Looking for some help getting over the mid-week hump that is Wednesday, BlackBerry fans? RIM is here to help, as the company has made a couple of big announcements that ought to please 'Berry addicts. First up, RIM has introduced BBM Voice, a new feature of its BlackBerry Messenger service that allows users to make free voice calls over Wi-Fi to other BBM users. Customers can initiate BBM Voice calls directly or switch between a call and text chat, and there's also a split-screen capability that allows two users to text chat and talk over voice at the same time.
Another feature of BBM version 7 is integration with a user's BlackBerry ID to back up things like a BBM profile and contacts to make switching to another BlackBerry easier. Available now in the BlackBerry Beta Zone, BBM version 7 is compatible with phones running BlackBerry 6 or higher. Support for BlackBerry 5 is coming at a later date.
RIM also recently talked a bit about BlackBerry 10 and when we should start seeing devices running the new software on store shelves. In an interview with Reuters, RIM COO Kristian Tear said that the first BlackBerry 10 phones are expected to be in stores "not too long after" the big January 30 launch shindig. No specific dates or carriers were mentioned, as Tear explained that RIM must still "agree with carriers as well on what they want to announce when." In a separate talk with Bloomberg, though, Tear said that RIM is aiming to launch BlackBerry 10 devices on several continents within 30 days after the aforementioned event.
Speaking about the BlackBerry 10 products themselves, Tear reaffirmed that the first BlackBerry 10 device will be a touch-only handset, with QWERTY keyboard-equipped models to follow shortly thereafter. The exec also said that lower-end versions of both units are expected to launch later in 2013.
While RIM did announce a BlackBerry 10 launch event for January 30 last week, up until now the company had been sticking to its "Q1 2013" timeframe when talking about the actual release of the first batch of BlackBerry 10 hardware. Obviously we're still without a concrete launch date, but at least now we know that anyone looking forward to getting their hands on a BlackBerry 10 device shouldn't have be waiting long after January 30 to do so. Now BlackBerry fans just have to make it through the two and a half months between now and then.