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BlackBerry Z10 and Q10 smartphones make big debut

For the newly renamed RIM, it's crucial that the BlackBerry 10 OS and the new phones strike paydirt. The company likely won't have another chance to stem the tide of users fleeing its platform.

RIM CEO Thorsten Heins unveils the Z10 and Q10 BlackBerrys at an event in New York today.
Sarah Tew/CNET

BlackBerry, which previously called itself Research In Motion, today unveiled two new smartphones that it hopes will aid its efforts to return to favor with consumers and business users.

One phone, dubbed the BlackBerry Z10, features a full touch screen -- no QWERTY keyboard on this one. The 4.2-inch display has a pixel density of 356 per inch, compared to the iPhone's 326ppi density.

The other, dubbed the BlackBerry Q10, includes a full keyboard similar to those on older versions of the BlackBerry.

"We have the aspiration to be the best keyboard experience period," Chief Executive Thorsten Heins said during an event in New York.

Both devices include 4G LTE capabilities. Verizon Wireless said it will offer both phones to its customers. The Z10 will be available for $199.99 with a two-year contract in either black or white models. The white version is exclusive to Verizon, the company said.

The BlackBerry Z10 will hit several markets by early February, but U.S. buyers will have to wait a bit.

"We expect availability for most U.S. carriers for Z10 to be in March," Heins said.

Along with Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile will also offer the phone. Heins noted the carriers will soon announce their plans for the devices. The phone will retail for $199 with a contract or sell for $599 unsubsidized, the company said.

U.K. buyers will be able to purchase the phone tomorrow from EE, O2, Vodafone, Phones 4u, BT, 3UK, and the Carphone Warehouse. Pricing varies based on carrier and retail partners and is available on pay monthly contracts and pre-paid tariffs.

The Z10 will be available in Canada on Feb. 5. Pricing will vary by carrier partner but will retail for about $149.99 on a three-year contact.

Even the United Arab Emirates should have the phone before the U.S.

Heins, meanwhile, discussed other features of the new products and operating system, including BlackBerry Flow, which allows users to move between apps. The technology allows users to open and minimize apps through swipes, and everything keeps working. BlackBerry Peek allows users to play a video and check notifications at once.

In addition, BlackBerry Balance enables switching between two profiles -- work and personal. Heins noted that technology should allow users to carry one device for business and home life rather than toting around two devices. That argument has also been one made by Apple, Samsung, and other handset vendors as they try to get business users to switch to their devices.

Meanwhile, BlackBerry named singer Alicia Keys as its global creative director.

The Canadian smartphone maker's fall from the top of the smartphone market has been swift. Apple's iOS and Google's Android software have supplanted the BlackBerry with consumers, and they've also been making strides in the key business user market that used to be RIM's stronghold. BlackBerry's efforts to create a completely new operating system and devices has been plagued by delays and other issues, but the company is counting on its new products to convince users to stick with BlackBerry, as well as attract users tired of other platforms.

For the newly renamed RIM, it's crucial that the efforts pay off. The company likely won't have another chance to stem the tide of users fleeing its platform.

"Because of the fast-rising adoption of smartphones, 2013 represents the last, best hope for RIM's BlackBerry 10 -- along with endangered specimens like Microsoft's Windows Phone, Nokia's Lumia, and Mozilla's Firefox --to create a viable third smartphone competitor in the market," noted IHS iSuppli analyst Ian Fogg.

Updated at 8 a.m. PT and 8:20 a.m. PT with additional details about the device and availability at Verizon.

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