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."
Skype today revealed improvements to its mobile applications that answer common customer complaints. Moving forward, Skype will more reliably sync chat threads across multiple devices, be they smartphone, tablet, or laptop. The service now offers synced read receipts, as well, so users know their messages were delivered and read. The app has also been improved so that it opens faster, resumes quicker, and conserves power better. Individual apps for Windows Phone, Android, iOS, and BlackBerry should become available in their respective app stores over the next few days.
BlackBerry today made an updated version of its BBM messaging product available to Android and iOS devices. The update is significant, and adds hallmark features such as BBM Voice and BBM Channels. BBM Voice lets users make free calls to other BBM users via Wi-Fi or cellular data networks. BBM Channels is a social network of sorts, and lets users subscribe to the channels of those who they find interesting. The update also makes it easier to share photos, videos, and documents; adds support for Dropbox for file sharing; and adds a wide array of new emoticons. BBM 2.0 for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively. BlackBerry is also making a small update available to the BlackBerry version of BBM, which adds Dropbox integration. It is free to download from blackBerry World.
Andrew Bocking, the executive in charge of BlackBerry's BBM product, has decided to leave the company. BlackBerry operates BBM as a separate business unit now that it is available to BlackBerries, Android devices, and the iPhone. Bocking's departure means BBM will fall under the purview of John Sims, who joined the company as recently as December. BBM is one of the four central businesses identified by CEO John Chen as key for the company moving forward. Bocking was appointed by Chen's predecessor, ousted CEO Thorsten Heins.
BlackBerry today announced that updates will be available for both the Android and iOS versions of BlackBerry Messenger this week. The revised application adds several new features, chief among them the ability to find friends. The app can scan the device owner's contact list and determine if any of the contacts are already registered BBM users. Further, BBM users can send invites to those not using BBM through the finder feature via SMS or email. BBM for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.
BlackBerry today made Facebook 10.3 available to smartphones running BlackBerry OS 10 and up. The updated social networking app includes a wide number of new features. For example, Facebook for BlackBerry now supports inline tagging when composing status updates. The app also adds notifications for news stories when they are posted to the user's newsfeed, makes it possible to delete or hide posts from the timeline, as well as lets users cache content for offline viewing. Facebook 10.3 is free to download from BlackBerry World.
AT&T today announced a promotion that will give new and existing customers an account credit of $100 when they activate a new post-paid line of service. The offer applies to any smartphone, tablet, feature phone, mobile hotspot, or Wireless Home Phone line added to a plan. The promotion runs through March 31 and does not apply to GoPhone or business lines. Customers need to be in good standing for 45 days and will see the credit within three billing cycles.
BlackBerry today announced the pending availability of BlackBerry Messenger for Android devices running version 2.3.3 Gingerbread. The app entered open beta today, and BlackBerry intends to fully launch the app for Gingerbread devices next month. BBM is already available to Android devices running version 4.0 and up. BlackBerry did not say if the Gingerbread version will include all the same features found in the 4.0+ release.
BlackBerry today announced version 10.2.1 of its operating system for BlackBerry 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 updated operating system adds a picture password, which uses a combination of a picture and a PIN to unlock the device. BlackBerry 10.2.1 lets users customize what appears on the settings menu, save web pages for offline reading, set preferred contact syncing, and improves the device/battery monitor to keep track of the handset and its status. 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. According to BlackBerry, BBOS 10.2.1 is available beginning today in the U.S., Canada, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and the Asia Pacific region. Exact timing will depend on carrier approval of the operating system. BlackBerry OS 10.2.1 is compatible with all BlackBerry 10 devices.
Rockstar, a patent consortium jointly owned by Apple, Microsoft, Blackberry, Ericsson, and Sony, has dropped its patent infringement lawsuit against Huawei. The suit was originally filed last year, and included co-defendents Google, Samsung, and HTC. Rockstar believes the companies are violating its patents. Neither Rockstar nor Huawei indicated why the suit was dropped, nor whether or not Huawei signed a licensing agreement with Rocktar. The lawsuit still stands against the other companies. Google, in particular, is accused of infringing on seven different patents that pertain to internet search terms and advertising. Rockstar is seeking damages from Google, which it says is violating the patents willfully. Rockstar is a group of companies that together purchased thousands of patents from bankrupt Nortel. The firms spent a total of $4.5 billion on the patents.
BlackBerry today said that it plans sell off nearly all of its real estate holdings in Canada. The company will, with its partner CBRE Limited, accomplish the divestiture through a combination of sale-leasebacks and vacant asset sales. According to BlackBerry, the sale covers more than three million square feet of office space. BlackBerry did not say how much money it hopes to make or save from the real estate sale. The move is meant to help BlackBerry shore up its balance sheet. Nokia took similar measures in 2013.
