BlackBerry


BlackBerry launches ‘Passport’ smartphone – Breakfast Television

Whether you love BlackBerry or hate it, the Canadian smartphone maker is banking on its new Passport device to help reshape perception of the company in a highly competitive market.

“We are determined to win back the Canadian home crowd,” chief executive John Chen told the audience at the Toronto launch event on Wednesday.

“If you guys don’t support us, then you’ve got some problems,” he joked.

Rather, it might be BlackBerry that faces more problems if the Passport doesn’t catch on with the business users it wants to attract.

Nearly a year ago, Chen was brought on board at the struggling company to help dig it out of a financial pit and reshape its business model. So far, he has completed a major restructuring of its operations through cost cuts, layoffs and a shift in the company’s overall strategy.

Taking the Passport to users is the next step.

The device is comparable in size to a Canadian passport, a point which Chen demonstrated by placing the phone against the government-issued identification booklet. It has a square screen that measures 11.4 cm (4.5 inches) and a keyboard the company said is four times more accurate for the user than the phone’s competitors.

Priced at $699 in Canada, the Passport is angled towards health care professionals, government workers and the military, which tend to be industries that embrace technology through massive product orders and stick with a device for years.

Together the target market represents about 30 per cent of mobile phone users, Chen said.

“I no longer bring any laptops around when I go to business meetings,” he added.

“This is powerful enough as a tool.”

Aside from the new phone, the company also showcased its new BlackBerry Blend application, which securely links a user’s smartphone, and data like email, BBM and other documents, seamlessly with their nearby computer or tablet through the Internet.

Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy models have been encroaching on the business market where BlackBerry was once considered nearly untouchable with its dominant market share.

The company responded by opening up its secure enterprise platform to support Apple and Samsung smartphones in the workplace.

It has also launched features in Indonesia like BBM Money, which allows users to pay through a BlackBerry Messenger app at participating retailers.

Later this year, the company will also release BlackBerry Classic, a new take on its popular older smartphones.

Also on the schedule are numerous software updates, including BlackBerry Enterprise Server 12, a refreshed version of its management system for IT professionals who oversee employee phones.

BlackBerry will report its second-quarter financial results on Friday. While Chen declined to discuss specifics, he assured the audience that progress has been made on improving the company’s balance sheet and managing cash flow.

With files from CityNews.ca/The Canadian Press


CRTC says customers can cancel wireless contract after 2 years

Phone locked on white backgroundCanada’s Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission says wireless customers will have the ability to cancel their cellphone contracts two years into their term without early termination fees — even if the term is longer — under a new code of conduct unveiled Monday.

The new code, taking effect Dec. 2, is unveiled after a set of public hearings earlier this year had customers demanding clarity of their cellphone contracts and additional charges on their monthly bill.

Also announced by the CRTC includes a overage data cap of $50 per month, and an international roaming data cap of $100 per month in an attempt to minimize surprise bills.

Customers will be able to unlock their mobile devices after 90 days, or immediately if they opt to pay the full price of the device.

The CRTC said customers will also be allowed to return their cellphone within 15 days of purchase (given they’ve stayed within usage limits) if they’re dissatisfied with the wireless provider’s service.


March Break: Staying connected while abroad

It’s that time of year again—March Break is here and many people are traveling abroad for vacation.  Here are my five tech gadgets to help you stay connected to your loved ones no matter where you are.

Samsung WB800F:

This camera has built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, and will allow you connect to your hotel’s Wi-Fi network and upload photos to your favourite online social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

GoPro HERO3:

This is a mountable, full high-definition video camera that’ll record hours of footage for upload to friends and family.  Whether you are skydiving or skiing, you can mount the camera on your helmet, chest, or even on the side of a car, and record footage using the built-in wide-angle lens—great for people with an active lifestyle.

Philips In.Sight:

If you are traveling abroad for any length of time, chance are you want to make sure your home and the contents in it are safe and secure.  This camera from Philips is wireless, and paired with an app on your smartphone, you can check in on your house no matter where you are.

BlackBerry Z10:

BlackBerry, known for their BBM service, will help you cut down on long distance calling bills when you are traveling abroad.  BBM’s new feature, BBM Voice, will allow you to make free calls to other BlackBerry users using this service—all using the wireless connection in your hotel or Internet café.

Avocado app for iOS and Android:

If you decide to go on a girls-only vacation trip and leave your partner at home, this app will keep you connected at all times.  This free couples-only app gives you the capability to send messages and photos, and even allows you to do things like virtually kiss and hug your partner all the way from another continent.

Products courtesy of Future Shop


Last-minute gifts for the tech lover – Toronto Star

Apple iPad mini, starting from $329.99, at Apple retailers or Apple.ca

Ideal for: Whiz kids who want the newest tech toy to working professionals who need to stay on top of emails. The small form-factor (it has a 7.9-inch [20-centimetre] screen) allows you to handily carry the device while the screen is large enough for easy readability.

