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Thorsten Heins BlackBerry CEO

It’s the phone that BlackBerry, AKA the company formerly known as Research in Motion, has been threatening to make for years. And now, the BlackBerry Z10 is finally here.

A touchscreen powerhouse, it has all the makings of a device to give Google and Apple something to really think about.

But before you start counting your cash, make sure you get the lowdown. Here are five key things you need to know about the BlackBerry Z10.

1 BlackBerry Hub - all your messages in one place

Call it a unified inbox if you like, but BlackBerry Hub is far more than that: perhaps the biggest central feature on the new BlackBerry 10 platform.

Pulling together emails, BBMs, social media updates, texts and app notifications, it can be easily accessed by making a swipe up and right across the Z10’s screen.

A panel down the left tells you how many notifications you have from each messaging service or app, or you can simply scroll through and see all your latest missives.

First look suggests this is every bit as smart as Google and Apple’s unified offerings.

2 Active Frames

BB10 has gone big on multitasking and it’s given an extra push on the Z10 thanks to the full touchscreen.

Like Windows Phone and HTC Sense, this is all about serving up live information while you leave an app running in the background.

The multitasking service is dubbed Active Frames and will show you appointment info if running the calendar app, or the latest weather details if you’ve got the weather add-on open.

This is all served up on a neat grid, so you can see four apps running on the same screen at once.

3 Time Shift

bb10 time shift

The Z10 packs in an 8 megapixel camera that can record HD video too. So far, so standard.

However, there’s also a neat new Time Shift function (unveiled initially last year at a teaser event), which reels off a string of shots in one go. You can then tap on the faces in the photo and scroll back through the frames you’ve taken to ensure everyone is smiling and has their eyes open.

No more having to go back and take shot after shot in order to get the perfect pic.

4 BlackBerry Maps - taking the fight to Apple

Apple Maps devices

Apple Maps [see above] was a disaster at launch, so it seems RIM is making a point of going big with its own mapping solution, which, like Apple, uses TomTom traffic data.

There are 3D and 2D views as well as turn-by-turn navigation, snappy zooming and even the chance for third party apps to access mapping data. It all promises to look ace on that 4.2-inch hi-def display.

5 The keyboard

blackberry 10 virtual keyboard

Being able to fire off messages at a rate of knots is what made the first BlackBerry famous.

However, RIM’s touchscreen keyboards have long lagged behind excellent efforts from Google and its Android partners.

The new BB10 keyboard on the BlackBerry Z10 promises to be every bit as smart as its competitors. We’re talking swipe up to access numeric and symbol keys, not to mention the fact that the Z10 will learn how you type.

So if you consistently hit one key when you mean to hit another, the Z10 will begin correcting your mistake automatically.

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