerry protect” which enables their owners to track and remotely wipe data off their devices.

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The app also allows you to remotely add contact details on the locked screen for people to return the device in case it as been innocently misplaced. The app goes further and allows the users to back up their data from the phone over WIFI and seamlessly switch over to a new BB device.

Now lets understand the viability of concerns accompanying device theft and resulting identity theft.

There are many projections with this regard.
USA Todays shows that 1 out of 3 thefts in the US involved mobile devices; more than 40% of the robberies in the US metros involved a mobile device and more than 1.5 million US citizens have lost their phones to theft.

In the Indian context, 53% Indians have been victims of mobile phone theft and most find the experience of losing their contacts harrowing to an extent that they are willing to pay a small ransom for the return of their phone.

While most are concerned about the loss of device and data, more than 70% cannot remotely block or wipe their phone in case of theft. Currently, only a little over 40% of users in India have password-protected mobile phones.

According to the Mobile Threat Report (@Juniper Networks), mobile malware grew by 155% in 2011 and by 614% in 2012-2013, of which, 92% of the malware are aimed at the Android devices. With more than a billion to be projected for shipment by 2017, and the Android fragmentation, which makes the OS prone to being exploited, it is a monumental threat.

When you consider the statistics with the ever-increasing sensitive financial data we have started to store on our mobile device – the problem properly appears to be very grave, and the phone manufacturers’ offering in this regard, is a boon for their users!

So why are the major carriers in the US (AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless, Sprint Corp, T-Mobile US Inc. and U.S. Cellular Corp.) rejecting the kill switch and what repercussions will it have on the Indian consumers?

There are many conspiracy theories floating around implicating the major carriers of their vested interests in profiteering from the fear of a consumer losing their device.

The major allegation leveled at them is of being hand in glove with the insurance companies. This row gathered traction when the major carriers opposed the kill switch from Samsung Electronics, which the manufacturer wanted to offer to its customers out of the box.

The carriers already have the capability of blacklisting an IMEI number (every mobile device has a unique IMEI number assigned to them by the manufacturer and can be accessed in the phone information). Using this identification number, a carrier can block a device never to be used on their network. The limitation in this arrangement is experienced when the device moves across carriers or geographies into other countries.

Unless we have a consortium of carriers catering to a common IMEI blacklist across the globe, this arrangement may not be a viable option especially when the devices are moved across countries. I’m sure quite a few of us have seen smartphones with AT&T, Verizon and Vodafone logos being sold at our friendly corner shops at a considerably lower price and have silently accepted their dubious origins.

Insurance companies have been profiteering from the perceived threat that drives a consumer to subscribe to their offerings. The major areas for seeking an insurance cover are device malfunction, accidental damage, theft and loss of device.

The major carriers have preferred vendors for insuring their phones, and the insurance plans can differ across different carriers for the same insurance provider. The monthly plans are anywhere upward of $7, which when calculated across the number of subscribers is a substantial earning potential for the carriers.

This can be conjectured by considering the symbiotic relationship between the carriers and the insurance companies; however there is always another side to the debate.

Lets cross over to the other side and hear them out.

Telecom carriers have raised concerns about the fallibility of the Kill Switch and it being maliciously used to brick the phones of unsuspecting citizens and government officials. According to them, the employees of Department of Defense and Law Enforcement could be the primary targets, which could pose as a security threat.

The major carriers added that if the Kill Switch was activated and the phone wiped down, the customer would never be able to use the device again; but, as demonstrated by Apple Inc., there’s a viable solution to this concern.

Apple has embedded an activation lock in “Find my iPhone” which allows the owner to reactivate the phone with a correct user ID and password. Simple!

When we talk about crimes of theft w.r.t. mobile devices, have we taken into consideration that the device itself could be the very reason for the crime?

There have been proven cases when the quick buck from the sale of a stolen phone has been the very cause of a violent crime against the owner (smartphone would not be the first products which have a very high aspirational value, enough to commit crimes for; there have been products and brands of clothing and shoes before to incite such actions.

