We knew RIM would have a strong showing at CES this year, and one of their major announcements is the upcoming release of BlackBerry 7.1, the highly-anticipated update to BlackBerry 7.
First and foremost, the new OS will have mobile hotspot support, available based on carrier, but it should come to all Canadian carriers.
The new version also includes updates to BlackBerry Messenger, BlackBerry Traffic and BlackBerry Travel, and introduces BlackBerry Tag for those users with NFC-capable devices. According to the press release,
BlackBerry Tag works “by simply tapping their NFC enabled BlackBerry® smartphone against another NFC enabled BlackBerry smartphone, users can make sharing easier than ever. They can instantly invite a friend to BBM, exchange contact information, documents, URLs, photos and other multimedia content, and they can also pair their BlackBerry smartphone with an NFC enabled Bluetooth® device.”
BBM 6.1 allows for animated avatars (yay?), and longer personal status messages. In addition, you can set your profile picture directly from the camera app, a nice convenience.
Most importantly, the WiFi hotspot feature allows for 5 devices to connect to a BlackBerry 7.1-enabled phone, and supports WiFi calling (UMA) where applicable.
There have been usability improvements to Universal Search, including auto-suggestions, as well as updates to Google Maps with location-based offers and coupons. Users of Curve 9360s and 9380s will also find FM radio apps built in to BB 7.1, which work as long as there is a headphone enabled.
The update should start rolling out today for selected carriers, and we’ll announce when Canadian folks are going to be receiving theirs.