BlackBerry CEO John Chen to present at the Milken Institute Global Conference

The Milken Institute Global Conference kicks off in Los Angeles on May 1-4, and over 700 speakers are scheduled to appear. Among them this year, just like last year, will be BlackBerry CEO John Chen, who will be discussing Digital Darwinism: How Companies Can Survive and Thrive in the Digital Age

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Stop unwanted calls with an updated Call Blockr

Stop those unwanted calls with Call Blockr

Nuisance calls can get very annoying, especially late at night. To prevent those unwanted calls you need an app like Call Blockr. With it you can set your phone to only receive calls from your contacts, make a blacklist of numbers to block or only allow whitelisted listed numbers to call you. There is even the ability to schedule when you want to block calls.

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BBM for Android updated to include BBM Video in beta

The iOS version has now gone live on iTunes as well.

While BlackBerry 10 customers have had the ability to BBM video chat between each other since the launch of BlackBerry 10, Android and iOS users have been left out of the loop, until now. A new version of BBM for Android has now been released through Google Play, which brings BBM video chat between Android and iOS devices in the US and Canada with a full rollout coming soon, according to BlackBerry.

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AT&T

AT&T has announced that it will decommission its 2G EDGE network by the end of 2016. CFO John Stevens told Wireless Week that the carrier has moved over 6 million subscribers off the legacy network over the last 12 months, with the remaining 2G userbase largely consisting of connected devices.

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BlackBerry Priv Android 6.0.1 AAE570 system release notes

For as good as BlackBerry has been about offering up release notes for their monthly security updates, when it comes to issuing release notes for any one specific OS update, they have been slightly less reliable. The last batch of release notes was made available on December 7, 2015, for OS AAD027 and AAD028. But now that Android 6.0.1 has arrived, BlackBerry has made available the release notes for OS AAE570.

Truthfully, the release notes are not really all that interesting but if you want to get a really deeper look at what was 'fixed' in Android 5.1.1 through Android 6.0.1, this is the list you'll want to review.

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Wind Mobile beefs up network coverage in Calgary area

If you're a Wind Mobile customer in the Calgary, Alberta area, you should begin seeing better cellular coverage and faster LTE speeds across the board.

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BlackBerry

BlackBerry has hired Alex Thurber to be its new senior vice president for global device sales. The new hire comes as the company is still dealing with poor sales of its hardware products, including the recent BlackBerry Priv smartphone.

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BlackBerry Priv

Newegg has a great deal going on right now for the BlackBerry Priv, dropping the price down to just $399. The units being sold are unlocked AT&T variants (STV100-1), so you will be able to use it on the GSM carrier of your choice.

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BlackBerry Keyboard update adds new swipe to type feature to the Priv

Now that the BlackBerry Keyboard app for Priv has reached version 2.0, one of the standout features has been the new swipe to type option. It's a feature already available through other keyboard apps on Android and but it's a welcome feature to the BlackBerry Keyboard for the Priv, over and above the usual flick typing that BlackBerry users love. If you're looking to learn how to use it, check out the instructions and video.

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AT&T

AT&T has reported its earnings for the fourth fiscal quarter of 2016, noting yet another big bump in consolidated revenues due to its recent DirecTV acquisition, along with respectable wireless subscriber growth.

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Forrester names WatchDox by BlackBerry a leader in Enterprise File Sync and Share

WatchDox by BlackBerry has been named a Leader in The Forrester Wave: Enterprise File Sync and Share Platforms, Hybrid Solutions, Q2 2016. WatchDox by BlackBerry tied for the highest score in the Security Capabilities category and received the highest possible scores in 17 of the 37 evaluation criteria.

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Marshmallow is here for the Priv: Here's everything you need to know

Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow rolls out to the Priv today. Here's what you need to know.

After an interminably long wait for most — and a relatively short beta period for some — some Privs will be updated to Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow today. Curious about what's in the update? Here's everything you need to know, with the help of Michael Clewley, BlackBerry's Director of Software Product Management.

When is it available?

The Android 6.0.1 update will be available starting April 26 to BlackBerry models purchased directly from ShopBlackBerry. Those models include:

  • STV100-1 in the U.S. and Canada
  • STV100-4 in the UK, France

The update will roll out to STV100-2 and STV100-3 models (sold through carrier channels) beginning May 3.

What's the big deal?

Aside from the fact that it brings the Priv up to Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow and all it entails, there are some pretty nice features added to this build.

On a high level, BlackBerry has added improvements to security, to the Hub, to the keyboard, and to the camera. We'll get to specifics in a moment.

