LONDON, Ont. — A local tech analyst got a sneak peak at the newest BlackBerry smartphone that’s widely expected to make or break Research in Motion.
Carmi Levy was part of a group of privileged tech journalists and application developers given the chance to use a soon-to-be-released RIM phone powered by the BlackBerry 10 operating system at a pre-launch stop in Kitchener, Ont.
Thought tight-lipped about details after signing a non-disclosure agreement, Levy said the new phone and operating system are “unique in the industry.”
“This is not a copycat of the iPhone or the Android device. There are things there that will make you go, ‘Wow,’” he said.
Many see the BlackBerry 10 launch as an important moment for the struggling Canadian tech giant, which has watched its stock tumble from $144.56 a share in 2008 to only $6.57 Friday.
Once a leader in smartphone technology, RIM is rapidly losing North American market share to Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android.
“Quite literally, the future of the company hinges on whether BlackBerry 10-based devices succeed or fail,” Levy said. “Because essentially if they fail, the company doesn’t have a Plan B.”
The model Levy previewed had an all-glass design, similar to the iPhone, but there’s a version with a keypad in the works, he said.
The first BlackBerry 10 device is set to be released sometime between January and March 2013, a delay widely criticized for missing the busy Christmas season.
But RIM isn’t going to rush the launch, Levy said, because bringing a product to market before it’s ready would be disastrous.
“You only get one chance. If you introduce something and it’s glitchy ... your brand will be destroyed.”
Though Levy went home from last week’s pre-launch empty-handed, RIM has been travelling the world handing out early BlackBerry 10 prototypes, known as Dev Alpha, to application developers.
App developers, who previously shunned BlackBerry in favour of Apple and Google phones, are key to RIM’s rebirth, says the company.
“You can have the greatest hardware in the world, but if you have an empty app store, nobody’s going to buy,” Levy said. “Basically, they want to ensure that when you buy a BlackBerry, there will be an app for that.”