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.
Truphone announced that it will sell the Apple iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c beginning May 30. Truphone traditionally relies on a bring-your-own-device model and only sells SIM cards and mobile applications. The iPhones will be among the first handsets the company has sold directly. Truphone didn't say how much it will charge for the iPhone 5s/5c, but they will likely be the unlocked versions of the handsets in order to be compatible with as many different networks as possible. Truphone offers worldwide coverage thanks to roaming agreements with carriers around the globe. People can purchase a Truphone SIM card and rate plan and enjoy local calling, messaging, and data rates in dozens of countries. Earlier this week, Truphone expanded its reach to 66 countries. Travelers will enjoy the best rates in the Truphone Zone, which are eight core countries (U.S., U.K., Australia, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, and Spain). Customers can choose up to eight international phone numbers that are active on the same SIM card in order to take advantage of the best rates possible. Truphone also offers apps for Android, BlackBerry, and iOS devices that provide free international calling via Wi-Fi, 3G, and 4G.
Facebook is prepared to update the Android and iOS versions of its mobile application so users can tag TV shows or songs in their posts. The revised apps will include a tool that turns on the phone's microphone, which will then listen to the program or tune that's playing in the vicinity of the user (similar to Shazam). Facebook said the app should be able to recognize most TV shows within 15 seconds. Users can than choose to share that TV show or song as part of their status update. Facebook spent a year engineering the function and has signed deals with 160 TV stations, as well as Spotify and Rdio, to help. The tool will even allow people to listen to a preview of songs tagged in posts. The updated mobile apps should be available in the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store later today. Facebook didn't say if the feature will find its way to the BlackBerry or Windows Phone platforms.
The Federal Communications Commission today cited a company based in California, called Panasystem, for importing and marketing counterfeit smartphones. The devices, which were fake Samsung Galaxy S Duos, Samsung Galaxy Ace, and BlackBerry 9790 smartphones, were all stamped with unauthorized and invalid FCC identifiers. Each and every device that emits radio signals must be tested and certified by the FCC before they can be legally sold in the U.S. This is so the FCC can ascertain their safety for public use. Devices that meet the criteria have a unique identifier code that is often plainly visible on the device somewhere. Most cell phones stamp the FCC ID under the battery. Devices that have enclosed batteries put the FCC ID out the outside casing, typically on the back. "We will not tolerate the importation and marketing of counterfeit devices," said Travis LeBlanc, Acting Chief of the Enforcement Bureau. "The trafficking of these devices not only robs the intellectual property of legitimate manufacturers, it harms consumers by failing to provide them with safe and certified smartphones that comply with the FCC's equipment authorization process." The FCC said Panasystem must cease importing fake phones with fake FCC IDs, lest it face significant fines, equipment seizures, criminal sanctions and/or imprisonment.
BlackBerry today made an SDK available to developers for its unreleased BlackBerry 10.3 operating system. The SDK provides developers with the tools they need to create apps that will function properly in the forthcoming OS update. BlackBerry didn't share too many details about the new SDK, but said it offers styling guidelines and user interface changes for apps. BlackBerry also teased some new hardware. It explained to developers that the SDK provides support for its traditional BBOS screens of 720 x 720 pixels (square) and 1280 x 720 pixels (16:9). The company added a new screen size and resolution that will measure 4.5 inches across the diagonal and include 1440 x 1440 pixels. This device will have a large, high-resolution square screen and a keyboard, much like the Q30 does. BlackBerry said more details about the phone will be made public later this year. In the meantime, developers can download the SDK for BlackBerry OS 10.3 and get to work on apps.
BlackBerry today announced that it has agreed to allow several other, large mobile device management companies to support its BlackBerry smartphones. Until today, BlackBerry has only allowed its devices to be managed by its own Blackberry Enterprise Services product. BES 10 is a server-based tool licensed by large companies. According to BlackBerry, several companies, including AirWatch, Citrix, and IBM, have expressed interest in managing BlackBerry devices in addition to those running Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Large corporations usually make use of such tools to run fleets of business-owned mobile devices. The change in strategy from BlackBerry marks a shift in its business model and its response to customer feedback. Companies may still use BES to manage Android and iOS devices.
