BlackBerry introduces Z10 phone, but will it save its brand?

March 22, 2013 10:04:57 PM PDT
Remember BlackBerry? That is the brand that used to make everybody's must-have cellphone list. Well now, it has a new smartphone and the buzz about the BlackBerry Z10 is pretty good.

The starting price with a contract is $199 or with no contract $599. Of course price is not the bottom line for all smartphone buyers. You want to know how it measures up to Samsung's new Galaxy S4 or of course the iPhone 5.

But even with impressive technical stats, BlackBerry may be facing an uphill battle.

Beneath his slick sport coat and impeccably coiffed hair, university alumni director Andrew Kaufteil is hiding something that's not so stylish.

"I have a BlackBerry," said Kaufteil. "And it's a little bit embarrassing."

Trapped in the final months of a two-year contract, he's watched all his friends trade up to the newest phones from Apple and Samsung.

"They usually ask, 'Why do you still have a BlackBerry?'" said Kaufteil.

The smartphone that started it all now accounts for just 2 percent of the market and BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins is determined to change that.

"We are used to competition now, right? So we got to innovate, we got to get better. So what we did is, that's why we built this whole new platform," said Heins.

After launching in Europe, BlackBerry 10 is now in the U.S. The Z10 looks an awful lot like its touch screen competitors and it's getting good reviews.

"I actually really like it. I think that BlackBerry's done a really good job with certain aspects of the phone. It feels really comfortable in the hand, they've done a nice job with the camera," said CNET senior editor Jessica Dolcourt.

Dolcourt was enthusiastic about the totally new touch keyboard, an awfully slick camera and an online store full of new BlackBerry apps -- because who wants a phone without Angry Birds?

This latest BlackBerry has all the trappings of a modern smartphone. However, the question that remains is a simple one really: "Is it enough to save the company?"

"Right now, I think they're just trying to prove that they're not dead," said Dolcourt. When asked if they are dead, she replied, "They're not dead yet."

BlackBerry has no shortage of former users and Dolcourt says it's unlikely that users who've left will come back.

"I don't think they're going to get anybody who already likes their iPhone or who already likes their Android phone to come switch over," said Dolcourt.

But BlackBerry 10 just might be a hit with current users, she says, and the start of a slow turnaround for the company. Though it's a turnaround some users won't stick around to see.

When we asked Kaufteil what BlackBerry would have to do to keep him as a customer, he said, "They'd have to merge with Apple."


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