BlackBerry rolls out OS 10.2.1

I think we had all forgotten about BlackBerry, presuming its main focus was sorting out its business rather than pushing ahead with new hardware and software. Then things changed. There were rumours of new BlackBerry phones at MWC next month and today, the arrival of a new operating system, specifically OS 10.2.1.

Yes, an updated BlackBerry operating system, which is likely to excite anyone with a BlackBerry who presumed their phones had been left to slowly fade away. Not so. There's a raft of new features flagged up by the company, along with one they're keeping a little quiet. Weirdly, the biggest enhancement of the lot.

Anyway, for now let's focus on what BlackBerry is getting excited about. First up, you can now access all your messages and notifications in one place via the BlackBerry Hub, with a pinch gesture allowing you to filter them so you just see unreads, drafts and so on.

The phone section has been improved, with a new incoming call screen allowing you to answer with a swipe or to reply via SMS or BBM if you are busy. You can also create new SMS and email groups, open a message easily from the lock screen and unlock your phone via a new picture password system. Basically dragging numbers over the right image.

Other improvements include an offline browser mode, a device and battery monitor, FM radio and automatic software updates. Impressed? Well, there's one more thing that might blow your mind.

According to the CrackBerry site, there is no official mention of Android app support in the new update, but that's there too. You can now install the majority of Android apps on your BlackBerry. But there is a catch.

It isn't a simple install. You have to install the Android .apk files yourself, which is a little more fiddly than you might be used to. But worth it if you want something like Instagram on your BlackBerry. Also, it isn't universal, with Google apps (for example) not working as yet. But a good number of existing Android apps do work.

That site has a tutorial to show you how to do it , said to be quite easy, although it's very much your own responsibility when doing something like that. Great addition though and perhaps the shot in the arm that BlackBerry needs right now.

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