BlackBerry says the touchscreen keyboard learns how you type, adapting over time to be more accurate and to automatically correct common mistakes. There's support for multiple languages, and you can switch between languages mid-message. While you are typing, it will auto-suggest what words it thinks you may be composing, and you can swipe up to toss one directly into your message.
A strange thing has happened in the past couple of months. Consumers, investors and the press have been cautiously optimistic about the Canadian company's plans for a comeback. BlackBerry has gone from being mocked to being seen as an underdog people are rooting for. Rebranding is one part of that process, and on Monday CEO Thorsten Heins announced that the company is renaming itself BlackBerry, dropping the awkward Research In Motion (RIM) moniker.
BlackBerry hasn't had a major product release in 18 months, which is an eternity in the smartphone world and long enough for memories of the devices to slip people's minds. Hardcore fans may be ready to upgrade to BlackBerry 10, but to take on Apple and Google, BlackBerry needs to shed its stigma of being out of date.
When you want cool points, you hire a celebrity (see: Windows Phone 8 and Jessica Alba, Polaroid and Lady Gaga). BlackBerry trotted out Alicia Keys near the end of Wednesday's event and gave her the honorary title of Global Creative Director. It was a nice touch, but tech-savvy shoppers aren't easily fooled by celebrity endorsements. They need to see real people using the devices, and they need to test them out for themselves.
BlackBerry is rolling out its new Z10 phone gradually around the world, starting in the UK on Thursday. The phone launches in Canada on February 5, and in the United Arab Emirates on February 10. It won't be released in the U.S. until sometime in March.
The focus on making the phone an international product is smart, since the company has a strong hold in places like the UAE, Indonesia, England and parts of South America. Wednesday's press announcement referenced satellite launch events for BlackBerry fans in London, Dubai and South Africa, among other far-flung places.
BlackBerry hasn't just been wooing developers in the U.S., it's paying attention to the top mobile apps in other markets and getting those developers to create products for the BlackBerry 10 platform. To hold its own against Apple, Android and Microsoft, it will need them.