Today, mobile com­put­ing pio­neer Black­Ber­ry con­tin­ued to defy the many tech pun­dits who have called its demise inevitable by releas­ing a major upgrade to its next gen­er­a­tion smart­phone plat­form. Ver­sion 10.2.1 of Black­Ber­ry 10 began rolling out across the globe this morn­ing, bring­ing new fea­tures and enhance­ments to the ultra-mod­ern oper­at­ing sys­tem that pow­ers the com­pa­ny’s newest line of handsets.

The changel­og is rather long. It runs the gamut from sim­ple, cool refine­ments like a vir­tu­al on/off flash­light but­ton to a com­plete­ly redesigned call screen. Black­Ber­ry has high­light­ed some of the most note­wor­thy improve­ments here.

Impor­tant­ly, for pow­er users, 10.2.1 allows Android appli­ca­tions to be installed and launched direct­ly with­out need­ing to be con­vert­ed to .bar files. Users upgrad­ing from BB10.1, mean­while, will find that the Android run­time is now based on Jel­ly Bean instead of Gin­ger­bread. With 10.2.1, run­ning Android appli­ca­tions is no longer just pos­si­ble, it’s down­right easy. Any Black­Ber­ry 10 user can do it.

If you want an appli­ca­tion that isn’t in Black­Ber­ry World, you can install a sec­ond store­front — like the Ama­zon App­store — and start down­load­ing and run­ning Android appli­ca­tions to your heart’s con­tent. The run­time han­dles most Android apps with­out a prob­lem, mak­ing Black­Ber­ry’s much-dis­cussed “app gap” a nonissue.

Most peo­ple have no idea that the newest Black­Ber­ry hand­sets can run Android apps, or are loaded with cool tech­nolo­gies like the Time Shift cam­era. That’s in part because the new devices have been very poor­ly mar­ket­ed. If most peo­ple were asked to think of a Black­Ber­ry, they’d prob­a­bly visu­al­ize a device with a track­ball or a wheel run­ning slow-to-boot soft­ware orig­i­nal­ly devel­oped in the late 1990s.

But the new hand­sets are very, very different.

The Black­Ber­ry 10 plat­form is based on QNX, which can be found in many cars and in indus­tri­al set­tings. It is a touch and ges­ture based oper­at­ing system.

Some fea­tures and user inter­face ele­ments were inspired by the old­er Black­Ber­ry OS, but in most respects, BB10 is total­ly dif­fer­ent from its pre­de­ces­sor. It is fast, reli­able, and comes with true mul­ti­task­ing support.

To date, Black­Ber­ry has pro­duced four hand­sets that run BB10: the Z10, Q10, Q5, and Z30 (which were intro­duced last year in that order).

The two “Z” phones are all-touch mod­els with a rev­o­lu­tion­ary vir­tu­al key­board that looks like the icon­ic QWERTY key­board found on the Bold series. The Z10 is clos­er in dimen­sions to an iPhone and has a remov­able bat­tery, while the Z30 is clos­er in dimen­sions to a Galaxy Note and has a non­re­mov­able battery.

The Q10 and Q5, mean­while, serve as direct suc­ces­sors to the Bold and Curve mod­els, sport­ing the best phys­i­cal key­boards to be found on a smartphone.

We’ve just about fin­ished migrat­ing over to Black­Ber­ry 10 here at NPI, and we could­n’t be more sat­is­fied with these new hand­sets. Black­Ber­ry has built on its core strengths and leapfrogged the com­pe­ti­tion with BB10. Since last year’s launch, they’ve lis­tened to their users and con­tin­u­al­ly pol­ished the new OS, adding in miss­ing fea­tures, fix­ing bugs, and pol­ish­ing the design.

With the 10.2.1 update, Black­Ber­ry 10 is even more com­pelling, and we join oth­er Black­Ber­ry enthu­si­asts in con­grat­u­lat­ing the com­pa­ny on ship­ping it. We can’t wait to try out the new capa­bil­i­ties. Thanks, BlackBerry!

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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