BlackBerry today said it has closed its acquisition of Secusmart, a security company based in Germany. Secusmart specializes in voice and data encryption. BlackBerry plans to use Secusmart's technology to further shore up its own enterprise and government offerings. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. BlackBerry also reported its third-quarter earnings today. Revenue declined from $1.19 billion in the year-ago period to $739 million in the period ending Nov. 29. Excluding one-time charges, the company posted a small profit and generated positive cash cash flow. Earlier this week the company launched a new phone, the BlackBerry Classic. BlackBerry believes the phone will appeal to its core business customers thanks to its physical QWERTY keyboard.
BlackBerry's Classic smartphone harkens back to the devices of yesteryear. Its defining feature is a physical QWERTY keyboard, something phone makers have left in the past for good reason. Here are our first impressions of the Classic.
AT&T today said it will support the BlackBerry Classic, though pricing and availability aren't yet available. BlackBerry is already selling the phone directly to consumers for $449.
BlackBerry today officially launched the BlackBerry Classic smartphone. BlackBerry has been talking about the phone for the better part of six months, but fully revealed its feature set during an event in New York. The phone has a 3.5-inch touch screen with a 1:1 aspect ratio and 720 by 720 pixels. BackBerry made this device to appeal to its legacy customers, such as the finance sector, and brought back the physical QWERTY keyboard for composing messages. BlackBerry also resurrected its legacy control buttons, including an optical trackpad, and capacitive send/end and back/menu keys. The phone has an 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video capture and a 2-megaixel user-facing camera. The phone has a 1.5GHz Qualcomm processor with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage with support for microSD cards up to 128GB. The phone runs BlackBerry OS 10.3.1, which features the BlackBerry Hub. The BlackBerry Classic boasts 22 hours of battery life. Connectivity options include LTE, dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, FM radio, NFC, as well as geo-location services. Blackberry is selling the Classic directly to consumers through Amazon.com and its web site for $449.
BlackBerry today made BBM 2.0 available to the Windows Phone platform. The updated app is now more in line with the Android, BlackBerry, and iOS versions of BBM thanks to several new features. For example BBM for Windows Phone now includes timed messages (which expire after they're seen/read) and message retraction (for recalling unread messages). BBM for Windows Phone also added a wide number of stickers for enlivening conversations. BBM 2.0 for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
BlackBerry today pushed out BBM 2.6 to the Android and iOS platforms, as well as its own BlackBerry platform. All three versions of the app gain new features, including support for stickers within group chats and a 60-second option for time chats. The Android version of BBM tackles Android 5.0 Lollipop and adds landscape mode. BBM for iOS 8 adds compatibility with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus screens. BBM for BlackBerry OS now lets users share multiple pictures and attachments at the same time. BBM 2.6 is free to download from the Google Play Store, iTunes App Store, and BlackBerry World.
Cricket Wireless is hoping a $100 bill credit will convince customers of Cincinnati Bell, MetroPCS, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Sprint, and T-Mobile to hop on over to Cricket. New customers must switch from the aforementioned carriers, purchase a new device, and activate a new line of service on a qualifying rate plan in order to receive the credit. The credit will be applied at the end of the first billing cycle. Cricket's service plans cost $40-$60 per month, depending on options. Cricket offered a similar promotion over the summer months, but only targeted Sprint and T-Mobile. The current promotion runs through Dec. 31.
Sprint plans to go after AT&T and Verizon customers with an aggressive and enticing campaign. Beginning Friday, Sprint will offer rate plans to AT&T and Verizon customers that are half what they're already paying. For example, an AT&T customer who pays $300 per month will be offered a comparable Sprint plan that costs only $150 per month. The offer only extends to the service costs, including minutes, messaging, and data. It does not include subsidies for device payments. Sprint will waive activation fees and pay up to $350 to cover the ETFs of those who switch, though the new customers will need to turn in their old devices. In order to score the half-price plan, new Sprint customers will need to buy a device from Sprint at full retail price or finance it through Sprint Easy Pay. They'll also have to provide a copy of their most recent wireless bill for verification of the monthly cost. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure hinted via Twitter that the company intends to "launch one of our most exciting promotions ever, especially designed for Verizon and att customers who love to save money." The promotion does not apply to T-Mobile or current Sprint customers.