John S. Chen, the man put in charge of BlackBerry after the ouster of former CEO Thorsten Heins, has made his position permanent. "John said that he would be BlackBerry's CEO until the company is back on solid financial footing," said a company spokesperson to the New York Times. "The search for a CEO has been put on the back burner for now." Chen was initially installed as an interim CEO to manage the ailing smartphone maker until a permanent replacement for Heins could be found. Chen will serve as CEO for at least several years, which is how long it is projected for BlackBerry to get back on its feet. Since being put in charge, Chen has already rearranged senior staffing, made a manufacturing deal with Foxconn, and renewed the company's focus on its BBM messaging product.
BlackBerry today indicated that Fairfax Financial Holdings will purchase another $250 million in debentures from BlackBerry, which should help improve its cash position. Fairfax already owns a 14% stake in BlackBerry and late last year bought $250 million in debt financing. Today's investment boosts its share of BlackBerry debentures to $500 million. BlackBerry took on the investment late last year after failing to sell itself to private investors. The company has struggled to sell smartphones in the face of fierce competition from rivals such as Apple and Samsung.
BlackBerry has hired Ron Louks to serve as president of devices and emerging solutions. Louks has worked for both HTC and Sony Ericsson in the past. Louks is being tasked with reviving BlackBerry's flagging smartphone division. The company recently announced that it will co-develop a new low-cost smartphone with Foxconn as it hopes to kickstart a comeback.
BlackBerry today filed a patent infringement lawsuit against a start-up called Typo. Typo, which was founded by Laurence Hallier and Ryan Seacrest, announced the pending availability of a keyboard accessory that attaches to the Apple iPhone. The accessory is meant to help iPhone owners type on their device. According to BlackBerry, Typo lifted its design from BlackBerry. "This is a blatant infringement against BlackBerry's iconic keyboard, and we will vigorously protect our intellectual property against any company that attempts to copy our unique design," said the company. BlackBerry contends that its physical keyboards are one of its market differentiators. The lawsuit was filed in California.
BlackBerry was forced to remove Twitter for BlackBerry version 10.2.2 from its app store after discovering a large number of bugs in the app. The company received numerous complaints from customers about the application and is investigating the problems. In the meantime, BlackBerry suggests that users downgrade to Twitter version 10.2.1 until the newer version is made available once more.
Google has filed a patent lawsuit against Rockstar, the company formed by Apple, Microsoft, and BlackBerry to manage major communications patents bought from Nortel. Google accuses Rockstar of being a patent troll targeting the whole mobile industry. Google is asking the court to specifically declare that its Nexus devices do not infringe, which could set precedent in favor of all manufacturers of Android devices. Rockstar has made patent claims against most major Android players, including Samsung, LG, Huawei, ZTE, HTC, Pantech, and Asus. Rockstar bought the patents in 2012 for $4.5 billion, with $2.5 billion contributed by Apple.
BlackBerry today announced a number of changes in how it will operate moving forward. It plans to transition its internal structure to four business segments: enterprise services, messaging, QNX embedded, and devices. BlackBerry believes this change will help it focus better on each individual business unit. The company said it has struck a five-year deal with Foxconn, a hardware manufacturer, to help it develop low-cost smartphones for emerging markets. It expects to announce the first such devices early next year. It will be a 3G smartphone that runs BB10. BlackBerry also plans to reveal new automotive cloud services, based on its QNX platform, in January. BlackBerry noted that its BBM messaging service has been downloaded and installed on more than 40 million Android and iOS devices since it became available earlier this year. The company generated revenue of $1.2 billion for the quarter, but saw smartphone sales drop significantly from 3.7 million in the previous quarter to 1.9 million in the current quarter. The company posted a loss of $4.4 billion, much of which it attributed to write-downs of unsold phone inventory.
BlackBerry today announced that it has struck an agreement with LG to preload its BlackBerry Messenger application on some of LG's smartphones. The first device to include BBM is the LG G Pro Lite. Others will follow. In addition to the preloading agreement with LG, BlackBerry also said that updates to the Android and iOS versions of BBM will add features such as BBM Channels, as well as support for BBM Voice calling and BBM Video calling. BlackBerry said these updates will appear in the coming months.
BlackBerry today announced a significant update to the Twitter client for devices running BlackBerry OS 10 and up. Twitter 10.2.2 adds a handful of features, including the ability to see photo previews when images are embedded within posts; the ability to set BBM status from within Twitter; the ability to reply to Tweets with a new composition tool; and improved search results. Twitter for BlackBerry 10 is free to download from BlackBerry World.
BlackBerry today announced the availability of its BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10.2 software. The mobile device management suite for companies adds a handful of new features, including expanded support for Android and iOS devices. Companies that use BES 10.2 will be able to control app and system updates pushed to Android and iOS devices, as well as sandbox and secure work data separately from personnel data on devices owned by employees. BES 10.2 gives end users self-service options in order to help reduce calls to IT, and lets businesses manage more devices (up to 100,000) for less money. BES 10.2 can be downloaded directly from BlackBerry.