Consider another scenario; a cartel thriving on trading, exporting and supplying phones for nefarious activities. Anyone who has watched Hollywood thrillers is well versed with what a phone can be used for, so if we minimize the incentive for the phone to be stolen or to be resold illegally, we can effectively lower the crimes associated with them.

Coming to the point of the carriers and their perceived threat about the Kill Switch being used by hackers, why can they not have a program to disable the switch for a certain individuals; overrun by robust security protocols.

Despite all the Telcos’ “misgivings” I’m sure most customers (worldwide) would support the Kill Switch, as it’s max risk of rendering a phone useless is mostly a financial loss. and can be considered as minor collateral damage when compared to what a stolen phone can be used for in addition to the crimes committed to procure them.

What Will BlackBerry 10.2.1 Update Bring To Your Phone?

What will BlackBerry 10.2.1 update brings to your phone

BlackBerry has recently started rolling out OTA updates to it’s BlackBerry 10 OS, with the new version BlackBerry 10.2.1 taking the OS to a next level.

The update brings around a lot of enhancements and seems to be a bigger update than what was expected by their users.

In addition to activating the FM hardware present in the existing BlackBerry 10 handsets, it adds actionable lock screen notifications, introduces the picture password for unlocking, and a few other interesting features focussed on the platform’s productivity.

BlackBerry Z30, BlackBerry Q10 and BlackBerry Q5 handsets have the FM hardware already built in, will now have it activated and usable, once the new version of the OS is installed.

In case we’re unclear, this will enable the device to be used as an FM radio even without being connected to a cellular network.

The actionable lock screen notifications now allow the users to view the messages more discreetly by tapping on the message directly from the lock screen.

The quick unlock feature is introduced allowing the user to use a picture password to unlock their BlackBerry device. It is a combination of a picture and a number(0-9) of your choice which can be placed at any particular point on the image is used for the unlocking. The picture appears along with a grid of random numbers while trying to unlock the phone, which can be unlocked by dragging the grid so that the particular point on the image is overlaid by the selected number.

There is another new feature – a pinch gesture, which allows to filter all the messages and notifications in the BlackBerry Hub.

Another new feature is for call management, where the new incoming call screen needs to be swiped to the left to take the call or to the right to dismiss it with a facility to respond via BBM, email or a text message by selecting from a list of standard automated responses, in case the user is unable to attend to the call.

Other new features include SMS and email groups allowing the user to communicate with a large number of people at the same time, browser having offline reading for the user to save a website for later and new battery monitoring tools and usage indicators.

While many devices have already received the update, the devices that are bought from an operator are yet to receive the update since the operators are wrapping up with their own testing.

It is likely that all the devices will receive the update by the end of next month which is now rolling out to the other regions like Europe, Canada, Africa and Latin America.

Samsung Striving For Deals With US Defense

Samsung is aggressively trying to partner with the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and the US Navy to get it’s products into these hallowed and extremely vast organizations.

If the deal goes through, it could spell doom for one of the last bastions of BlackBerry’s monopoly.

Apple and Samsung have already received clearances for the use of their products in the Pentagon, another one-time captive consumer of BlackBerry. To top that, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency announced it would replace all of their BlackBerry devices with Apple’s iPhones.

The Wall Street Journal mentioned that the Korean giant’s ongoing efforts to win over enterprise customers may have yielded suitors in the FBI and US Navy.

While neither of these deals have yet been finalized, however Samsung is reportedly pushing its R&D teams aggressively to work on enterprise and security software capabilities requisite for these customers’ exacting and rather proprietary needs. The devices for these contracts will come with KNOX security offerings from Samsung.

The repercussions on the technology development will be significant, irrespective of who wins the contract (and their coffers will undoubtedly be a lot fuller), and with that, BlackBerry’s (perhaps) last bastion will be conquered.

The folks at BlackBerry have some very hard times ahead should this happen and they really need to pull some magic now.

[R]evolution Of The Stylus

stylus

Does anyone remember the Stylus any more? No? Let me remind you – and for that, I’ll have to take you back in time.