Samsung today announced that its second-generation business security suite is now available to the Galaxy S5. One of the core features of the improved software is support for split billing. Knox 2.0 can determine the amount of monthly data used by personal apps and the data used by business apps and split the bill so businesses only have to pay for the portion generated by actual work. Knox 2.0 also improves compatibility with other applications so they can be secured or sandboxed. The suite has a new series of cloud-based services, as well, such as a dedicated store for enterprise applications, and tools for IT to manage and control employee devices. Knox 2.0 is only available to the GS5, but Samsung said it will become available to more Galaxy devices in the months ahead. Samsung created Knox to help generate more appeal for its devices within businesses. It competes with BlackBerry's BES product.
BlackBerry today announced it has come to an agreement with Spear Street Capital, LLC to sell the bulk of its real estate holdings for about $278 million. BlackBerry announced its intent to sell its office space and surrounding properties in Waterloo, Canada, in January. According to BlackBerry, it will close on sales covering 80% of its properties by the end of this month, with the remaining 20% of properties scheduled to close during the third quarter. BlackBerry is selling more than 3 million square feet of office space - some of which it will lease back - as well as vacant lands. BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen has been on an aggressive push to reduce expenses while also finding a way forward for the ailing smartphone maker.
BlackBerry today published Twitter for BlackBerry version 10.3. The updated app adds a handful of new tools, including the ability to compose and save draft tweets that can be sent later. Twitter adds the ability to swipe between the Timeline, Activity, and Discover tabs, which puts the app inline with features found in the Android and iOS versions. The app has been given new photo powers and can now send pictures via Direct Message, turn photos on or off in the timeline, and retake a picture before sending if the first attempt doesn't turn out. Last, Twitter for BlackBerry adds age gating, which lets people verify their age for accounts that require it. Twitter 10.3 for BlackBerry is free to download from the BlackBerry World Store.
AT&T today said owners of the BlackBerry Q10 and Z10 smartphones can download and install BlackBerry OS 10.2.1. This update adds a wide range of new features to the Q10 and Z10 handsets. Some include: a customizable pinch gesture for filtering BlackBerry Hub content; the ability to access BBM from within any app; improved sound for BBM voice/video chats; more lock screen notifications; picture password; and improved battery life monitoring. AT&T says the free update can be installed manually via Wi-Fi.
BlackBerry today indicated it has purchased a minority stake in healthcare IT firm NantHealth. The companies are working together to design a smartphone specifically for the healthcare market, which BlackBerry says has plenty of potential thanks to the need for security. The company said the device will be made available to anyone, but it will be optimized for viewing 3D images and CT scans. The company's expect the device to reach the market by the end of the year. "BlackBerry's capabilities align closely with NantHealth's," said BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen. "This investment represents the type of forward-looking opportunities that are vital to our future."
BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen today clarified comments he made about dropping the company's smartphone business. Speaking to Reuters on Wednesday, Chen said, "If I cannot make money on handsets, I will not be in the handset business." Chen insists this comment was taken out of context and that the resulting story, which suggested BlackBerry might soon sell its handset unit, is not accurate. "I want to assure you that I have no intention of selling off or abandoning this business any time soon. I know you still love your BlackBerry devices. I love them too and I know they created the foundation of this company. Our focus today is on finding a way to make this business profitable," said Chen in a post to the company's blog today. "We will do everything in our power to continue to rebuild this business and deliver devices with the iconic keyboard and other features that you have come to expect from this brand. Rest assured, we continue to fight. We have not given up and we are not leaving the Devices business." Sales of BlackBerry handsets have plunged in recent years amidst stiff competition. In the last several quarters older BlackBerry 7 devices have outsold newer BlackBerry 10 devices. BlackBerry has already inked a deal with Foxconn to design and manufacture low-cost smartphones.
T-Mobile today introduced a new low-cost plan for customers who don't need international messaging nor large buckets of data. The Simple Starter plan will be available beginning April 12 and it includes unlimited voice minutes, unlimited domestic messaging, and 500MB of LTE data (with tethering) for $40 per month. The plan is capped at 500MB. Customers who surpass 500MB in a 30-day billing cycle will see their data service suspended for the remainder of the cycle. However, T-Mobile will warn customers once they reach 450MB and offer them the option to buy a 500MB daily pass for $5 or a 1GB weekly pass for $10. According to T-Mobile, the company will still cover the ETFs of customers who switch to this new plan. The company is also offering its Jump device upgrade plan to Simple Starter subscribers. The promotional plan will be available for a limited time, though T-Mobile didn't say for how long.