T-Mobile today made it less expensive for customers to make calls from the U.S. to select countries abroad. T-Mobile's Stateside International Talk plan allows Simple Choice subscribers to make unlimited calls to landlines in 70 countries for $5 per account (not per line). Alternately, $10 per month buys unlimited calling to mobile phones in more than 30 countries and 1,000 minutes to mobile phones in Mexico, which is in addition to the unlimited landline calling. The promotional pricing is available starting today and runs through the end of the year.
BlackBerry today made the BlackBerry Classic handset available for preorder in the U.S. The Classic runs BlackBerry 10 and is a traditional bar-style phone with a square touch screen and physical QWERTY keyboard below it. It brings back the classic BlackBerry buttons, which means send/end buttons, a back button, menu button, and optical trackpad. The device supports both BB10 and Android apps. BlackBerry didn't say how much the phone will cost, nor when it will ship. BlackBerry also didn't say which carriers will support the Classic.
BlackBerry and Samsung today agreed to sell one another's security software. The joint effort is meant to help Samsung sell more phones and to help BlackBerry win more BES customers. Samsung's Knox security platform is embedded on many of its devices. It can be used to separate work and personal information, as well as secure that data on the device. BlackBerry's BES services allows businesses to remotely manage Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone smartphones. The companies think this partnership will appeal to businesses that want to use Samsung handsets for the Knox platform, but manage them via BES. BlackBerry's enterprise chief John Sims said the deal "isn't about one company displacing the other. This is about one and one makes three." BlackBerry's presence in the smartphone market has been reduced to practically nil in the face of stiff competition from Apple, Samsung, and others, while Samsung has long been making overtures to potential business customers.
OmniVision today announced two new camera modules for high-end smartphones. The OV23850 and OV21840 PureCel-S are capable of capturing images as large as 23.8 and 21.4 megapixels, respectively. Both sensors use OmniVision's staked die technology. According to OmniVision, this separates the imaging array from the sensor so OEMs can place other sensors and functionalities in between, such as phase-detection autofocus. The company says its two-dimensional autofocus is four times faster than traditional contrast-based AF. Both sensors can capture quad HD video at 30 frames per second, 1080p HD video at 90 frames per second, and 720p HD video at 120 frames per second for clean slow-motion results. They also support always-on HDR video capture for balanced exposures. The OV23850 and OV21840 are already sampling and are expected to reach production during the first quarter of 2015.
BlackBerry today said BBM 2.5 is now available for Android, BlackBerry, and iOS devices. The company first revealed details of the updated messaging service earlier this month. Some of the new features include Timed Messages, which allow users to choose how long a message is visible to the recipient. Another feature, called Message Retraction, allows BBM users to delete messages they've sent from the phones of others. According to BlackBerry, this feature works with text messages only and not those that include pictures. Other updates include a streamlined sticker experience, high-def picture transfer, and music discovery through friends' playlists. BBM 2.5 will be available from the Play Store, BlackBerry World, and iTunes App Store later today.
BlackBerry today announced several forthcoming features for BBM that take a page from ephemeral messaging app SnapChat. The first new feature is called Time Messages. With Timed Messages, users can select how long a message is visible to the recipient (between 1 second and 15 seconds). The message can also be set to disappear once the recipient takes their finger off the message. According to BlackBerry, it can't prevent screenshots of Timed Messages, but it will alert the sender if one was taken before the message expires. The second feature is called Message Retraction and it allows BBM users to delete messages they've sent from the phones of others. According to BlackBerry, this feature works with text messages only and not those that include pictures. Further, only messages in one-on-one chats can be retracted. Messages cannot be retracted from Group conversations, nor can messages be retracted if they've been forwarded to other phones. According to BlackBerry, these features are being tested in a limited BBM beta for Android and BlackBerry. Timer and Retract will be available in the 2.5 release of BBM for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry 10 in the near future.