But more than that, after using the Priv on Marshmallow for about a week, it's clear that the phone's software has matured; already a fast device on Lollipop, the Priv now screams. Moreover, the UI's rough bits have been smoothed over, and the whole experience, from the Hub to the camera, feels just a little bit more cohesive.

About that security

"We are the world's most secure smartphone," says Clewley during an interview with CrackBerry. "We have all the native Marshmallow underpinnings from a security perspective on Priv, and we have only enhanced that now."

Clewley notes that BlackBerry spent a long time ensuring that its hardware-based security advantages — kernel hardening, including the application of Linux patches ignored by other OEMs and even Google itself; and on-device encryption — were equalled by improvements to Marshmallow.

Of particular note is the integration of DTEK, BlackBerry's app for overseeing the Priv's security status, with Marshmallow's new app permissions model. As in Lollipop, it's possible to see which apps requested access to specific parts of the hardware, but now, thanks to Google, users can actually disable those permissions.

Clewley points out that BlackBerry is practically the only OEM to keep up with Google's pace of monthly security updates. "I just don't think other OEMs care as much about security as much as we do," he says, pointing out that carriers more often than not make things too difficult for manufacturers to roll out regular updates, so they just don't bother.

"We've done a lot of work with carriers to make sure users get these security patches monthly, and many carriers welcomed that hands-on approach," he says. He also tacitly acknowledges that many of the bigger U.S. carriers have less incentive to push out regular updates, and that while the Priv is still the most frequent, getting a phone direct from the manufacturer is the best way to ensure regular updates.

On one hand, it's great to see BlackBerry so committed to regular software patches. On the other, though, given that Android N is only a few months away, its advantage over, say, a Nexus 6P with the latest version of Google's software may disappear overnight.

To that end, I ask Clewley whether, with Google releasing an N Developer Preview so early, we'll see the next version of Android more quickly on the Priv. He hedges, saying, "Updates are very complex for OEMs. They don't just have to wait for Google; they have to wait for chip manufacturers to certify their parts, generally after Google declares their latest software as gold."

In other words, "it would require bigger changes to how Android is effected."

More Hub to love

On the software side, BlackBerry has made the Hub even more impressive. Not only does it now support S/MIME email signing and encryption (you'll know if that's important to you), but for regular consumers there is now Instagram, Slack, Skype and Pinterest integration, along with the existing hooks for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

According to Clewley, many of these integrations came from direct user feedback (I begged for Slack integration on more than one occasion), but most were the logical continuation of the Hub as a platform.

Of course, unlike BlackBerry 10, the Hub is still a separate app that must be opened, and it still conflicts with Google's own Gmail app, but with Marshmallow it has become an indispensable part of my Priv life, and I wish it were usable on other Android devices.

Keyboard swiping

BlackBerry has added, for better or worse, swiping support on not only the virtual keyboard but the physical one.

What this means in practice is that if the Priv's width doesn't strain your thumb's reach while using it in one hand (I have stubby digits, so it doesn't quite work for me), it's now possible to enter text without lifting your finger. In practice, the swipe isn't nearly as accurate or reliable as Swype or SwiftKey, but BlackBerry has done an admirable job in its limited time.

More impressive, and equally strange, is the feeling of swiping on the Priv's physical keyboard, the act of which was previously reserved for moving the cursor around the screen while selecting text. It's likely not an everyday use case, but I can see it being used to impress friends — and occasionally enter a line or two of text.

But hardware and software keyboard lovers alike will appreciate the 200-odd new emoji, along with improved word prediction.

Can't fix a camera through software

Even when the Priv was released late last year, its 18MP camera, while good, didn't match up to the industry's leaders. Today that is even more pronounced as a new lineup of Android flagships, led by the Galaxy S7, show what is possible with a smartphone camera.

But BlackBerry has not stopped improving the software experience, adding two new video modes — 24fps capture at 4K, 1080p and 720p; and 120fps slow motion — to the phone's repertoire. The latter feature is found on nearly every device on the market, but the former, a so-called "cinematic" mode, according to Clewley, is relatively uncommon.

With Marshmallow, the Priv's shutter is slightly faster, but still below what you'd want from a flagship, while image quality seems to be about the same. As we've learned with many devices over the years, you can't fix a poor sensor through software.

A launcher to remember

BlackBerry's Priv launcher, with its support for custom icon packs, pop-up widgets and an array of app shortcuts, separated itself from the largely derivative feature sets found on most competitors' devices, when it launched last year.

