BlackBerry 10 launch is wait-and-see for loyal UAE consumers

Take our poll: The BlackBerry 10 operating system was unveiled last night at global launches in eight cities around the world, including Dubai.

DUBAI // It’s new, it’s here and it has won rave reviews – but will it be enough to save the BlackBerry?

The BlackBerry 10 operating system was unveiled last night at global launches in eight cities around the world, including Dubai.

The system will power a new range of phones available to UAE consumers on February 10.

The fully touchscreen Z10 will cost Dh2,599, although du and Etisalat will subsidise it for customers who buy data packages. The Q10, with a physical keyboard, is expected to be available in April.

“The UAE is a very important market for us,” Thorsten Heins, the boss of BlackBerry, which has changed its name from Research In Motion, said at the launch.

It comes at a critical time for BlackBerry with consumers deserting it in droves for more feature-packed phones from Apple and Samsung.

The new operating system includes video calling through BlackBerry Messenger Voice, similar to FaceTime on iPhone.

The app allows for free voice and video calls over wifi, but it may not be available in the UAE as both du and Etisalat are reluctant to lose revenue from their paid service.

The interface has new features called Hub and Flow, which allow management of all notifications and contacts in one place and fast mulitasking between different apps.

There is a high-resolution screen and an improved camera.

Internally both phones have 1.5Ghz dual core processors with 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and an expandable memory card slot.

They support near field communication allowing for mobile payments.

Users will also have the choice of 70,000 apps they can download almost immediately.

Initial reaction to the launch was positive among BlackBerry users in the UAE.

“These are the kinds of phones that BlackBerry needed to make a couple of years ago,” said Sanjeet Kumar, a British national in Dubai.

“The camera is a lot better and the interface seems to be much more intuitive. You can’t make a judgment until you’ve actually used it but I would say it looks promising at the moment.”

Other BlackBerry users have been considering switching for some time.

“I am probably the last of my family and friends who still use a BlackBerry,” said Anjali Nandkumar, a user for six years.

“I’ll see how good the new phones are before deciding.”

For Sudhakshina Shivkumar, a student from Dubai, her BlackBerry is more of a necessity.

“Most if not all of my friends have BlackBerry phones and the main reason for that is BB Messenger,” she said.

“I know a lot of people have now switched to Whatsapp but I can only use it over wifi.

“With BBM I get the messages free and that saves me a lot.”

UK stores will have the new phones today and orders are already being accepted for grey market versions by online retailers in the UAE.

People who choose to buy grey market imports could be having to pay a premium as high as Dh4,000.

Ashish Panjabi, chief operating officer for Jacky’s Electronics, said there was no need to buy grey market versions of the phone.

“Dubai is one of the launch cities, which means the UAE is part of the first phase of the global launch so we’ll be getting the phone at pretty much the same time as other countries,” he said.

“BlackBerry has been traditionally strong in the Middle East and demand has remained stable despite problems elsewhere,” he said.

“We are expecting it to sell well here once it launches.”