BlackBerry says "We're back!" with the Passport, a smartphone that breaks new ground in some respects. Here are our first thoughts.
BlackBerry today fully revealed the Passport, its first smartphone to debut since February. The Passport has a unique shape, providing a large, square screen with a full, physical QWERTY keyboard below. The phone has a steel frame that BlackBerry claims lends it great strength. The screen measures 4.5 inches across the diagonal and has 1,440 x 1,440 pixels. BlackBerry says the square aspect ratio helps fit more content across the screen when compared to 16:9 displays. The company took special care to develop the keyboard, which it claims is faster and more reliable than software keyboards. The keyboard is touch-enabled and lets users brush their fingers over the keys to scroll through information on the screen. Users can also flick up on the keyboard to use next-word suggestions, and swipe from right to left on the keyboard to delete the full last word. Under the hood, the Passport has a 2.2GHz Snapdragon processor with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. It supports microSD memory cards and has a 3,450mAh battery. The phone comes with a 13-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization. The device runs BlackBerry OS 10.3 with support the Amazon App Store for applications. Alongside the Passport, BlackBerry also introduced BlackBerry Assistant, a voice-activated tool similar to Siri, Google Now, and Cortana that can perform select actions on the Passport. BlackBerry claims Assistant is more powerful than rivals because it can access information behind corporate firewalls. BlackBerry is selling the Passport directly to U.S. consumers from its web site. The phone costs $599 and is being sold without a contract. It is compatible with HSPA/LTE networks, such as those operated by AT&T and T-Mobile.
BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen today said it will begin to sell the Passport smartphone on Wednesday. BlackBerry has provided few details about the device so far. It features a square shape that includes both a 4.5-inch touchscreen and a physical QWERTY keyboard. It also features a large antenna to aid reception and boasts 36 hours of continuous use. The phone, the first BlackBerry has released in a year, will run BlackBerry OS 10.3. It will be available in Toronto, London, and Dubai on Wednesday, and "a lot of places will have it" within two weeks. Chen didn't specify when it will go on sale in the U.S., but it will be sold directly to consumers, unsubsidized for $599.
BlackBerry today revealed it has acquired a British firm called Movirtu. Movirtu develops virtual SIM card solutions that allow multiple phone numbers to be used on a single device. BlackBerry said the acquisition will help it separate work and personal use on its smartphones for split billing. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. During the course of the last year, BlackBerry has focused on beefing up its enterprise services rather than sales of BlackBerry smartphones.
Cricket today announced a promotion that offers up to double the amount of high-speed data for the same price as before. Starting September 13th, the $35/month (using Auto Pay) "Basic Plan" will offer 1 GB of high-speed data instead of the previous 500 MB. The $45 Smart Plan will offer 3 GB, up from 2.5 GB, and the $55 Pro Plan includes 10 GB instead of 5 GB. (Plans cost an extra $5/month without Auto Pay.) Existing customers on these plans will automatically be upgraded to the larger data allotments. Once a customer uses up the high-speed data allotment, data is throttled to 128 Kbps. The offer is for a limited time, but customers taking advantage will be able keep the larger data allotment after the offer expires.
BlackBerry has pushed out a minor update to BBM for its own smartphones. The update streamlines the process for attaching photos, files, or other content to BBM chats. The app also provides more notifications, and users can rate BBM Voice calls. The update is free.
Huawei recently said it has no plans to release a Tizen-based smartphone, and also said it will no longer make smartphones using Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system. "Some telecom carriers are pushing us to design Tizen phones but I say 'no' to them. In the past we had a team to do research on Tizen but I canceled it," said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's consumer business group, to The Wall Street Journal. "We feel Tizen has no chance to be successful. Even for Windows Phone it's difficult to be successful." Tizen is a Linux-based platform created by Samsung and Intel. Samsung, Tizen's primary backer, has delayed plans to realize a Tizen phone indefinitely as it builds up the app ecosystem. Huawei remains a member of the Tizen Association, but its new stance on the platform further clouds Tizen's potential. As for Windows Phone, Huawei complained of losing money on the platform for two years. "We have tried using the Windows Phone OS. But it has been difficult to persuade consumers to buy a Windows phone," said Yu. "It wasn't profitable for us. So for now we've decided to put any releases of new Windows phones on hold. We have worries about Android being the only option, but we have no choice. And we have a good collaboration with Google." Google's Android platform holds about 85% of the global smartphone market, with Apple's iOS holding 11% and Windows Phone holding 2.5%. BlackBerry's share of the market is less than 1%.
