Bits & Bytes: A look at the week in technology
BY ROBERT EVATT World Staff Writer
Sunday, February 03, 2013
2/03/13 at 4:14 AM
I've seen plenty of new product announcements, but I've never seen one so critical to the survival of a company than Research In Motion's unveiling of BlackBerry 10.
The tech world had gotten used to snickering at the company's fading luster and half-hearted attempts to compete, but RIM - which was re-named BlackBerry during the Wednesday announcement - didn't flub things this time.
The new BlackBerry Z10, the first phone that will run BlackBerry 10, looks to be a reasonably solid piece of equipment, though fans of the great BlackBerry physical keyboard will have to wait for the Q10 phone to follow a month later.
Even better news is that the operating system ditches any resemblance to the stodgy BlackBerry version of the past. Users can swipe through groups of icons without having to mess with physical buttons.
Multitasking appears to be a simple affair, with the ability to bring up, switch to or kill any of the running apps easily. The notification center, here called "BlackBerry Hub," mixes in phone notifications, Twitter conversations and even LinkedIn updates.
BlackBerry Messenger is still around, and it now incorporates the ability to do video chats. The virtual keyboard has earned praises from the lucky reporters who have used it and can now predict entire words before you type them.
One of the more interesting features is BlackBerry Balance, which allows you to easily transition from work mode to personal mode and keep them separate. It also allows one to be completely wiped without affecting the other, which could be handy when you change jobs.
BlackBerry will roll out the Z10 in March with an expected subsidized price tag of $199. It honestly looks like a very good phone.
Though I'm not sure "very good" will get many people to buy it.
My pessimism is rooted in the example of the Windows Phone. Microsoft put a lot of effort and creativity into reinventing their smartphones and came up with a usable and fun experience that manages to be vastly different from either Android or iOS. I'm a big fan of Windows Phone.
But it's not selling. More people so far have bought the glitchy Windows Phone predecessor than the new model.
Though it's genuinely great, iOS and Android had too strong a grip on the market for Windows Phone to make any waves.
The new BlackBerry comes with even more baggage than Windows. For years RIM failed to evolve BlackBerry devices fast enough to make them any real competition to the other smartphones, and the platform went from being synonymous with the word "smartphone" to being the butt of jokes.
BlackBerry needed to unveil something stunning to recapture everyone's attention, and I don't think it was successful. The new OS seems to have finally shrunk the gap between BlackBerry and everyone else and created a commendable product. But I'll be surprised if this will get many people excited about BlackBerry again.
App of the week: Temple Run 2 (iOS, Android)
Since this app is at more than 50 million downloads and counting, smartphone users must still have an appetite for running and jumping. As before, your frantic temple explorer will run automatically, and you'll have to make him jump, slide and turn to deal with the random obstacles.
New this time around are additional types of obstacles, zip lines and mine carts, but the most welcome change is the improved visuals. There's also the opportunity to pay for upgrades if you're a particularly impatient runner.
Imangi Studios, free.
Suggest an app for App of the Week at email@example.com
Original Print Headline: BlackBerry 10 good but not spectacular
After My Butt, what's next for Apple Maps?
At this point most of the Apple Maps glitches have gone from funny to kind of sad. We know the product still isn't ready for prime time. Yet I couldn't help but giggle at the reports that Apple Maps has successfully found My Butt.
Not my personal rear. I'm talking about a restaurant along Eddy Street in San Francisco called My Butt. It does not exist, but that hasn't stopped Apple Maps from listing it. The place has even gotten some cheeky user reviews.
How did My Butt become a destination in Apple Maps? Are there more random body parts hidden on the app's maps? Why does the fake landmark still exist at the time of writing even after the entire tech blogosphere has gotten a great chortle over it?
And why does Apple continue to insist Bell's Amusement Park is open even though the app was created years after Bell's closed?
No one knows, but now is a great time for a reminder that an iOS Google Maps app is available and fantastic.
Thorsten Heins, CEO of Research in Motion, which is changing its name to BlackBerry, introduces the BlackBerry Z10 on Wednesday. The company will roll out the Z10 in March at an anticipated price of $199. NATHAN DENETTE / The Canadian Press / AP