These are dark days for Research In Motion (RIM) and its BlackBerry brand...or at least dim ones.
The Canadian company is struggling with an increasingly negative market perception, shrinking customer loyalty as long-time BlackBerry users move on, and stiff competition from rivals, including Apple, Google and Microsoft, among other things.
But that doesn't mean it should all be doom and gloom for RIM right now. Here are five reasons why current BlackBerry users and others interested in the brand and its future should remain optimistic in the coming months.
1) BlackBerry 7.1 OS Updates for BlackBerry 7 Smartphones
Earlier this year, RIM announced that the latest version of its BlackBerry OS, BlackBerry 7.1, will be rolling out shortly via a variety of North American wireless carriers. And that's great news for anyone with a BlackBerry 7 smartphone, since OS 7.1 is a fairly significant update with a variety of cool new features.
BlackBerry 7.1 features and enhancements include Near Field Communications (NFC) and BlackBerry Tag support (read more about Tag here); Mobile Hotspot to turn your BlackBerry handheld into your own personal and portable Wi-Fi router; Wi-Fi calling, to make voice calls over the Internet and reduce the use of your monthly allotment of cellular voice minutes; a new version of RIM's BlackBerry Traffic app that offers free turn-by-turn navigation, and much more.
Some versions of BlackBerry 7.1 also reportedly feature a cool new "battery saving mode" to help your smartphone stay up and running longer.
A variety of U.S. carriers have already reportedly released OS 7.1 for select devices, including T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint. Unfortunately, only BlackBerry smartphones running RIM's BlackBerry 7 OS are compatible with the 7.1 software, so users with older BlackBerrys are out of luck.
Though BlackBerry 7.1 certainly isn't BlackBerry 10--RIM's upcoming OS that's built on a new and completely different software foundation--it's definitely worth the update, and it ought to help tide over anxious CrackBerry users until BlackBerry 10 becomes available in late 2012 or early 2013.
Find more details on the BlackBerry OS 7.1 update on RIM's Inside BlackBerry blog.
2) BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 Software
BlackBerry handhelds aren't the only RIM devices getting major software updates; RIM's PlayBook tablet is also set to receive a significant software makeover this month. BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 is expected to be released for RIM tablets sometime in February, and it contains a variety of cool new and valuable features, not the least of which is the much-anticipated Android Player for PlayBook, which will enable users to run certain Android applications on their RIM tablets. (Read more details about how the PlayBook will run Android software.)
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