Believe it or not, when the iPhone wasn’t around, people used to carry bulky PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) running Palm OS or Windows OS on them. While both OS’ were intended for point-and-click interactions, the screen technology (called Resistive Touch) back then didn’t really do well with finger or touch interactions. Hence, every touchscreen device had this little stick (metal or plastic) called the Stylus that was used to register inputs.

Resistive Touch technology works on the basis of contact made to the surface of the touchscreen presses it which then makes contact with another sheet placed right under it, separated by ‘microdots’. On these two sheets are horizontal and vertical lines that when pushed together, register the precise location of the touch. And in order to hit somewhere near precisely on the screen, one needed a pencil-point-sized instrument. Thus, the ever-important stylus.

The Stylus was not only the go-to tool for using your touchscreen device; it even increased the “cool” quotient of your device back then… indicative of “next-gen technology” or The Future.

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HTC PDA device with Stylus

However, with the debut of the Capacitive Touchscreen technology in mobile phones via Mr. Jobs’ brilliant introduction of the pathbreaking iPhone in 2007, the Stylus was suddenly redundant, and soon, forgotten.

A Capacitive Screen is basically a glass panel coated with a transparent conductive material that relies on touch-input on the surface of the screen via the finger, to trigger an electric field and register input. In simple words, it works on the principle of electric charges. Physically pressing down on the screen was no longer required. This as we all now know from personal experience, it is a much smoother and simpler experience. There’s no need to go hunting for or scrunching down on a stylus all day.

Soon resistive screens like styli, too became redundant technology and capacitive screens were incorporated into every phone, PDA, medical equipment and almost every other form of displays that we interact with nowadays.

The Comeback

With the onset of any new technology, people tend to dismiss all objects associated with what was ‘old’ as rubbish and move on, rather quickly. Give them some more time though, and nostalgia sets in. And remarkable as it is, old becomes fashionable again. Ah, the circle of life…

I was among the many smart phone users who had started secretly craving the Stylus after the dust from the whole touch screen razzmatazz had settled. I missed it – not that I have pudgy fingers or anything. But sometimes the curry, the wet hands and very often, the urge to peck at my phone as it lay at my work desk, instead of having to hold it in my hands (imagine that!) just belied the otherwise convenient touchscreen. I just needed distance from the screen, mainly to safeguard my sophisticated box of (silicon) chips and easily-smudged glass.

Well, the wheel rolled over and the circle was complete. Samsung came out with their Galaxy Note and its ‘S-Pen’, which sold more than 5 million units and almost all the phone-makers-of-the-world turned their collective attention back to the Stylus.

Now we’re onto the third gen of the Note series with Galaxy Note 3  and ‘S-Pen’ thrives – Samsung has optimized features on it, and on their homegrown variant of the Android OS. The number and kinds of things that the S-Pen can do has advanced significantly with the third installment of the Note series. So much so, that even though the Note III impresses customers with its size, features and capabilities, the S-Pen is the most versatile feature of the phone especially with the increased customizability of the Stylus to meet varied user needs.

However (there’s that word again), as with practically everything in the Digital Age, this super stylus requires some power to live up to all that it does. It draws that power wirelessly from the device itself (imagine that!!). Its all quite miraculous, this piece of plastic.

If you think I’m on some hyperbole trip, here are some of the most intriguing functions offered by the S-Pen:
•    The Air Command feature lets you access the five most important functions from anywhere within the OS, just by clicking the S-Pen’s button while hovering over the screen,
•    Displaying the contents of any app or folder when hovered over with the S-Pen.
•    Drawing on the screen with the button pressed lets you clip anything that you’re reading to the clipboard; which then works beautifully with ‘S-Finder’ to help you look through all the content within your device including hand written notes (which also reminds me that the Hand Writing Recognition on this third gen Note is scarily accurate).

Other than this, the S-Pen has a lot more to offer and I believe it’s safe to say that it indeed is a very powerful tool capable of fulfilling expectations of all the creative minds out there, setting the Note III apart from all phones available in the market right now. It is commendable how Samsung has taken up the Stylus and introduced it as the mascot of their Note devices.

