BlackBerry 10 users can now run BlackBerry apps and Android apps, courtesy of the latest update to the mobile operating system.
Launched on Thursday, BlackBerry 10 OS 10.3.1 provides the usual access to the BlackBerry World app store but also adds entry to the Amazon Appstore, where users can download a variety of Android apps. The latest update has started to roll out for several BlackBerry 10 devices, including the Passport, Z30, Z3, Z10, Q10 and Q5, along with the Porsche Design P'9983 and P'9982 smartphones.
The update comes at a time when BlackBerry has steadily fallen to the bottom of the mobile phone heap.
At last count, BlackBerry's global market share was less than 1 percent as most smartphone buyers have gravitated toward Apple and Android. Still, the company continues to battle back by launching new phones, such as theand the in hopes of gaining customers who still like the physical QWERTY keyboards and other BlackBerry features. And BlackBerry continues to update its latest mobile OS with new features designed to appeal to existing users and possibly attract new ones. The ability to run Android apps is one feature that might persuade more people to give BlackBerry phones a shot.
The latest update adds other features as well.
The BlackBerry Assistant is the company's attempt at a voice assistant, a la Siri, Cortana and Google Now. BlackBerry's first digital assistant is designed to help you work with your apps by responding to questions or comments in one of two ways. If you type something, the BlackBerry Assistant responds silently. If you speak, the assistant responds by voice.
BlackBerry Blend displays text messages, emails, documents and other content from your phone on your computer or tablet. The BlackBerry Hub has been enhanced with a new option called "Instant Actions." These allow you to organize your inbox without having to go through each individual email.
A new Meeting Mode sets your phone to silent mode while you're in a meeting and then turns it back to active mode after the meeting is over. BlackBerry has added back certain keyboard shortcuts for phones that sport a physical keyboard, where you can assign a specific function to just about every letter.
The camera has been upgraded with a panoramic feature and other enhancements. And finally, BlackBerry promises a 15 percent jump in battery life by letting you pick which apps and features you want to stay active or become passive.
The new version is already rolling out to customers in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Asia Pacific region. Those of you in North America should see the update arrive over the coming weeks. But your timing will vary depending on your mobile carrier. A spokeswoman for BlackBerry told CNET that some Canadian customers of wireless carrier Rogers have already started to receive the update.