HTC today announced the One for Windows Phone, a variant of the One (M8) that swaps Google's mobile platform for Microsoft's. The One for Windows Phone runs the latest operating system from Microsoft and carries over a few HTC apps, such as Blinkfeed, the HTC duo-camera, SenseTV, Video Highlights, and BoomSound. The One for Windows Phone adopts some of the M8's motion gestures, such as double-tap to wake, but also loses a few. Apart from the operating system, the hardware is identical to the One (M8) with Android. It has the same 5-inch 1080p HD screen, quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, Ultra-pixel main camera and 5-megapixel selfie camera, and premium aluminum design. The HTC One for Windows Phone is exclusive to Verizon Wireless. It is available online from VerizonWireless.com beginning today and reaches Verizon stores August 20 for $99 with a new contract or $30 with Verizon Edge.
Sprint today announced new shared data plans that offer twice as much mobile data as comparable plans from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Sprint's Family Share Pack includes four lines with unlimited talk and text and 20GB of shared data for $160 per month. AT&T and Verizon have similarly-priced plans that include only 10GB of data. T-Mobile's shared plan costs $100 per month. Further, Sprint is offering a huge incentive to families that port their numbers from another carrier. Sprint will give families with up to 10 lines unlimited talk/text and 20GB of shared data for only $100 per month through 2015, plus an additional 2GB per line. Under this promotion, a family of four would have up to 28GB of data per month and a family of 10 would have up to 40GB of data per month. The promotional $100 plan pricing will be available from August 22 to September 30. Last, Sprint is offering to cover the ETFs - up to $350 per line - for families that break their contract to sign up with Sprint Family Share Pack. All new devices must be purchased through Sprint Easy Pay. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said the company will debut new plans for individuals later this week.
BlackBerry today updated BBM for the Windows Phone platform to version 1.01. The app has officially graduated from beta status. The update, though minor, squashes a number of bugs in the app, as well as boosts performance, such as start-up time. BBM for Windows Phone is free.
Best Buy today announced the August 17 availability of an electric blue Samsung Galaxy S5, a color exclusive to the big box retailer. The blue GS5 will be available to AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless customers for $99 with a new two-year contract, which represents a savings of $100 off the normal contract price. Customers who'd rather use one of the carriers' monthly installment plans will be able to pick up the blue GS5 for $0 down and still receive a $100 Best Buy gift card. The promotional price will be available until August 23.
BlackBerry and Microsoft today announced the immediate availability of BBM for the Windows Phone platform. BBM is being offered as a beta, but it includes many of the features available to the Android and iOS versions of the app. BBM for Windows Phone supports regular chats and group chats; makes it easy to find and connect with BBM contacts; includes BBM feeds for social networking; and offers a Live Tile that can be pinned to the Start screen. BlackBerry will add more features to the app over time. BBM Beta for Windows Phone 8 is free to download and available from the Windows Phone Store now.
BlackBerry today indicated it has agreed to buy a small German company called Secusmart. Secusmart specializes in voice and data encryption. BlackBerry plans to use Secusmart's technology to further shore up its own enterprise and government offerings. Secusmart is already being used by government officials in Canada and Germany. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. BlackBerry has retreated from its consumer-chasing tactics and is focusing efforts on selling secure devices and mobile device management tools to businesses and governments.