With Marshmallow, that launcher has received a host of improvements, including better ways to organize apps into categories. They're small changes, but I still haven't reached Action Launcher, my go-to on most other devices — and that's saying something.

A longer-lasting conversation

As with all Marshmallow-based devices, the Priv benefits from Google's implementation of Doze and App Standby, which extends the uptime by around an hour in my findings. The 3,410mAh battery already lasted all day (and then some, most of the time) so it's a well-appreciated bonus that it gets better with Android 6.0.1.

While Clewley says that BlackBerry had to find the right balance between performance and battery optimization, he thinks that Google will continue to improve on Doze — as it has promised — and that there were some issues OEMs didn't take into account. Specifically, apps like BBM that rely on push notifications rely now more than ever on persistent notifications to ensure thats service doesn't get killed in the background.

Practice makes perfect

With BlackBerry poised to release at least two more Android-powered handsets in 2016, it's good to see the company iterating on its software in meaningful ways. Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow for the Priv is an example of a company taking its time to make sure everything is in its right place before pressing the big red button.

And while we're on the verge of yet another Android version, with its own set of user-facing security and privacy improvements, there's no question that on the face of things BlackBerry has a commitment few others OEMs have shown.

That said, questions still remain about just what changes BlackBerry has made to the Android kernel, with Clewley mentioning proprietary "special sauce" that, for competitive reasons, will remain private. And with most new Android 6.0-based shipping with encryption on by default, and companies like HTC and Samsung stepping up their monthly security update game, it's unclear just how much of an advantage, if at all, the Priv has over, say, the Galaxy S7 or HTC 10 when it comes to security.

BlackBerry would have you believe that the Priv's combination of hardware and software-level security improvements separate it from the pack, but many of these advantages are subjective rather than quantifiable.

In the end, the BlackBerry Priv is a great smartphone, made better by its latest software update.

More on the Priv's Marshmallow update at Inside BlackBerry

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T-Mobile

T-Mobile has published company financial results for Q1 2016, showcasing an increase in revenue of 10.6% as well as adding 2.2 million new customers. This quarter marks the 12th consecutive quarter the Un-Carrier has experienced total net growth of more than 2 million.

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Register for the BlackBerry and Microsoft Executive Panel: Security, Productivity, and the Cloud

Microsoft and BlackBerry continue to partner in enabling secure enterprise mobile productivity and management solutions and most recently, they've announced a new webinar that will take place on April 27th, 11:00 AM ET. Lead by David Kleidermacher, Chief Security Officer at BlackBerry, and John Hewie, National Security Officer at Microsoft Canada, the webinar will discuss security challenges, tensions that businesses face today, opportunities in the cloud, and more.

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Indian government mandates panic button on all phones sold in the country from 2017

The Indian government has announced that all mobile phones sold in the country from January 1, 2017 should come with a panic button that will allow anyone in need the ability to contact authorities with a single key. Built-in GPS is also a mandatory feature in phones going on sale next year. The move comes after the government has instituted a single "112" number for emergencies, including police services, ambulances, and the fire department.

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Grab the official BlackBerry Classic sync pod for just $16.95 today!

Do you find yourself constantly needing to sync data between your BlackBerry Classic and computer? BlackBerry's official sync pod is definitely the best and easiest way to get this done, and it doubles as a nice charging station. You can pick one up for only $16.95 today!

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Priv apps updated in the Google Play Store - Keyboard, Services and more!

A new batch of updates to the BlackBerry Priv apps, such as BlackBerry Services, BlackBerry Device Search, and the BlackBerry Keyboard have now started to arrive on the Google Play Store. For the most part, the noted changes include the typical bug fixes and improvements, but it's also clear Android Marshmallow is on BlackBerry's mind as well as several of the apps have improved support for that now included.

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BerryFlow Upstream Podcast - Raptors

BerryFlow Upstream Podcast - Raptors

Did you miss BerryFlow Upstream live last night? If so, you can now sit back and watch the video or download the audio and enjoy! This week, we dig into Priv being the official smartphone of the Toronto Raptors, the latest Android Marshmallow beta, AT&T dropping Priv pricing and much, much more!

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Coocheer Bluetooth speaker

Right now you can pick up this Coocheer Bluetooth speaker for just $9 at Amazon with coupon code TUFIEZWH, a savings of $11. In addition to being Bluetooth, the speaker also has built-in NFC for quick and easy pairing to any phone that is compatible. The premium sound with bass enhance technology will give you a great quality of audio output for keeping the party going.

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