BlackBerry has finally started rolling out BB OS 10.2.1 update for all of its BB10 smartphone users. In a closed door briefing yesterday, the company took us through the new features and how it listened to its customers and added features they wanted. Despite having used a BlackBerry smartphone only briefly, I found myself making mental tick marks as the BlackBerry spokesperson introduced one feature after another. Yes, these were the issues I faced on BB1o and they have been resolved. Also Read - Blackberry 5G smartphone 2021 comeback confirmed again, to bring physical keyboardsAlso Read - Blackberry is coming back once more, will debut in 2021 with a flagship keyboard phone
Finally I can click on an onscreen notification and directly go to it, rather than having to go through the hub experience. The hub too has been made more customizable, which I believe will make the experience slightly better, though I am not a big fan of the implementation. The notification bar on the tab finally gets a quick settings option, which can be completely customized. And thank god, the update makes it easy for me to receive or ignore calls (how difficult was that?). Also Read - TCL will not design, manufacture or sell BlackBerry smartphones from August 31
The biggest feature, however, is something that BlackBerry hid in yesterday’s announcement – the ability to install Android apps directly and run them natively on the phone! This is a double-edged sword for BlackBerry as enabling direct installs of Android apps could mean even lesser inclination for app developers to port existing apps or create new apps for BB10, considering their Android apps would work as well.
For users, while it instantly increases the number of apps, it also poses a security problem. APK files for Android apps cannot be directly downloaded from Google’s Play Store and BlackBerry won’t host them on its app store either. What BlackBerry is saying is if you can get the APK file from a trusted source, we are giving you the option to run them on our phones. Which is easier said than done, considering cracked APK files are also a security risk and can be loaded with malware and spyware. In its defence, BlackBerry says that these apps won’t have access to the “work area” in the phone, in case your company’s IT manager has set it up.
To be fair, BlackBerry has finally delivered the operating system its users deserved. So far, BB10 was a work in progress and was far from complete when it was launched in January last year. So the update is certainly great news for its existing users.
However, I believe it is a little too late in the day for them to make any significant impact in the consumer space. While BlackBerry might still have its niche in the enterprise segment, it has lost its shot at making its mark in the non-enterprise market.
Consumers today can get most of the features that BlackBerry offers on other platforms. With an almost non-existent market share and far from satisfactory experience from existing devices, it will be difficult for BlackBerry to convince people who left its fold to come back. There is no significant USP left in BB10 that would drive users to abandon Android or iOS and come to BB10.