BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM) has unveiled "beta" versions of its forthcoming smartphones to telecoms carriers.
Perhaps aware that time is not on its side, RIM has gone on the offensive, touting its new range of phones that it hopes will put it back in the running.
In recent years, RIM's once-dominant range of BlackBerry devices has been eclipsed by those running Android or iOS, which offer a much wider range of applications and slicker functionality than BlackBerry's own operating system.
Persistent stories of the company's problems - RIM shares have fallen nearly 70 per cent in the past 12 months - are not helping business and consumer confidence, or that of the application developers who will be so crucial to the success of the new platform. The Canadian firm is now on a PR push to reverse this trend.
Yesterday RIM CEO Thorsten Heins (pictured) told The Wall Street Journal that mobile carriers will be shown prototypes of the new BlackBerrys, saying that the look-and-feel and the physical design of the devices are complete and that the delayed rollout date of early 2013 is now solid.
So, what changes can BlackBerry users expect?
The new smartphone range will comprise a total of six BlackBerrys running the new BlackBerry 10 operating system, three that are all-touchscreen and three with a full keyboard, like the current Bold model.
Mindful of criticisms from developers about the wide range of screen resolutions available on its devices in the past, RIM told the community on its blog that there will now be just two standard form factors: the full-touch devices will have a resolution of 1280 x 720 (16:9), the keyboard phones 720 x720 (1:1). There is no announcement yet about the screens on the new BlackBerry tablets.
In addition, the new phones will have a replaceable battery, allowing heavy users to carry a spare with them rather than having to lug a charger around.
BlackBerry 10 has a reworked web browser and improved multi-tasking, allowing users to jump between applications more efficiently. There is also a new contact management app that will consolidate contacts, status updates and calendar events.
The devices will now undergo a period of testing by the carriers to ensure that call quality, battery life and other important factors reach the required standards.
According to a recent readership survey by Computing, BlackBerry devices are still the most widely used by business (RIM's core market), with 61 per cent of the survey respondents saying their organisation provides RIM's smartphones to its employees, compared with 40 per cent for Apple's phones and 30 per cent for devices running Android.
RIM's core USP remains its secure communications infrastructure, with a substantial installed commercial base already invested in BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES). It will be hoping that the new range consolidates this base.
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