BlackBerry 10 begins carrier testing for 2013 launch

If you’re part of the dwindling group that hasn’t given up on BlackBerry, take heart in the knowledge that Research in Motion is still on schedule to launch BlackBerry 10 early next year.

Thorsten Heins, RIM’s president and CEO, said in a statement that BlackBerry 10 has entered lab testing with more than 50 wireless carriers around the world. This puts the first BB10 devices on track to launch in the first quarter of 2013.

RIM still hasn’t announced any hardware for BlackBerry 10, and in the United States, no major wireless carriers have publicly stated any plans for the operating system. But in the letter, Heins said the response from carriers around the world has been “tremendous.”

“They are excited about the prospect of launching BlackBerry 10 in their markets,” he said.

It’s been a rough road for RIM and BlackBerry 10. The company had originally planned to release its next operating system by the end of 2012, but announced a delay in June. RIM wanted more time to polish the software, and Heins has argued that the holiday season is already overcrowded. He may have a point, given that the iPhone 5, Windows Phone 8, and the usual barrage of Android phones are all competing for attention right now.

BlackBerry 10 is a complete overhaul of RIM’s smartphone software, designed to be more touch-friendly than previous versions. Its main features are a universal inbox for e-mail, text, BBM, and social network notifications; an improved rich browser with HTML5 support; and a unique software keyboard, which lets users auto-complete words by flicking upwards from each corresponding letter. The OS is designed around the idea of “flow,” allowing users move between apps and peek at their inbox using swipe gestures.

The interface looks promising, but questions remain on how much app support BlackBerry 10 will see from developers, what types of cloud services RIM can offer for documents and media, and whether the software will have a virtual assistant to compete with Google Now and Apple’s Siri. (Basic voice commands have surfaced in RIM’s alpha devices, but details on the finished product are lacking.)

From Heins’s latest statement, it sounds like all will be revealed in a few months or so. Consider this a friendly reminder that RIM’s Hail Mary operating system is still on course.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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