BlackBerry 10 to Launch on January 30: Here’s What We Know So Far

BlackBerry maker Research in Motion hasn't given up the fight just yet. The company says it's still on track to launch BlackBerry 10 in early 2013, and has scheduled a launch event for January 30.

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RIM via YouTube

BlackBerry maker Research in Motion hasn’t given up the fight just yet. The company says it’s still on track to launch BlackBerry 10 in early 2013, and has scheduled a launch event for January 30.

Well, several events, actually. RIM says it will hold simultaneous launches around the world, where it will show off its new operating system and announce the first two BlackBerry 10 smartphones, along with details on availability.

What do we know about BlackBerry 10? From the company’s various developer conferences over the last several months, we’re able to piece together an idea of what RIM’s next generation of BlackBerry devices will be like.

All About the Flow

RIM refers to the BlackBerry 10 interface as “Flow,” due to the way that users can swipe between applications without tapping any buttons. Swipe upwards when the phone is locked, for instance, and you slide into a screen of “Active Frames,” showing thumbnail images of your recent apps. These frames can contain useful information such as calendar appointments, BBM status updates and weather forecasts, so they’re similar to the Live Tiles in Windows Phone and widgets in Android.

(MORE: BlackBerry 10: Good Enough Won’t Be Anywhere Near Good Enough)

BlackBerry 10 also puts an emphasis on communications. When you’re inside an app, you can swipe up from the bottom bezel to peek at notifications, then keep swiping over to the right to jump into a unified inbox, called BlackBerry Hub. This inbox brings e-mails, messages, missed calls, calendar events and social network updates into a single list.

RIM has a video that shows how this works:

A New Take on Software Keyboards

Although the physical keyboard is BlackBerry’s claim to fame, RIM is trying to change that in BlackBerry 10. Full touchscreen BlackBerry phones will have software keyboards with predictive text. As the user types, suggested words appear above every next possible letter, so after typing “L-E,” the word “learned” appears above “A” and the word “left” appears above “F.” To enter the word, users must swipe upwards from the next letter. Suggestions will improve over time based on what users type most often.

A Camera that Rewinds Time

One of BlackBerry 10’s most impressive features is its camera app, which automatically grabs a few frames before every photo taken. That way, if one of the subjects blinks or makes an odd face, users can “rewind” time for the area around that person’s face, going back to when he or she had a perfect smile. Although some Android phones now offer burst shooting, BlackBerry 10’s ability to selectively edit individual faces–and only when necessary–seems more useful than snapping 10 photos at a time in burst mode.

Here’s another video that demonstrates the feature:

Separation of Business and Pleasure

For enterprise users, a feature called BlackBerry Balance creates separate work and personal profiles on their phones, each with their own apps and information. The business side is encrypted and password-protected, and users can switch between the two profiles at will.

The Actual Phones

RIM plans to announce two BlackBerry phones at its January launch event, and we’ll be surprised if they aren’t similar to two phones that popped up in a leaked video in September, as spotted by CrackBerry.com. One of the phones will apparently have a full touch screen, while the other will supposedly resemble the classic BlackBerry Bold with a physical keyboard on the bottom.

Crackberry.com

Another purported leak, posted on RapidBerry, claims that the touchscreen phone will have a 4.65-inch 720p display, a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, a microSD card slot, an 8-megapixel front-facing camera and a 2-megapixel rear-facing camera. If true, those specs would put the phone on par with others that are on the market now. Not as much is known, however, about the supposed BlackBerry with the physical keyboard.

Questions Remain

We have a general sense of how BlackBerry 10 will work and what the phones might look like, but plenty of details are still unknown. The depth and breadth of BlackBerry 10’s app store is the biggest mystery, though RIM says it will offer “a large catalog of the leading applications from across the globe and across all categories.” We’ll also need to see if RIM will offer connected music and video services similar to Apple‘s iTunes in the Cloud, Google Play and Microsoft‘s Xbox Music and Video. As for availability, no wireless carriers in the United States have said publicly whether they’ll sell BlackBerry 10 devices, but RIM says 50 carriers around the world are testing the phones in their labs.

There’s also one other nagging question: Has all this time allowed BlackBerry 10 to be flawless? It’s already been more than a year since RIM’s last major software update, BlackBerry 7, and the company has said it’s taking the time to get things right. That sounds good, especially after the disastrous launch of the BlackBerry PlayBook, but we won’t know how RIM has fared until we actually try the hardware.

Once all those details are revealed, the only thing left to see is whether people will still care about the BlackBerry brand after it’s spent more than a year in hiding. For RIM, BlackBerry 10 has always been a long shot, but at least the company is preparing something different and is finally on track to deliver.

MORE: BlackBerry 10: What RIM Needs to Succeed