We’re just a half month away from what will certainly be RIM’s biggest announcement ever. On January 30 they will hold events marking the release of long-awaited BlackBerry 10 handsets. For the past eight or nine months we’ve seen the prototype for their all-touch model, but we haven’t seen much concerning the signature-style QWERTY model. That’s the one that could make or break the entire platform. With the touchscreen model there is plenty of competition: iPhone, nearly all Android devices, and current Windows Phone models are all similar in design. But RIM holds the key with its signature Bold styled handset.
A photo of the device appeared on Instagram lately. It does appear to be the Real McCoy, complete with “not for sale” engravings on the bottom border. That is not to say that this is the device that consumers will see. Rather, it is the equivalent of the Dev Alpha that RIM distributed to developers at BlackBerry World earlier this year. While the equivalent BlackBerry 10 device will closely resemble this, it won’t quite be the same thing.
In terms of reaction, it’s hard to think that this is any different than anyone imagined. The screen is slightly taller than in previous versions of the Bold, but that’s by necessity. RIM wants to make the development process as streamlined as possible, which means keeping dimensions compatible across devices. It might mean a larger device in total, but it will mean a better experience for both developer and user.
What RIM didn’t do is mess with the keyboard. It has been their bread and butter since they came onto the scene like gangbusters in 2003, and there is no reason to mess with what works. Of course, the BlackBerry keyboard evolved considerably over the years, but it appears they hit the pinnacle of keyboard functionality with their Bold 99xx series (just this author’s opinion). Sticking with something similar will work well, because it’s what works well for end users.
In two weeks we’ll know, and see, a lot more. But the current signs are at least a little encouraging. I’ve opined frequently that BlackBerry 10 won’t do much to expand the BlackBerry brand, but will merely keep the current user base in place. Perhaps it will attract some new users, but it’s hard to see Android users switching, especially at a time when Samsung is creating some of the most compelling handsets on the market. But if RIM can at least keep its current users happy, perhaps they can win enough new ones to make it all worthwhile.