Feel the QWERY typin' and BlackBerry shakin' ...

Subject: Mobile | June 1, 2017 - 03:34 PM |
Tagged: blackberry, keyone

Believe it or not the company formerly known as RIM is indeed stayin' alive.  The KeyOne is a new BlackBerry phone which sports the trademark physical QWERTY keyboard at the bottom, built by TCL Corporation with whom BlackBerry negotiated a deal with back in 2016.  The keyboard reduces the screen size to 4.5" with a 3:2 aspect ratio, in total the phone measures 149x73x9.4mm and 180g. The phone is powered by a 2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 Octa-Core chipset, with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage.  The Inquirer had a chance to review the phone recently which you can check out if you are so inclined.

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"Of course, this is no BlackBerry as you used to know it, coming instead from a deal with TCL Corporation to build the phones. With a £499 retail price in the UK, are the few remaining loyal BlackBerry fans now put off by the new direction, and is the novelty of a keyboard in a touchscreen world enough to keep the brand ticking over?"

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Source: The Inquirer

It has been a while since the last legal battle but Qualcomm may be our next contender

Subject: General Tech | April 12, 2017 - 12:30 PM |
Tagged: sueball, qualcomm, Intel, blackberry, apple

Ah, the old days of Microsoft versus governments, Apple and Samsung, Intel and AMD, SCO and ... well just about everyone; lately there has not been much legal vitriol in the headlines.  This may change as Qualcomm is now involved in several suits which are likely to become high profile.  First up is what may be the driving force behind their need to seek restitution from Apple; they were just ordered to pay Blackberry $815 million after that company was successful in their legal battle to dispute certain royalty payments.  Even a company as large as Qualcomm is going to feel the pain from that.

On to the real upcoming battle royal, featuring Apple and Qualcomm over the iPhone 7.  It seems that Apple has taken offence to Qualcomm's claims that Apple handicapped their chip to ensure it did not out perform the models which contained an Intel chipset.  Qualcomm released a large rebuttal to the lawsuit which Apple launched this January which you can read about at Ars Technica, or follow the link to read the entire document.  This may prove to be the next interesting technological legal battle, stay tuned for more.

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"For example, Qualcomm’s technological contributions enable popular smartphone apps such as Uber, Snapchat, Spotify, Apple Music, Skype, Google Maps, and Pokémon GO, among others."

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Source: Ars Technica

MWC: BlackBerry KEYone Is Solid Mid-Range Smartphone Priced Too High

Subject: Mobile | March 1, 2017 - 02:26 PM |
Tagged: Snapdragon 625, opinion, MWC, keyone, enterprise, Cortex A53, blackberry, Android 7.1, Android

February is quite the busy month with GDC, MWC, and a flurry of technology announcements coming out all around the same time! One of the more surprising announcements from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona came from BlackBerry in the form of a new mid-range smartphone it is calling the KEYone. The KEYone is an Android 7.1 smartphone actually built by TCL with an aluminum frame, "soft touch" plastic back, curved edges, and (in traditional CrackBerry fashion) a full physical QWERTY keyboard!

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The black and silver candy bar style KEYone (previously known as "Mercury") measures 5.78" x 2.85" x 0.37" and weighs 0.39 pounds. The left, right, and bottom edges are rounded and the top edge is flat. There are two bottom firing stereo speakers surrounding a USB Type-C port (Type-C 1.0 with USB OTG), a headphone jack up top, and volume, power, and convenience key buttons on the right side. The front of the device, which BlackBerry has designed to be comfortable using one handed, features a 4.5" 1620 x 1080 LCD touchscreen (434 PPI) protected by Gorilla Glass 4, a front facing camera with LED flash, and a large physical keyboard with straight rows of keys that have a traditional BlackBerry feel. The keyboard, in addition to having physical buttons, supports touch gestures such as swiping, and the spacebar has a fingerprint reader that early hands on reports indicate works rather well for quickly unlocking the phone. Further, every physical key can be programmed as a hot key to open any application with a long press (B for browser, E for email, ect).

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On the camera front, BlackBerry is using the same sensor found in the Google Pixel which is a Sony IMX378. There is a 12MP f/2.0 rear camera with dual LED flash and phase detect auto focus on the back as well as a front facing 8MP camera. Both cameras can record 1080p30 video as well as support HDR and software features like face detection. Android Central reports that the camera software is rather good (it even has a pro mode) and the camera is snappy at taking photos.