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 Samsung Galaxy Note with its dedicated Stylus [S-Pen]
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Samsung Galaxy Note 3 with the updated S-Pen

Other giants have also been paying attention to Samsung’s exploits with the stylus and have begun their journeys to revive the stylus with their own styles. HTC came out with its tablet devices, the Flyer and View with a dedicated Stylus each, which it called the ‘Scribe Pen’.

The stylus enabled users to do things like photo editing and drawing with pinpoint accuracy with such ease and simplicity that the Stylus (the modern stylus, of course) was back in the game.

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HTC Flyer Tab with the Scribe Pen

Today, the demand for the Stylus is on the rise and there are many third party manufacturers catering to user’s needs by offering universal styli. We have styli for Apple devices too, however their limited use and cost has not made them a popular add-on for iOS devices. Yet.

However having taken a close look at the scenario today, I am not convinced that there are too many brands out there that have actually worked to harness the power of the Stylus. Most are just catching up with the Joneses, doing as they do, dancing as they dance.

With the evident popularity of the Samsung Galaxy Note and its sidekick, the S-Pen, there is a lot of potential for this simple tool to be re-incorporated with mobile devices and molded into something innovative and fresh. Opportunities are limitless, with touchscreen devices clearly being here to stay.

Mid-range BlackBerry For India, The Q5

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Painfully watching the decline of it’s sales in India (smartphone shipments in India fell to 5.9% in 2012, down from 12.8% in 2010, according to IDC), BlackBerry recently launched the new BlackBerry Q5 to endorse the BlackBerry 10 operating system, and to eke out higher share of mid-range pie. India is after all, the third largest mobile market in the world.

The folks at BlackBerry have shrewdly pegged the introductory price of the Q5 at ₹ 25,000, which is considerably more palatable than the steep ₹ 35,000 ticket price of the BlackBerry Q10.

Specs wise, the Blackberry Q5 has a 3.1 inches TFT LCD capacitive touchscreen display with a 720×720 pixels resolution, shouldering 16 million colors. The device is powered by a 1.2GHz Dual Core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 2 GB of RAM.

This move is a clear indicator that BlackBerry is vying hard to break their product line into different price capsules, so as to drive a deeper penetration than just corporates users, especially amongst small-business users as well as young non-business users.

BlackBerry has also revised its mandated data-service packages, and now include different bundles of the BlackBerry Data Services packages. Users can choose email-only subscriptions, or BlackBerry Messenger with 1-2 emails, or their regular, unlimited package.

All’s not rosy though. The market segment that the Q5 is targeted for, is a crowded one and BlackBerry will be forced to compete with numerous manufacturers, both international and Indian. Samsung Galaxy DUOS (priced at  ₹20,000) and LG Optimus L5 (for about half the Q5’s price) may not allow the Q5 to gain overnight sales traction in India.
This is just the tip of the iceberg; when you take into consideration, compelling options from Karbonn, Spice, Micromax and even the inexpensive imports from China, the pricing of the Q5 does not look as good as did initially. The only solace is that it runs on BB OS 10.

India is a growing market and the number of early adopters has also increased exponentially; however the market does remain price and VFM (Value for Money) sensitive. This device alone, might not serve the BlackBerry’s ambitious dreams of growing their market share in India as much as they’d be hoping for.

Easy And Fluid Multi-Tasking With Blackberry Peek And Flow

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Multi-tasking is one of the most important features of a smartphone today. Multitasking is the ability to run more than one app simultaneously and also switch between them with ease.

The Blackberry Peek is a feature which allows you to view the notifications you have from wherever you are with one simple gesture. It is a lot like the Android and iOS notification bar, but it is different in the way it is presented and it is a bit more fluid. With a simple swipe upwards from the base you can see all the notifications you have. When you swipe up, the whole BB 10 interface shrinks and in the left edge you see the notifications with their respective icons. You can swipe right to continue to the Blackberry Hub to see your notification. Also even when you are watching a video on youtube or from your gallery, you can swipe up and see the notifications through peek and go to the hub, all without even pausing your video or leaving your BB10 experience.