Scientists at Stanford University believe they have solved one of the major issues facing lithium battery technology. The researchers contend a pure lithium battery is best. "Of all the materials that one might use in an anode, lithium has the greatest potential. Some call it the Holy Grail," said Stanford Professor Yi Cui. "It is very lightweight and it has the highest energy density. You get more power per volume and weight, leading to lighter, smaller batteries with more power." The problem, however, is that lithium anodes form dendritic and mossy metal deposits that can cause batteries to crack, lose ions, and possibly ignite fires. In order to solve this problem, the researchers coated the lithium anode with a monolayer of interconnected amorphous hollow carbon nanospheres. The researchers say this helps isolate the lithium metal depositions and stabilizes the battery entirely. "The ideal protective layer for a lithium metal anode needs to be chemically stable to protect against the chemical reactions with the electrolyte and mechanically strong to withstand the expansion of the lithium during charge," said Cui. The solution could apply to lithium batteries used in smartphones, tablets, laptops, and even cars, vastly extending battery life.
BlackBerry today said it has appointed Marty Beard to the post of Chief Operating Officer. Beard worked for LiveOps and Sybase before joining BlackBerry. Beard will be responsible for marketing, application development, and quality and customer care. The COO post had been vacant since Kristian Tear left last November. BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen also hails from Sybase.
BlackBerry today revealed that the upcoming BlackBerry OS 10.3 will include a voice-activated virtual assistant, much like Siri and Google Now. BlackBerry assistant, as the app is called, will be able to interact with email, calendar, messaging, timers, and the web. In addition to voice, it also accepts input via the keyboard. Tasks it enables by voice include sending meeting invitations, searching email, setting reminders, searching the web, launching apps, changing ringer profiles, and sending messages. The Assistant learns, improving over time.
MediaTek today took the wraps off its newest flagship processor chip for high-end phones. The MT6795 is a SoC (system on chip) combining an LTE radio with a 64-bit, 8-core processor at speeds up to 2.2 GHz. It supports displays up to 1600 x 2560. It also supports display refresh rate of 120 Hz for extra-smooth motion, and slow-motion video capture at 480 fps in full HD. The company has had little traction with phones bound for U.S. shores in recent years. According to Mohit Bhushan, Head of U.S. Business Development, the company is working to change that by having its processors certified directly by U.S. network operators. The MT6795 is currently undergoing that certification, and the company plans to have the chip in a device shipping in the U.S. next year. The chip competes with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810.
BlackBerry today followed up on its promise from earlier this year and released a beta version of BlackBerry Messenger for the Windows Phone platform. The app covers the BBM basics, which means it can be used to chat with individuals or groups, as well as share pictures, voice notes, contacts, and location. The app also supports group chats, in which users can discuss shared calendars, files, and photos. BlackBerry said the beta is limited for now ahead of a wider release. The company will work to add features, including stickers, BBM Voice, BBM Channels, and Glympse in future releases. BBM is already available for Android, iOS, and BlackBerry devices.
Cricket Wireless, which is owned by AT&T, today announced the availability of the Nokia Lumia 630 smartphone. The 630, which is a variant of the Lumia 635 (being sold by T-Mobile and MetroPCS), will reach Cricket stores on July 11. Cricket is offering the Lumia 630 for free with a $50 mail-in rebate card. The device is an entry-level Windows Phone with a 4.5-inch screen and 5-megapixel camera. Cricket is also offering discounts ranging from $20 to $50 on a wide selection of handsets, including the ZTE Sonata 4G, Prelude, and Overture 4G; the Moto G; the Nokia 520 and 1320; and the Samsung Galaxy Express 4G. Cricket is the new brand name being used by AT&T's former Aio Wireless unit. AT&T is transitioning Cricket's CDMA customers to its GSM network so it can eventually repurpose Cricket's spectrum. All the devices covered by Cricket's new promotion operate on AT&T's GSM network.