Internally, BlackBerry has opted to go with squarely mid-range hardware which is disappointing but not the end of the world. Specifically, the KEYone is powered by a Snapdragon 625 (MSM8953) with eight ARM Cortex A53 cores clocked at 2GHz and an Adreno 506 GPU paired with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. Wireless support includes dual band 802.11ac, FM, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, NFC, and GSM/HSPA/LTE cellular radios. The smartphone uses a 3,505 mAh battery that is not user removable but at least supports Quick Charge 3.0 which can reportedly charge the battery to 50% in 36 minutes. Storage can be expanded via MicroSD cards. The smartphone is running Android 7.1.1 with some BlackBerry UI tweaks but is otherwise fairly stock. Under the hood however BlackBerry has hardened the OS and includes its DTEK security sftware along with promising monthly updates.

Not bad right? Looking at the specifications and reading/watching the various hands-on reports coming out it is really looking like BlackBerry (finally) has a decent piece of hardware for enterprise customers, niche markets (lawyers, healthcare, ect), and customers craving a physical keyboard in a modern phone. At first glance the BlackBerry KEYone hits all the key marks to a competitive Android smartphone... except for its $549 price tag. The KEYone is expected to launch in April.

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No scroll ball? Blasphemy! (hehe)

Unfortunately, that $549 price is not a typo, and is what kills it even for a CrackBerry addict like myself. After some reflection and discussion with our intrepid smartphone guru Sebastian, I feel as though BlackBerry would have a competitive smartphone on its hands at $399, but at $549 even business IT departments are going to balk much less consumers (especially as many businesses embrace the BYOD culture or have grown accustomed to pricing out and giving everyone whatever basic Android or iPhone they can fit into the budget).

While similarly specced Snapdragon 625 smartphones are going for around $300, (e.g. Asus ZenPhone 3 at $265.98), there is some precedent for higher priced MSM8953-based smartphones such as the $449 Moto Z Play. There is some inherent cost in integrating a physical keyboard and BlackBerry has also hardened the Android 7.1.1 OS which I can see them charging a premium for and that business customers (or anyone that does a lot of writing on the go) that values security can appreciate. It seems like BlackBerry (and hardware partner TCL) has finally learned how to compete on the hardware design front in this modern Android-dominated market, and now they must learn how to compete on price especially as more and more Americans are buying unlocked and off-contract smartphones! I think the KEYone is a refreshing bit of hardware to come out of BlackBerry (I was not a fan of the Priv design) and I would like to see it do well and give the major players (Apple, Samsung, LG, Asus, Huawei, ect) some healthy competition with the twist of its focus on better security but in order for that to happen I think the BlackBerry KEYone needs to be a bit cheaper.

What are your thoughts on the KEYone and the return of the physical keyboard? Am I onto something or simply off my Moto Rokr on this?

Source: BlackBerry

Not everyone will be allowed to make fruit preserves; an interview with Blackberry

Subject: General Tech | October 6, 2016 - 12:36 PM |
Tagged: blackberry, Android, licensing

The Register sat down with Alex Thurber, a BlackBerry senior VP, to discuss the companies plans to license their particular flavour of Android to other phone manufacturers. Thurbur has worked at Cisco, McAfee after Intel's purchase of the company as well as a firewall company called WatchGuard so he has had some experience with locking down kit.  We will still see two more BlackBerry devices before they finally stop selling hardware but you should expect to see other brands running Blackberry licensed versions of Android soon.  They will have NIAP (National Information Assurance Partnership) certification, the same certification that Samsung's KNOX and LG's GATE qualify for.  Drop by for deeper look into what they discussed.

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"BlackBerry says it won’t license its brand and security hardened Android “to any Tom Dick and Harry” as it tries to maintain the value of its brand."

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Source: The Register

The Priv has been flushed

Subject: General Tech | April 11, 2016 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: Android, blackberry, Priv

Blackberry has abandoned the Priv, calling it somewhat of an expensive mistake not only because of the investment costs but also because it was priced well above what consumers are willing to pay for a phone.  They will be developing a new Android device which is intended to sell at $400, in line with the competitions prices.  This also seems to imply that the BB10 OS will no longer be actively developed at Blackberry although they have not stated that for the record.  They also haven't disclosed how many Priv's were sold but considering what they told The Register and others it is likely to be well below what they had hoped.  They aren't dead yet but they are certainly low on health.

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"BlackBerry's CEO has used an interview with United Arab Emirates outlet The National to announce plans to move the troubled mobe-maker's Android efforts downscale."

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Source: The Register

Blackberry exposes its Privs and the world ... likes it?

Subject: Mobile | November 20, 2015 - 06:23 PM |
Tagged: blackberry, Priv, Android

Could it truly be enough to add a little Android to your Blackberry to bring them back to some form of popularity?  From what this contributor at The Register has to say it could very well be what the company once known as RIM needed.  The Priv is described as the least irritating Android phone they've ever used, which translates to high praise when you are talking about a Blackberry device.  The sliding keyboard is actually useful, the BlackBerry DTek security app is decent but requires a Google account to be linked to the phone, as do many other apps.  Check out the review to see if this is a berry flavoured Lollipop you might actually want a few licks at.

