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BlackBerry BB10 update brings new Hub features, picture passwords, FM radio, and more

BlackBerry on Tuesday introduced an update for its BB10 operating system, bringing with it “hundreds” of enhancements for owners of its Z10, Z30, Q5 and Q10 handsets.

Version 10.2.1, which BlackBerry is touting as an update that “lets you do more, more easily,” brings with it improved management of messages and notifications in BlackBerry Hub, the ability to create SMS and email groups, a picture-based password feature, a customizable Settings menu, and the ability to save webpages for reading offline later.

It also includes a new incoming call screen that allows you to swipe to the left to connect with the caller or swipe to the right if you’re busy or prefer not to talk, and features “new intuitive icons [that] allow you to instantly silence the call, or send a Reply Now response through BBM, SMS or email that you can’t answer the phone right away,” BlackBerry’s Donny Halliwell said in a blog post introducing the update.

An FM radio that doesn’t require a network connection to use also comes as part of 10.2.1, though this particular feature won’t show up on the Z10.

Something that doesn’t get a mention in Halliwell’s blog post but is likely to prove popular with some users is the improved support for Android app (APK file) installation, allowing for simple over-the-air installs of Android software. “Unlike before when you had to run though a lengthy process of converting and sideloading Android apps, OS 10.2.1 now lets you install them right on your device with just a few taps,” news site CrackBerry explains, though it adds that some apps work better than others.

The update is available globally now, although there may be delays for some device owners as the rollout is subject to carrier approvals.

Despite its wobbles and woes, BlackBerry is pressing on with its business, with new CEO John Chen attempting to steady the ship and save the company from extinction.

Keen to focus more on the enterprise market with sales and services, while at the same time maintaining and expanding its customer base in emerging markets with upcoming Foxconn-made phones, the troubled company is clearly determined to get moving again in the mobile market.

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