What we love: It has optional cellular connectivity. You can reach up to lightning-LTE speeds, all without a contract or long-term commitment from the wireless carrier – just pay what you use.

Breakthrough features: This tablet is Apple’s smallest – measuring 23-per-cent thinner and 53-per-cent lighter than Apple’s iPad 3, and can fit in the palm of your hand.

What’s disappointing: With Apple focusing on keeping it affordable, the mini lacks a high-resolution retina display, a regular feature on other tablets like the recently announced Google Nexus 10.

Canon EOS M camera, starting at $829.99, at Canon-authorized sellers

Ideal for: Budding videographers and photographers in your life – novice to professional.

What we love: The mirrorless technology gives you the stunning image quality of a DSLR camera with the convenience of a point-and-shoot, minus the bulk. Plus, the APS-C-sized CMOS image sensor makes it a lightweight to tote.

Breakthrough features: With the new stepper motor built into the lenses (they’re included) the Spielberg in your family can capture HD movies in 1080p. The autofocus setting means you can simply hit a button and record up to 44 minutes of HD footage on a 16GB SD card. Now you’ll never miss another birthday or graduation.

What’s disappointing: Theabsence of traditional, standard digital camera features like a viewfinder and built-in flash; you have to carry a separate flash unit (included in the kit).

Sony VAIO T13 with Windows 8, $899, at most electronics retailers.

Ideal for: Those who thrive on processor power and need a machine that can take some abuse (it’s made out of durable aluminum and magnesium construction), all with an affordable price tag.

What we love: You can experience Windows 8 in all its speedy glory. Its elegant build, excellent battery and moderate price point makes this computer an overall mid-range laptop.

Breakthrough features: It comes equipped with all the bells and whistles like a full HDMI port, Windows 8 and a generously spaced keyboard. The touchpad supports multi-touch gestures and allows you to scroll and pinch-and-zoom photos.

What’s disappointing: This computer measures heavier (1.5 kilograms) than rival computers in its category. The keyboard isn’t backlit and the fan can be intrusive.

Samsung GALAXY Note II, $599.99 no term, at major wireless carriers.

Ideal for: The consummate traveller who needs a mobile office. It’s only 5.5 inches [14 centimetres], eliminating the need for both a smartphone and a tablet computer.

What we love: It’s a smartphone/tablet hybrid with a large, vibrant HD Super AMOLED 5.5-inch screen giving you quality and quantity. The included S-Pen allows you to be creative: draw fun pictures and take notes on the large screen.

Breakthrough features: While other phones have similar motion-gesture features, Samsung has perfected it to integrate directly with the operating system making it easier to use: silence calls when the phone is flipped over, and just shake to connect to Bluetooth.

What’s disappointing: The larger screen may be a tight squeeze for your pocket or your clutch. LTE data is battery-intensive, so turn it off when not in use.

BlackBerry PlayBook 4G LTE, $549.99 no-term, at major wireless carriers.

Ideal for: The workaholic who can leave his or her laptop behind, but still have access to email, media and productivity tools like Microsoft Office via Documents To Go, or the teen who doesn’t like waiting for movies to load before watching them.

What we love: It’s the size of an e-reader, but offers more features such as 4G LTE and Wi-Fi connectivity, a wide-selection of apps from Blackberry App World, two 1080p HD cameras and HDMI. It also brings the BBM service to a bigger, tablet-sized screen.

Breakthrough features: The BlackBerry Bridge app allows you to switch between your BlackBerry smartphone and PlayBook – giving you access to a larger screen. wide-selection of apps from Blackberry App World, two 1080p HD cameras and HDMI. It also brings the BBM service to a bigger, tablet-sized screen.

What’s disappointing: It’s designed to work with a BlackBerry smartphone via the BlackBerry Bridge application. iPhone or Android users may not appreciate the unified BlackBerry experience.

Kobo Arc, $199.99, at Indigo.

Ideal for: The literary aficionado or student who doesn’t want to tote around a dozen books at a time.

What we love: Kobo has one of the largest e-bookstores (access to over three million e-books — one million of which are free!). Its dual-core processor allows you to turn pages without lag, smoothly surf the web and speedily check your emails.

Breakthrough features: It’s not just your personal library. It allows you access to movies, music, apps and games — all in colour, and lighter than a traditional computer.

What’s disappointing: While it hasadditional tablet capabilities (load apps, music and movies), this shortens the battery life.

Sharp 60-inch LE845 TV, $2,699.99, at most electronics retailers

Ideal for: Families making the big upgrade for the family den, or a new toy for Dad’s man cave.

What we love: This sleek LED TV features Sharp’s Quattron four-colour technology, including a full 3D-2D conversion experience. The 240Hz edge-lit LED panel means your TV will deliver a natural and vibrant picture.

Breakthrough features: SmartCentral, Sharp’s link between TV and the Internet. Through Wi-Fi, you can download and access some of your favourite social apps or surf the web – all from the comfort of your own remote control.

What’s disappointing: The steep $2,699.99 price tag.