Blackberry have launched two new smartphones- which have been greeted with positive reviews.The Z10 is controlled via a 4.2 inch touchscreen while the Q10 has a smaller 3.1 inch screen and physical keyboard.
The new operating system had originally been due for release last year.
“Two years ago we had to make a very serious decision,” chief executive Thorsten Heins told a press conference in New York. “Adopt someone else’s platform or build a whole new one from ground up for Blackberry. And we made the tough call to go it alone.”
“Bringing an entirely new platform to the market and ushering this company through a really difficult transition took careful planning and we absolutely knew it was risky.”
According to data from IDC, Blackberry devices used to account for just over 19% of global smartphone shipments at the start of 2010 – but it suggests that figure had dropped to less than 4% by the end of last year.
The new user interface allows up to eight apps to run simultaneously, four of which can appear in small windows on the same screen – something the firm describes as “true multitasking”.
During a demonstration executives said the intention was to let users “flow” through applications using swipes and other gestures rather than copy the “in and out” nature experienced when navigating rivals’ devices.
For example BB10’s Hub – which brings together emails, texts and other notifications – can be accessed by swiping up and then to the right from any app. The user then needs to reverse the gesture to return to where they were.
The BBM messaging app can now make audio and video calls as well as being able to share what is on one person’s screen with the other user’s device.
The Z10 is not RIM’s first to feature a touchscreen keyboard, but it has adopted new features to attract users more used to physical buttons.
These include a feature which learns the words and phrases the owner most often types and then uses this to suggest words which float above the keyboard and can be flicked into place.
It will also learn to anticipate and correct frequently made mistakes – such as if the user often hits the letter C when they mean to tap space.
“This is not a new Blackberry device, this is a completely new Blackberry experience. For the first time the traditional keyboard Blackberry users will it find easier to type on a touchscreen.”
The handsets also include a mix of features designed to make them appeal as a crossover business-personal machine.
Blackberry Balance sets up a “work perimeter” on the phones so that data belonging to the user’s employer can be limited to approved apps, while photos and other personal information can be used across a wider range of software.
Security conscious companies are also given the option of being able to remotely wipe sensitive files.