T-Mobile today announced customers can now purchase an Apple iPhone at Apple retail stores and use it with T-Mobile's prepaid, no-contract plans. T-Mobile is offering iPhone buyers a $50 discount off the price of the phone when paired with a prepaid plan. Customers who buy an iPhone and use it with T-Mobile's Simple Choice plans will receive a $50 iTunes gift card. T-Mobile also announced today it is selling the iPhone 5s, iPad Air, and iPad Mini with Retina Display (with T-Mobile LTE) at Costco locations around the U.S. T-Mobile says Costco is offering the devices at "competitive out-of-pocket prices." Today's announcements come on the heels of T-Mobile's free, week-long iPhone trial, which was revealed at its UNCarrier announcement in Seattle. All three promotions are meant to help T-Mobile sell more iPhones.
BlackBerry CEO John Chen today announced that the company's next phone will be called the Passport, and will launch at an event in London in September. Chen did not confirm any further details, although rumors suggest it may be an unusually wide device with a square screen and physical keyboard.
BlackBerry today said it signed an agreement with Amazon in order to offer more apps to owners of its BlackBerry 10 smartphones. The deal will add Amazon's Appstore to BlackBerry handsets running BBOS 10.3. BlackBerry claims the agreement will give BlackBerry owners access to an additional 200,000 applications. Further, BlackBerry said it will close the music and video content stores of BlackBerry World. BlackBerry owners will still be able to access and use any content they've already purchased from these stores, but the BlackBerry World music and video stores will no longer be available beginning July 21. The BlackBerry World store, as well as the Amazon Appstore, will continue to offer third-party music/video apps and services. BlackBerry is expected to released BBOS 10.3 in September.
BlackBerry today announced the availability of BBM Protected, a more secure version of its instant messaging platform. BBM Protected differs from traditional BBM in that in creates a unique encryption key for each conversation, requiring a passphrase from participants. It offers end-to-end encryption in order to create the most secure IM conversations possible. BBM Protected is the first product in BlackBerry's new eBBM Suite, which targets businesses rather than consumers. BBM Protected is available to BlackBerry's business customers starting today.
The European Commission and South Korea today announced plans to together define the future 5G wireless standard, as well as develop the technologies to support it. The two bodies signed a Joint Declaration on Strategic Cooperation in Information Communications Technology (ICT) and 5G to increase the discussions and research around the topic. A wide number of companies will participate, including Alcatel-Lucent, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Nokia, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telenor, and Telefonica from Europe, as well as Samsung, LG, SK Telecom, and others in Korea. One of the key ideas behind 5G is not to just increase speeds, but to significantly boost capacity. Capacity improvements will help the 5G networks of the future handle all the potential devices connecting to them, such as phones, tablets, wearables, vehicles, and the broader Internet of Things. The collaboration has three main goals: First, to develop a broad definition of the key functionalities of 5G and create a time table for its creation by the end of 2015; Second, to kick off joint research in the pursuit of 5G by 2016 in coordination with 3GPP and ITU: and Third, to agree on global radio frequency bands for 5G in order to promote interoperability and roaming between carriers and countries. "5G will become the new lifeblood of the digital economy and digital society once it is established. Both Europe and Korea recognize this," said Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda. "This is the first time ever that public authorities have joined together in this way, with the support of private industry, to push forward the process of standardization. Today's declaration signals the our commitment to being global digital leaders." LTE, which is what most 4G networks use, has some room for growth in terms of speeds, but capacity is limited and the potential for global roaming is limited due to the wide number of spectrum bands used by carriers around the world. It is these and other issues that the EU and S. Korea hope to resolve in their pursuit of 5G.
BlackBerry recently said BlackBerry Messenger version 2.2 is coming to the Android and iOS platforms. BBM 2.2 doesn't add any major new features, but it does streamline the app's behavior and functionality. For example, BBM 2.2 requires less work when creating new accounts and simplifies the friending process. BBM 2.2 also adds more than a dozen new emoticons. BBM 2.2 should be available for Android devices as of today. It will reach iOS devices in the days ahead.
Google recently published a mobile-friendly version of the Play Store web site. Now that it is optimized for devices with small screens, Android, iOS, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone users alike can surf the Play Store. The site lets visitors not only purchase apps - which can be pushed to Android devices for installation - but also allows visitors to purchase hardware and manage their devices. The stand-alone Play Store application doesn't allow for hardware purchases and device management. The Google Play Store is free to visit.