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The BlackBerry Z10 and Q10 won't reach store shelves in the U.S. until March or April. That leaves plenty of time to weigh the pros and cons of the smartphone platform before taking that crucial leap to adopt it. Here's a look at some of the strengths and weaknesses of the new platform from the company formerly known as RIM, as compared to rival operating systems from Apple, Google, and Microsoft.
First, some basics. BlackBerry 10 and the Z10 and Q10 will be widely available from U.S. carriers. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, and Verizon Wireless have all committed to selling the devices when they are ready. Pricing will be reasonable at about $149 and $199 for the Q10 and Z10, respectively. Both phones will support all four carriers' LTE 4G networks. In other words, you'll have your choice of carrier and won't have to worry about missing features.
Out of the box, BB10 covers the essentials: email, social networking, messaging, basic apps (think calculator, alarms, file management), and of course contacts and calendar management. It has a good browser, an app store and can playback your music and video content. Android, iOS, and Windows Phone all offer these same features. You're not going to lose any of these basics by switching from another platform to BB10.
So, what will you lose by switching?
If you're coming from Android, you're going to lose device choice. True, the Z10 and Q10 offer a small selection, but Android wins hands-down when it comes to the variety of form factors. Android devices are big and small, cheap and expensive, rugged and high class. You're going to lose access to apps.
[ BlackBerry has hired Alicia Keys as its global creative director. Isn't this celebrity-as-tech-guru trend getting a bit silly? ]
You're also going to lose native support for Google's services. Yes, BB10 supports Gmail and Google Contacts, and Google Calendar via IMAP, and BlackBerry developed its own version of Google Talk and YouTube for BB10 devices, but this is as far as it goes. There's no Google+, no Google Maps, no Google Drive, no Google Docs, no Google Voice, no Google Search / Google Now. Sure, you can access some of these through the BB10's browser, but you and I both know browser-based apps and native apps are two different things. If your business has "gone Google," switching to BB10 simply doesn't make sense.
If you're coming from iOS, you're losing access to 800,000 apps. BlackBerry World has about 70,000, many of which are ported Android apps. The selection just isn't there, yet. You're also losing access to many of the same Google services that are available to Android. You're losing access to an incredible array of accessories. Devices such as the iPhone have more accessories available than any other device on the market. Being so new, BB10 does not yet have such accessories, and there's no telling if, or when, it will catch up.
If you're coming from Windows Phone, you'll lose some device choice and access to apps, too. Windows Phone 8, which launched during the fourth quarter of 2012, is available from many U.S. carriers in a wide variety of devices, colors and price points. You'll lose tight integration with other Windows equipment and services, including XBox gaming. The app story isn't as severe as it is with Apple and Google, but there are plenty of marquee apps missing from BlackBerry World that are available in the Windows Phone Store (Amazon, CNN and eBay, to name a few).
Does BlackBerry 10 get you anything not offered by Android, iOS and Windows Phone? Very little.
BlackBerry 10 offers BBM, its wildly popular instant messaging service. BBM has been duplicated by Apple, Google and Microsoft, though.
BlackBerry offers BES 10 to enterprises, while Apple and Google do not offer such device management tools. BES 10 can also be used to control Android and iOS devices. If your business is already invested in BES, and has historically used BlackBerries, BB10 makes a lot more sense.
BlackBerry 10 supports NFC. Android and Windows Phone do, but iOS does not. BlackBerry 10 supports wireless charging. Android and Windows Phone do too, but iOS does not.
The Q10 offers a QWERTY keyboard. iOS and Windows Phone don't support QWERTY keyboards, but Android does. This is an important factor for many business users, for sure.
It is important to point out that the app-gap will be closed over time, though it could be months and months before BlackBerry catches up with the best apps.
BlackBerry has also said that it will ship up to six devices this year, varying in price range. That will help close the gap with Google and Microsoft in terms of device selection--eventually.
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