BlackBerry Q10 v2.0 Software Upgrade A Good Start

| About: BlackBerry Ltd. (BB)
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The timing was all too delicious.

BlackBerry’s (BBRY) software engineers released the Q10′s 2.0 software update around the same time that the company’s Board of Directors concluded that the best course of action was to go-it-alone for now, and cancel its unusual sale process.

When I first got my Q10, I tried it for a month before concluding that it certainly hadn’t lived up to expectations, and there was plenty wrong with the product. It wasn’t going to set the world on fire, despite what the old or new management had been telling the media. I immediately sold my long-held shares on the premise that if the Q10 wasn’t going to reignite the core BlackBerry enterprise market, then the hope of a $20 M&A exit price was in tatters (see prior posts “Throwing in the towel on my RIM shares” June 24-13 and “Throwing in the towel on my RIM shares part 2” June 26-13). The stock has fallen from $14.65 to $6.90 since that post, so at least I avoided further losses.

I caught a lot of flak from some of the “long BBRY” readers at Seeking Alpha, who were convinced that I was a pawn of the shorts. It took the BlackBerry Board of Directors just a few weeks to acknowledge the situation, and the company was put up for sale – again- at the end of August. The rest is history, or in the case of Fairfax’s stated excuse for why they didn’t complete the previously-announced $9 take-private deal — the debt was too expensive (no surprise there!) — revisionist history.

For the Q10 user, however, perhaps this is the best outcome. At least temporarily, as the company will surely be sold before the decade is out. Our handset of choice is now backed by up to $1 billion of new cash via a convertible unsecured debt deal, costs have been cut, Thorsten is out, and the 2.0 software package is finally out. Hooray!

And the good news is that some of the complaints I had back in June have been fixed, while other neat upgrades have made their way into the mix, as well:

- When you respond to emails on the Q10, your Microsoft Outlook email didn’t show that the email in question had been responded to, unlike what happened with the 9900, 9700, etc. This has been fixed.

- The BBM interface has been fine-tuned.

- If you are typing an email or reading about Rob Ford’s daily combustion on Twitter and an email comes in, you get a mini preview at the top of the screen. Feeding the multi-tasking beast.

- When you put conference call details into a meeting maker, you often are able to dial-in with a single touch. Participant codes and all.

There’s still some work to do:

- By ditching the trackpad, everyone has a far harder time fixing typos or editing emails, and an impossible task if you want to cut and paste text. Hopefully a virtual trackpad is just around the corner.

- Still no Starbucks app. And no, Foursquare is not the same: no store hours.

- My BlackBerry Link (the desktop manager) finds every photo and word document (in the thousands in each case) on my desktop hard drive but still cannot find the iTunes song catalogue. I had to buy a clunky app to sync music, which now creates an error every time a turn on my desktop each morning.

- The battery doesn’t get me through a day trip to Boston, even if I turn off the Bluetooth and WiFi, unless I stay completely off every social media app (such as Twitter).

- Telephone calls still can’t be received in the traditional “vibrate twice then ring” mode, unlike on the 9900 or 9700. Which means you can’t have it on your hip at the Opera or in a meeting without changing the notification mode to “silent”. Which means that if your babysitter calls to say he/she is on his/her way to the hospital with your child, you won’t know for longer than you’d like to. This is so simple, I can’t understand why it didn’t make the cut for the 2.0 release.

- Font size of inbound emails can be far too small sometimes, as in 4 point, which couldn’t be fixed by increasing the screen’s font size unlike on my 9900. I can’t tell if this has been fixed or not.

- When you “pinch” the screen to zoom, and then use your finger to track back and forth to read the email sentence by sentence, the screen will sometimes switch programs as the Q10 screen is meant to swipe when you make a quick right-to-left motion; and, unlike on the Z10, you can’t turn the device sideways to get the screen to turn & expand to read emails (not that it would matter since the screen is almost square). This may be impossible to fix.

But, patience is a virtue. And BlackBerry fans have proven themselves to be a patient bunch.

The BlackBerry team is also doing a better job of communicating with its users via email. Despite the massive company layoffs, I am receiving far more frequent communication about new apps, updates and things to download than six months ago. Haven’t seen one yet announcing the 2.0 Q10 release, and they aren’t coming in weekly like Apple’s iTunes blasts, but the folks in Waterloo seem to be trying harder. Plus listening to their customer base. Shareholders should take this as a positive sign.

And since we are going to be together for some time to come, this is welcome news. If only Mike would come back, and teach those QNX guys a thing or two about enterprise functionality.