BlackBerry stays ‘in game’ with revamped handset, reviewers say

NEW YORK — BlackBerry, the device maker formerly known as Research In Motion, may have bought itself time in the smartphone market with revamped handsets and software, based on the earliest reviews of the new wares.

Z10, a phone that boasts a touch screen and the new BB10 operating system, has enough going for it to draw interest, though it’s not the kind of product that will quickly help BlackBerry win back ground lost to Apple and Google, maker of the Android software used by Samsung Electronics, according to Ed Baig, who reviews gadgets for USA Today.

“It’s very much good enough to keep RIM in the game, but is still not very likely to help the company supplant the iPhone 5 or the Android-based Samsung Galaxy S III, or help the company recapture its past glory,” Baig wrote after testing the smartphone for about a week.

The Z10 drew plaudits for camera and virtual keyboard design from the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg, who also called it a “work in progress” that lacks apps and a cloud-based system for sharing files. Bloomberg’s Rich Jaroslovsky said Z10 is “handsome, intuitive to use and a whiz at multitasking” and that it resembles an iPhone 5 at first glance, though distinctions include a bigger screen.

Some of the most glowing praise came from New York Times reviewer David Pogue, who was impressed by Z10’s sharp display; its app, music and video stores; and a master in-box that groups all communications channels, including calls and messages from Twitter and Facebook.

“It’s lovely, fast and efficient, bristling with fresh, useful ideas,” Pogue wrote. “And here’s the shocker: It’s complete.”

The Z10 is scheduled to reach stores in March in the United States, selling for a projected $199. It starts at C$149 ($149) in BlackBerry’s home country of Canada, where it goes on sale Tuesday.

The release marks a make-or-break shift for the company, which has seen its market share fall to a quarter of what it was three years ago. BlackBerry is counting on BlackBerry 10 to reverse that slide and return to profitability. The stock dropped as much as 9.1 percent after today’s unveiling, signaling that investors remain skeptical.

Die-hard BlackBerry fans may balk at Z10’s lack of a physical keyboard, while iPhone and Android users may “shun it for its small selection of apps and lack of native cloud services,” Mossberg wrote.

The new operating system is better looking than previous BlackBerry software, according to Jaroslovsky. It’s unclear whether customers will make the switch to the Z10, he said.

“The key question, which the market will answer, is whether all that will be enough to rescue the company after years of mediocre products and corporate floundering,” he said.

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