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"Other than that, none of which really counts, I think this might be my least disliked Android phone so far. It’s at least as good as the best Android phones I have used, because it’s the same as all other Androids, just minus the garbage often layered on top. And it’s better, because the BlackBerry stuff layered on top is very far from being garbage."

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Source: The Register

Juicy Friday rumour; a mysterious Blackberry device running Android?

Subject: General Tech | June 12, 2015 - 12:39 PM |
Tagged: Android, blackberry, google, rumour

Could this Reuters' story that Slashdot linked to possibly be correct?  A phone with a physical keyboard using Blackberry hardware with an Android OS?  The fact that you have been able to set up the Google Play store on BB10 devices for a while now is well known and lends credence to the rumour but it would represent a huge change for the long suffering smartphone company.  Blackberry opened up BBM to all phones, which did not generate much interest and the company has also announced that it will make some of its proprietary security feature available to iOS, Android and Windows phones which makes their devices a little less unique.  A slider style phone with a keyboard that is natively Android is interesting but just how likely is this to restore Blackberry as a player in this highly competitive market?

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"BlackBerry is considering equipping an upcoming smartphone with Google Inc.'s Android software for the first time, an acknowledgement that its revamped line of devices has failed to win mass appeal, according to four sources familiar with the matter."

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Source: Slashdot

Blackberry skips a number too; BES 12 is coming soon

Subject: General Tech | November 17, 2014 - 02:06 PM |
Tagged: blackberry, BES12

Somewhere the highly successful company RIM released BES 11 which runs on Windows 9, but not in this universe.  In this brane we have the struggling, but still alive Blackberry announcing the upcoming release of BES 12, a mobile device management server which will manage Android, iOS, Windows and Blackberry devices for enterprise.  The most interesting feature that was mentioned to The Register are virtual phone numbers, a company owned phone number can be added to an employees personal device, allowing them to keep their personal number and still receive business calls without needing a second device.  All the billing used by the business number is billed to the business while data and voice used under the users account is billed to their plan.  There are some obvious challenges to this service, you would need the same provider and the device would need to support Blackberry Balance, Android Fort Knox or similar partitioning software but is something which could interest small businesses.  You can catch up on the other features in the BES and news about some new devices right here.

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"Turnaround artiste John Chen marked one year as BlackBerry boss with an avalanche of enterprise software news related to the firm's new BES12 server, which can manage enterprise mobe devices running Android, iOS, Windows Phone – and of course, BB's own mobile OS."

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Source: The Register

Curious about that square phone from the other fruity company?

Subject: General Tech | October 2, 2014 - 01:10 PM |
Tagged: blackberry, passport, snapdragon 801

Inside the new Blackberry Passport is a quad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, 3GB RAM, 32GB internal storage, NFC, microUSB port and the impressive 4.5" 1440 x 1440 IPS touchscreen.  This phone is squarely aimed at the business user who does not consider the lack of apps and comparably poor video and gaming performance to be a negative and is far more interested in being able to read a document without scrolling.  Apart from the form factor the interface will be familiar to BB users, the Blackberry 10.3 OS has been available to users for a while now but the battery life will impress you as The Inquirer reports using the Passport for 2 days straight without charging, something the Z10 and Q10 are not capable of.  Read more here or scroll down to see what else is up in the mobile world.

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"THE BLACKBERRY PASSPORT is the Canadian phonemaker's comeback smartphone, and the firm is hoping the handset's "innovative" design will convince corporate buyers to ditch their Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy handsets."

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Source: The Inquirer

How to ruin your company in (Blackberry) 10 steps

Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2013 - 03:09 PM |
Tagged: blackberry, flash, blackberry q10, blackberry z10, playbook, security

Oh RIM, is this what happens when you change your name, celebrity spokesperson and infrastructure?  First you gave up on what we thought was an incredibly secure way to communicate and moved to the same ActiveSync environment of Android and iOS and then we find out that we were fooling ourselves and even the old BES encryption was broken.  Then we find out that our data plans might or might not work if we roam outside of our home carriers network, regardless of what travel plan we might have requested.  A patch Tuesday cycle could be the last straw for many; announcing two ancient Adobe vulnerabilities on the new BB10 OS which will need to be patched might assure some that you still have a passing acquaintance with security but for most it is just one too many flaws.  The Inquirer links to the BB security threads in this article.

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"The Z10, Q10 and PlayBook all need patching for Adobe Flash vulnerabilities. If a user were led to a page containing crafted Flash content, an attacker could execute arbitrary code on an affected device. BSRT-2013-007 notes that an alternative attack would be to trick users into downloading an Adobe AIR application."

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Source: The Register