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Mid-range BlackBerry Q5 unveiled alongside BB 10.1

Canadian manufacturer BlackBerry has kicked off its annual BlackBerry Live conference by unveiling a new mid-range QWERTY handset and an update to its BB10 operating system.

CEO Thorstein Heins took to the stage in Orlando this afternoon to announce the BlackBerry Q5 – a scaled down version of the recently-released BlackBerry Q10.

The smartphone looks to target emerging markets unlike its higher end older brother, and becomes the third handset launched in BlackBerry’s comeback year.

The Q10 comes in either red, white, black, or pink, adding a playful twist to a more corporate device, and appears to be the realisation of the rumoured 'BlackBerry R10' phone that has been doing the rounds. The new handset is pegged to hit shelves in the summer, though further details on pricing and specs are currently elusive.

Also announced in Heins’ opening keynote was an update to the BB10 platform, with BlackBerry 10.1 set to arrive on the BlackBerry Z10 and forthcoming smartphones from the company.

BB 10.1 has in fact shipped with the BlackBerry Q10, but the firm had seemingly been waiting until all eyes were all its showpiece event today to confirm the software upgrade.

The new OS is said to improve the ease of email messaging in the BlackBerry hub, enhance the customisation of notifications, bring increased cursor control for pinpointing where you want to type, and add HDR shooting mode to the camera for beautiful images in tricky lighting conditions.

Adding the announcements was the latest total of apps in the BlackBerry World Store, which has now hit 120,000, according to the firm.

Following the mobile revelations, BlackBerry went into full show-off mode to demonstrate full capabilities of BB10, rolling out a Bentley Continental GT with its systems running the OS. Embedded into a vehicle, BB10 enables features like video-conferencing which BlackBerry claimed is a world first for a car.

Later in the keynote, BlackBerry revealed that its long-standing IM service BBM would be launched on iOS and Android this summer, alongside a brand new celebrity-focused social network, BBM Channels.