With little more than two weeks to go until the official unveiling of Research In Motion’s new generation of smartphones, the tech world is buzzing with leaks of unofficial pictures and speculation about the BlackBerry 10's release date.
For RIM, the January 30 unveiling will be a make-or-break moment — the company's last chance to prove it can keep up with Apple's iPhone and Android smartphones.
But right now, we can’t even be certain of what the phones will be called. They’ve been referred to as the BlackBerry 10, or BB10, by bloggers for more than a year now. And while that's certainly the name of RIM’s new operating system, the phones themselves could have different monikers.
Many bloggers, including the generally knowledgeable RapidBerry and CrackBerry sites, are referring to the phones as the BlackBerry Z10. And rumours have been floating around for some time now that the phones — or at least some of them — will be called the BlackBerry London.
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Then there’s the question of when. RIM has announced it will be officially unveiling the operating and system and smartphones on Jan. 30 at events in New York and Toronto, with the phones going on sale sometimes after that.
But a leaked photo from what appears to be Best Buy Canada’s inventory system, if accurate, sets the release date as Feb. 28, 2013. (Bell has already started taking pre-orders for the BB10.)
The photo, published at the BGR blog, shows what appears to be a price list and “street date” for a “Bell BlackBerry 10 device. The base retail price is set at $799. The Huffington Post could not independently verify that the photo is genuine.
Meanwhile, purported photos of the devices have been leaking on the internet.
In December, Vietnamese site Tinhte.vn released more than a dozen photos of what it said were BB10 devices. And last week, RapidBerry.net released a series of marketing images — likely in-store displays — that appear to be BB10 devices. Again, we could not independently confirm the pictures are the real deal.
But we’re beginning to get some info about what the phones will feature. Those who have gotten their hands on advance models of the phone have had some positive things to say about features and design:
— The phone will launch with at least 15,000 apps. That’s the number of apps that were ported on to the BlackBerry 10 operating system during a recent developer “portathon.”
— “BB10 has the best notifications center we've seen on a mobile device, letting you quickly "peek" at incoming emails, calendar notifications, tweets, etc. with a natural swiping gesture,” reports Steve Kovach at Business Insider.
But the thing tech bloggers and insiders have noticed the most in the months since demo models and pictures started leaking is that the new BlackBerry 10 phones look a lot like the iPhone.
“Though it works to RIM‘s advantage to design a smartphone that isn’t wildly different from what people are used to, the company should also beware of Apple,” writes Sean Patterson at WebProNews.
“Samsung has seen what happens when you attempt to copy Apple,” he adds, referring to the landmark patent lawsuit that Samsung lost to Apple last year. “Of course, Samsung is now Apple’s biggest competitor, so perhaps following the crowd really is the way to get ahead in the mobile market.”
Not all of RIM’s new phones will look “iPhone-like,” however. Aside from the full-screen phone, RIM plans to release a version of the phone with a physical QWERTY keyboard — a feature popular among some users, which has kept them loyal to the BlackBerry as other smartphone makers switched to full-screen models.
While two handsets are expected to be unveiled with the launch of BlackBerry 10 later this month, the company says in all it plans to release six new phone models by the end of the year.