BlackBerry Updates Z10 Phones to BB OS 10.1 & Skype App

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With the BlackBerry Live conference in full swing, users of BlackBerry’s Z10 phone are gaining access to the Skype app today, along with a firmware update to BlackBerry OS 10.1. The OS update adds new enhancements to BlackBerry Hub, notifications, camera capabilities, and more.

Owners of BlackBerry’s Q10 phone can already download Skype from BlackBerry World, because the Q10 comes pre-installed with BB OS 10.1. The Skype app for BlackBerry requires 10.1. However, although the Q10 is already available in Canada and the UK, it isn’t expected to launch in the US until this summer.

Actually, the new Skype app is still officially in preview mode, although it offers features that include free video and voice calling, instant messaging (IM), text messaging, and international calling at Skype’s rates. (For expanded view of the screenshots at right, please click on the image.)

“Keep in mind that this release is still in preview state which means that the experience is not yet final. We do however think you’ll be impressed — the app already offers all the Skype features BlackBerry 10 users have been looking forward to,” said Skype’s Linda Summers, in a blog posted on April 25, the day before the app became available for Q10 users.

The BlackBerry app is modeled after Skype for Android, but Skype has tweaked the user interface (UI) to make it display well on BlackBerry phones, according to Summers.

All told, the number of apps in BlackBerry World now total over 120,000, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins announced in a keynote speech today at BlackBerry Live.

BlackBerry will also soon add apps to BlackBerry World that include SoundHound, Bloomberg Hub, Moog and iHeart Radio, according to Heins.

New Features in BB OS 10.1

Meanwhile, in the 10.1 OS firmdate for the Z10,  the BlackBerry Hub — a space for accessing all messages and notifications in one place — gains support for PIN-to-PIN messages, for direct communication between BlackBerry phones.

Also new are customized ringtones, vibrations, and LED lights for notifications. These customizations can be performed by either contact or account.

BlackBerry has also added an HDR (High Dynamic Range) shooting mode for producing better photos in difficult lighting conditions.

In the picture editor, BlackBerry has improved the red eye reduction feature.

Another new capability, fine cursor control, is designed to make it easier to pinpoint where you want to type. After tapping once to bring up the cursor, users can grab the blue circle and drag it to wherever they want. By tapping on the side of a circle, you can move either right or left by a single character.

BlackBerry also announced a 10.1 update to BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES), which businesses use for managing BlackBerry, Android and iOS phones.

BES 10.1 offers enhancements to deployment, usage reporting, policies, and support, along with a new IM client which works with both Microsoft and IBM Lotus systems. 

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