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Blackberry Flow refers to the complete seamless integration offered by BB 10. It is smooth, fast and fluid. After you have ”peeked” and entered your Hub, you can swipe up again from the bottom of the screen to come back to your active apps screen. Here you will see all the apps currently open and running in the background. You can move easily from one app to another, suppose you are in the gallery, from there you can set a reminder which takes you to the calendar, from the calendar you can see your upcoming appointments with people, from there you can see what those people are doing on the social media platforms.

In the past 5 minutes you could have switched between 5 or more apps and you would not feel it thanks to the Blackberry Flow offering integration like no other platform. “Move through your world effortlessly with Blackberry Peek and Flow”, is how people at BlackBerry like to put it.

Meet The New BlackBerry Top Gun - The BlackBerry Z10

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With the rapid rise of the smartphone sector and the increasing popularity of Android and iOS, Blackberry (formerly RIM) found it pretty hard to sustain it’s market value and reputation. Being the ones to set the trend for a physical QWERTY keypad, Blackberry initially resisted all-screen-no-keyboard designs, however given changing customer preferences, finally put a lot at stake when it announced the all-screen Z10 and the screen+keyboard Q10 smartphone – the first two smartphones to run Blackberry OS 10.

Released in January 2013, the Blackberry Z10 is is BlackBerry’s vehicle to resurrection in this day of touchscreen smartphones and it’s rather belated attempt to make things right and get on track to compete with the likes of Apple, Samsung and Google. Build wise, not much has changed in the BlackBerry material ethos – the Z10 is a very well built, rectangular device that sits well in the hand, and feels extremely solid and unibody. The interface has been built around the newfangled touch experience and despite misgivings, it works well.

Blackberry Z10

We also liked the BlackBerry Hub integration which consolidates all messaging and communication into one hub (hence the name), which is always accessible through a swipe from the left.

Blackberry Z10 Black front

 

Featuring a single micro-SIM slot, the Z10 sports a 4.2 inch capacitive touchscreen with a 768x1280p resolution and 355 ppi. The display is pretty good by itself but fails to stand out, to be honest.

This smartphone features a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus SoC with a dual-core 1.5 GHz Krait processor and the Adreno 225 GPU. There’s 2 GB of RAM on this smartphone, that does help apps and others processes run smoothly at this time; however given how apps are becoming heavier and more resource hungry, we’ll have to see how the Z10 fares with this hardware, over time.

At the back is an above-par 8 megapixel camera with a 3264x2488p resolution that allows touch focus, face detection, HDR and panorama. It is even capable of recording 1080p videos at 30fps.

The front camera is a 2 megapixel shooter capable of recording 720p videos at 30fps. Although it’s just a 2 megapixel camera, the selfies on this device are pretty good and the camera app is slick all in all.

Interestingly, the Blackberry Z10 features an HDMI port, which we find to be an excellent addition since it allows us to showcase movies and even videos recorded on the phone on an HDTV!

Overall, we believe BlackBerry may be climbing back on the charts with the Z10, and given that it’s as well stocked on hardware as many of it’s peers from other brands, we hope that customers will give this smartphone a chance – its priced well, built well and comes with the inherent privacy and enterprise security (and of course BBM!) built in. The only stumbling block that might exist though would be the newly-launched BlackBerry app store – it needs to develop really fast and get some useful and reliable app-pipeline going.

In today’s day and age, it’s not a device or its hardware alone, that determines the fate of the device (and in this case of the Brand itself).

Now Get Android Apps On Your BlackBerry Playbook!

BlackBerry Playbook

Looking to expand your BlackBerry’s horizons? Bored by the rather paltry options available in the BlackBerry App World? Well, there’s some good news.

You can now get Android apps on your BlackBerry Playbook that too without any complicated procedure! Blackberry has come up with an emulator called Android Player that allows devices running BB OS to run Android apps.

This emulator has such mind blowing integration that you don’t even realize that you are running an Android app on your tablet, the interface mimics the OS so well, and all the controls just work. The only giveaway though, is that an Android app loads differently from how a normal BlackBerry app does – the screen briefly says “Initializing, Please Wait….“. This is the Android emulator at work.

Excited? Head over to the Blackberry App World and get the app! You can download and install it on your Playbook in the usual manner.

Enjoy the newfound vista!