Sprint today announced that beginning April 4, customers will be able to sign up for its Framily plans at Best Buy stores. Previously, Framily plans were only available at company stores and through Sprint's web site. In addition to the Framily plans, Best Buy will offer, for a limited time, a $100 Best Buy gift card when customers also sign up for a Sprint Easy Pay device installment plan. The gift card promotion ends April 13.
BlackBerry today announced it will not renew T-Mobile's license to sell BlackBerry handsets when the current agreement expires on April 25. BlackBerry said its existing T-Mobile customers will not see any change in their level of service or support. The company also noted that it is working with other U.S. carriers to make sure T-Mobile customers can transition seamlessly if they wish to continue using BlackBerries for the long term. "BlackBerry has had a positive relationship with T-Mobile for many years. Regretfully, at this time, our strategies are not complementary and we must act in the best interest of our BlackBerry customers," said BlackBerry CEO John Chen. "We hope to work with T-Mobile again in the future when our business strategies are aligned." T-Mobile recently ran a promotion that encouraged BlackBerry users to trade in their BlackBerries for other new smartphones. BlackBerry's Chen was not happy about the promotion, and said as much in a scathing blog post.
BlackBerry today followed through on its promise to deliver a new version of BBM with support for larger files and stickers. BBM now allows users to share photos to multiple people within chats. BBM increased the size of files it allows to be sent between users from 6MB to 16MB, as well as increased the size of the emoticons so they are easier to see within conversation threads. Last, BBM integrates stickers, which had previously only been available in beta. The new version of BBM is available to devices running Android, BlackBerry, and iOS. It is free to download from the platforms' respective app stores.
A judge agreed with BlackBerry's position that Typo, the maker of a keyboard accessory for the iPhone, is likely infringing on BlackBerry's patents. The case, which sells for $99, uses Bluetooth to communicate with the iPhone, and provides a physical QWERTY keyboard that resembles those of BlackBerry phones for typing. U.S. District Judge William Orrick in San Francisco said BlackBerry's arguments warranted placing a preliminary injunction on sales of the Typo pending a full trial. BlackBerry said it "is pleased that its motion for a preliminary injunction against Typo Products was granted. This ruling will help prevent further injury to BlackBerry from Typo's blatant theft of our patented keyboard technology." Typo said it was disappointed with the injunction and will file an appeal.
BlackBerry today indicated that it plans to focus on catering to C-level executives who want high-end smartphones with full, physical keyboards. The company has three such devices in prototype stages being tested and will introduce them over the next 18 months. Speaking to Reuters, BlackBerry John Chen said the company wants to win back the executives who were once its core customers. Chen also indicated that BlackBerry is weighing whether or not to create of version of Blackberry Messenger - known as BBM - for desktop computers. The idea is to allow business and government customers to carry secure conversations from their PCs to their smartphones and vice versa. BlackBerry has already made BBM available to Android and iOS devices, and is working on a version for Windows Phone, as well.
BlackBerry today released an update to the official Facebook application for devices running BlackBerry 10. The improved app adds four main features. To start, users can now sort their newsfeed by Most Recent or Top Stories. The app adds broad support for emoji and emoticons, which can be used in conversations. Facebook for BlackBerry adds photo tag support for the photo carousel, and adds a map view to check-ins, which lets people see a map of the location they're checking into. Facebook 10.4 for BlackBerry 10 is free to download from the BlackBerry World store.
Verizon Wireless recently indicated that the BlackBerry 10.2.1 operating system is now available to the Z30, Z10, and Q10 smartphones. The update adds a wide number of new features, and makes significant changes to the behavior of several key apps. For example, users can create filters in BlackBerry Hub and customize their own pinch gesture to automatically view the filtered messages. The phone application makes it easier to answer or reject calls with a new swiping motion. Users can now create SMS and email groups for simpler bulk message addressing. The lock screen adds actionable notifications, such as the ability to open incoming messages. The update adds an FM radio to the BlackBerry Z30, Q10, and Q5, lets users set automatic software updates over Wi-Fi, and adds more business-centric features that rely on BES 10. The system update is free to download over-the-air or via Wi-Fi.
