BlackBerry rolls out new OS

BlackBerry OS 10.2.1. (BlackBerry)

BlackBerry OS 10.2.1. (BlackBerry)


, Last Updated: 11:02 AM ET

The long-awaited OS 10.2.1 update brings a host of new features and refinements to BlackBerry's latest generation of smartphone handsets.

Available to download as of Tuesday, its launch is probably not going to generate the excitement or draw the attention that an Apple update attracts. However, the new operating system very quickly brings BlackBerry devices up to date with its Android and Apple competition.

One of the best features on current BlackBerry handsets is the Hub, where all notifications from all sources -- be it email, text message or social media -- can be viewed together.

However, that means it can get pretty crowded in there. Now new messages can be filtered by type and for level-one notifications (i.e., anything urgent from a family or business perspective), which can be seen simply by pinching the screen.

Another major improvement is the ability to swipe left to take and swipe right to drop an incoming call, or to send an automated message explaining why it's not possible to take the call. This is a feature that iPhone owners have only had since the iOS7 update in September.

Another iOS feature appearing on BlackBerry phones is the offline browser. Now you don't need an internet connection to read cached web content.

Last but not least, the update will automatically unlock the FM radio built into Z30, Z10 or Z5 handsets for music on the go.

BlackBerry is currently struggling to maintain its position in an ever more competitive smartphone market. The latest data from Kantar Worldpanel, published on Monday, shows that the once world leader has dropped again in the global handset rankings.

Its US market share is currently 0.4% while its combined share of the five main European territories -- the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain -- stands at 1.5% of all handsets sold over the past 12 months.

BlackBerry plans to reverse its fortunes by focusing on providing secure communication services and building business products while a contract with Foxconn will see the Asian manufacturer producing low-cost smartphone handsets aimed at first-time smartphone customers and existing owners in emerging markets. The first Foxconn-produced handsets are expected to make their debut at the Mobile World Congress in February