BlackBerry chief Heins slams iPhone UI, promises 100K native apps for Z10's U.S. launch

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BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) CEO Thorsten Heins said the pace of mobile innovation has left Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) in the dust, calling its iPhone user interface outdated.

Thorsten Heins

Thorsten Heins

Speaking to The Australian Financial Review, Heins said new smartphones like BlackBerry's Z10 and Samsung's Galaxy S4 have eclipsed the iPhone, considered by many the gold standard in mobile hardware and software design. "Apple did a fantastic job in bringing touch devices to market... They did a fantastic job with the user interface, they are a design icon. There is a reason why they were so successful, and we actually have to admit this and respect that," Heins said. "The rate of innovation is so high in our industry that if you don't innovate at that speed, you can be replaced pretty quickly. The user interface on the iPhone, with all due respect for what this invention was all about, is now five years old."

Heins said his company's new BlackBerry 10 mobile operating system has surpassed Apple's iOS by allowing users to run multiple apps at once, giving them the freedom to multi-task as they would on the desktop. "The point is that you can never stand still. It is true for us as well," Heins said. "Launching BB10 just put us on the starting grid of the wider mobile computing grand prix, and now we need to win it."

BlackBerry (formerly Research In Motion) will release the BlackBerry 10-powered Z10 to U.S. subscribers this week via AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T); Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) will begin selling the device next week, and T-Mobile USA is accepting pre-orders. While many critics have favorably reviewed the smartphone, some have questioned whether the relative scarcity of BlackBerry apps will dampen consumer enthusiasm for the platform: BlackBerry 10 rolled out in late January with 70,000 native apps, roughly one-tenth the number available from Apple's App Store and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Play for Android. Moreover, many third-party BB10 apps are simply ports of existing Android applications--the BB10 SDK's BlackBerry Runtime for Android enables developers to repackage apps originally written for the Google OS.

Heins said he expects to offer about 100,000 BlackBerry 10 apps by the end of this week. He added the manufacturer will continue its efforts to attract marquee holdouts like Facebook (NASDAQ:FB)-owned Instagram and Netflix. "We are working constantly on getting these important apps on board," Heins said. "I think we are seeing the dynamic changing over time as they want to watch and see how BlackBerry 10 is making it in the market. They want ROI on their development dollars as well. I think this is a very respectful way of looking at your business, and it is our job to convince them that BB10 is a successful platform."

Heins said he could not disclose BlackBerry 10 sales figures, citing the quiet period of quarterly earnings reporting, but said the company has been pleasantly surprised by the number of users abandoning rival platforms in favor of BB10. He also declined to identify which mobile operating systems are losing subscribers, explaining it varied on a regional basis, and said BlackBerry is waiting to gauge its success in markets like the U.S. before discussing adoption trends.

For more:
- read this Australian Financial Review article

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