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Updated: June 14, 2013 12:34 IST

Blackberry re-branded

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Actor Ranbir Kapoor, brand ambassador in India for Blackberry Z10. Photo: Paul Noronha
The Hindu
Actor Ranbir Kapoor, brand ambassador in India for Blackberry Z10. Photo: Paul Noronha

Blackberry launched its premium OS 10 smartphone Z10 in India earlier this week, presenting it as a device for both work and play. But its pricing struck a jarring note.

More than a year ago, the then Research in Motion launched a series of advertisements that strove to break the perception that its Blackberry smartphone users were all suited-up, work-focussed men who were not interested in having fun.

Earlier this week, the re-christened Blackberry launched its new flagship smartphone Z10, running its much-awaited Blackberry 10, at a glitzy event at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Mumbai. And as if to leave no doubts whatsoever about its image makeover, the phone was launched by its brand new ambassador for the country, heartthrob actor Ranbir Kapoor. He even said that the Z10 had been his phone for two weeks now. And, well, he was suited up in black, but that is just a matter of detail.

The roll-out is a litmus test for the Canadian firm’s new Blackberry 10 mobile OS platform and how it is pitted against the likes of the leaders of the pack — Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android — and the emerging Windows 8 mobile platform. “It is a near miracle that the entire OS was coded within a span of 18 months,” Vivek Bhardwaj, Blackberry’s head of software portfolio, told journalists, shortly after the phone was launched. “Our development teams have had to sacrifice their Christmas holidays to get this phone released.”

Bharadwaj showcased some of the phone’s funky details — its touch interface, the ‘time-shift’ camera editing tool (to get that perfect shot) and screen share that allows people to share their Blackberry10 screens — during the launch event. There was also the teaser of the Q10, the QWERTY keypad featuring smartphone from Blackberry, expected to launch within the next few months.

Local Apps

The big emphasis at the event was on the availability of local Apps. Blackberry claimed to have 70,000 Apps already available on its Blackberry World Applications Store. Of those, more than 9,000 Apps have been developed by Indians.

Among the Apps showcased at the launch event were cinema theatre chain PVR’s Tap n Go, an NFC-enabled e-payment service and private bank HDFC’s personal banking App. Sunil Dutt, managing director for Blackberry India, also emphasised the availability of several popular games on the App Store.

Though the number of Apps, to start off with, seems to be good enough, some users will be disappointed to find popular Apps of the likes of Instagram missing.

Blackberry representatives, however, requested the critics to go slow since the ecosystem had just been launched.

The biggest positive for the local market here was the availability of support for eight native Indian languages on the platform. More are expected to be added soon.

Pricing shock

The many positives, notwithstanding, the MRP of the Blackberry Z10 was a bit of a rude shock. The company has priced it at Rs. 43,490 which immediately started trending on Twitter leading to a lot of jokes. Some were seen commenting that they went on a public bus to buy the new Blackberry but instead rode back home on a brand new motorcycle.

It was also the most asked question at the press interaction, to which Mr. Dutt replied that the company had decided to price the flagship phone competitively.

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