CES: BlackBerry OS 7.1 unleashed by RIM

BlackBerry 7.1, the latest version of BlackBerry OS, is to be rolled out to phones worldwide over the coming weeks. Regular travelers and chat fiends have the most to gain, with updates to BlackBerry Messenger, BlackBerry Traffic and BlackBerry Travel apps launching at the same time.


One of the best features of BlackBerry 7.1 for tablet and laptop owners is the ability to generate a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, for use with up to five wireless devices at once. If your tablet is Wi-Fi only, or you want to belt out lengthy emails using your laptop's full-sized keyboard instead of your compact BlackBerry pad, this feature alone should get the drool gushing.


More wireless technology is present in the form of Near-Field Communication (NFC) support. If your smartphone is NFC enabled (i.e. the Bold 9900 and Curve 9360), simply scrunch it up against another supported handset and you can swap contact info, photos and more. We can't wait to try it out in a sweaty London nightclub soon (followed by the usual stern rejections and commiseration kebab on our solo journey home).


If you're always on the move, you stand to gain the most from BlackBerry's updates. Drivers will love BlackBerry Traffic v3.0, which now includes turn-by-turn voice directions as well an estimated ETA based on traffic conditions.


Posh types can arrange a limo pick-up from the airport using the new BlackBerry Travel, while normal people can check out offers on car rentals and hotels. BlackBerry Travel also keeps track of your bookings and drops the bad news if your flight is delayed or cancelled. It'll also help you find a new flight, which immediately makes it more useful than 99% of airport staff.


BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) fans haven't been forgotten, and you can now use GIFs or a photo you've taken with your BlackBerry's camera as your avatar. Not forgetting the dozen new and fun emoticons to ‘spice up' your conversations. Finally, if you're a bit skint after the holidays, you can seek out special offers and discounts on nearby services using the new BlackBerry Maps update.


RIM also announced an update for Playbook OS, for its tablet device.


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