Pandora said it will make several changes to its fee structure beginning in May. Pandora One monthly customers who already pay $3.99 for ad-free listening can continue to listen at the same price. However, new monthly subscribers will have to pay $4.99 per month, an increase of $1 over today's rates. Customers who chose Pandora's $36 annual fee will be moved to a "discounted loyalty price" of $3.99 per month, which represents a price increase of $12 for the year, or $1 per month. Moving forward, Pandora will no longer offer the annual subscription option. Pandora says these changes are necessary to offset increased costs, such as licensing fees. It claims the changes will affect only 3.3 million of its 250 million registered users. All customers can listen to music with ads for free. Pandora is an internet-based radio station provider that has apps for Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone devices.
Microsoft today made its OneDrive cloud storage service available to BlackBerry 10 devices. The app, which is free to download from the BlackBerry World store, provides users with 7GB of free online storage. Customers can choose to pay for more storage if they wish. The service, which was recently rebranded from SkyDrive, is already available to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone devices.
BlackBerry today said that several new features are in store for a future version of its BlackBerry Messenger - or BBM - product. According to BlackBerry, it cultivated this list of features based on user feedback. For example, the next release of BBM will allow users to share photos to multiple people within chats. BBM will increase the size of files it allows to be sent between users from 6MB to 16MB. The next version of BBM will also increase the size of the emoticons so they are easier to see within conversation threads. BlackBerry didn't say if these changes will reach all platforms (BlackBerry, Android, iOS) at the same time, or if they will be staggered.
BlackBerry today announced the Q20, its first phone to combine BlackBerry 10 software with the trackpad, menu & back buttons, and QWERTY keyboard of its more popular older devices. The Q20 will carry over the popular keyboard design from the Q10, but will increase the screen size to 3.5 inches, and include a larger battery. Send and end keys are also included next to the menu and back keys. New BlackBerry CEO John Chen described the phone as a reaction to consistent customer feedback that "the hard buttons and trackpad are an essential part of the BlackBerry QWERTY experience." Few other details were released. The phone is planned to be available in the second half of 2014.
BlackBerry today announced the availability of sticker packs in the BBM Store for BlackBerry devices. Stickers are sold in packs of 20 to 25, and are typically centered on a theme or character. The stickers can then be inserted into BBM chats to make them more lively and entertaining. The limited external beta for stickers and the BBM Shop begins today. BlackBerry didn't say how limited the beta will be, nor when it might expand to all users.
T-Mobile today announced a new promotion meant to quell the anger it caused recently among BlackBerry users. Beginning Friday, T-Mobile is offering all BlackBerry users (even those on other carriers) $200 to bring in their old, working BlackBerry and trade it in for any smartphone currently sold by T-Mobile. This offer can be combined with T-Mobile's Contract Freedom promotion, which pays the Early Termination Fee associated with some contracts. That means potential customers can get up to $200 by trading in their old BlackBerry as well as have their ETF taken care of. Taking it a step further, T-Mobile is offering its own, existing BlackBerry customers an additional $50 (total of $250) if they upgrade from an old BlackBerry to a new BlackBerry Q10 or Z10 smartphone. The promotion rolls out to retail stores February 21. T-Mobile said that it will offer expedited shipping to customers for BlackBerries not stocked in its stores.
Facebook has agreed to purchase WhatsApp, a maker of over-the-top messaging applications for smartphones. The deal is valued at about $16 billion, including $4 billion in cash and $12 billion in stock. The WhatsApp messaging service is available to the Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone platforms and lets users avoid texting fees by sending messages through data networks instead. Facebook said the acquisition will help it "accelerate growth and user engagement across both companies." WhatsApp counts about 450 million users, 70% of which are active each day. Facebook said that Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp will be operated separately.
BlackBerry today made good on its promise to deliver a version of BBM for older Android handsets. BBM for devices running Android 2.3 Gingerbread is now available in the Google Play Store. It can be downloaded for free.
BlackBerry CEO John Chen took T-Mobile to task today for a campaign it recently ran suggesting that BlackBerry customers drop their BlackBerry in favor of a different smartphone on T-Mobile. In a post to the company's blog, Chen thanked BlackBerry's customers for speaking out in protest of the "clearly inappropriate and ill-conceived marketing promotion." Chen said it is working on a special promotion for T-Mobile BlackBerry customers that it will reveal soon. Chen finished by saying, "I would like to remind [T-Mobile] that our long-standing partnership was once productive and profitable for both BlackBerry and T-Mobile. I hope we can find a way forward that allows us to serve our shared customers once again. Notwithstanding the current challenge, we remain very excited about BlackBerry’s future."