These are dark days for Research In Motion (RIM) and its BlackBerry brand ... or at least dim ones.
The Canadian company is struggling with an increasingly negative market perception, shrinking customer loyalty as longtime BlackBerry users move on, and stiff competition from rivals, including Apple, Google, and Microsoft, among other things. (Read more details on why 2012 could be a particularly tough year for RIM and BlackBerry.)
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But that doesn't mean it should all be doom and gloom for RIM right now. Here are five reasons why current BlackBerry users and others interested in the brand and its future should remain optimistic in the coming months.
1. BlackBerry 7.1 OS updates for BlackBerry 7 smartphones
Earlier this year, RIM announced that the latest version of its BlackBerry OS, BlackBerry 7.1, will be rolling out shortly via a variety of North American wireless carriers. And that's great news for anyone with a BlackBerry 7 smartphone, since OS 7.1 is a fairly significant update with a variety of cool new features.
BlackBerry 7.1 features and enhancements include Near Field Communications (NFC) and BlackBerry Tag support (read more about Tag here); Mobile Hotspot to turn your BlackBerry handheld into your own personal and portable Wi-Fi router; Wi-Fi calling, to make voice calls over the Internet and reduce the use of your monthly allotment of cellular voice minutes; a new version of RIM's BlackBerry Traffic app that offers free turn-by-turn navigation, and much more.
Some versions of BlackBerry 7.1 also reportedly feature a cool new "battery saving mode" to help your smartphone stay up and running longer.