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BlackBerry OS v4.5 Officially Released

Of course, crafty BlackBerry users have already downloaded and installed pre-releases of the OS, as a few carriers threw up the free download many months ago. The new OS has even appeared on rogue and Torrent websites. But now that 4.5 has gone official for consumer consumption, general BlackBerry owners will finally get to enjoy the new features and improvements that propel the smartphone into a new mobile era.

So what’s so special about this update? The biggest feature 4.5 brings to the plate is the ability to read and render HTML emails. Previously, consumers could not view HTML-based e-mails as they were originally intended, displaying source code, and leaving out embedded images. With the new mobile e-mail protocol set in place, BlackBerry users can download rich e-mails correctly, and even choose whether they want the images to download and display on-screen, or stay removed from the initial rendering; this option helps conserve bandwidth and data usage if needed.

Another highly anticipated feature the new 4.5 OS provides is the ability to download, save and edit files. Now consumers can edit Microsoft Word and PowerPoint files through the integrated Documents To Go software. The drawback is that the software comes with a limited trial, and does not offer full document saving or the Excel portion without actually purchasing the premium $70 package. According to the Documents To Go website, the premium version also comes with a separate PDF reader upon purchase.

Other notable improvements to the BlackBerry OS is the ability to record and send a Voice Note, a simple way to convey an urgent message when consumers can’t type. This feature also serves as a personal recording device for those who want to record ideas and thoughts on the fly. RIM also tweaked the way the BlackBerry’s media player lists music and videos, displaying all files at once, or giving end-users the option to apply filters by genre, artist or album. The BlackBerry can also check for spelling errors, offer improved maps (with points of interest) and over-the-air device upgrades. Consumers can even stream YouTube videos and listen to Bluetooth stereo music.

"Quietly obsessed with creating an OS that does as many things as possible for as many people as possible, RIM has managed to sneak up on other mobile operating systems," says PC Magazine in its review of the OS back in October. "Version 4.5 and the most recent desktop software add a flurry of features making the typically excellent BlackBerry devices do even more. BlackBerry OS 4.5’s ease-of-use, support, and flexibility, along with RIM’s wide assortment of handset options makes it our Editors’ Choice for mobile operating systems—for now."

The BlackBerry Device Software v4.5 is now available for the BlackBerry 8700 Series, BlackBerry Pearl 8100 Series, BlackBerry Curve 8300 Series, and BlackBerry 8800 Series. Consumers can download the new OS directly by heading here.

Of course, BlackBerry owners should check carrier websites before downloading from RIM, as they may offer customized, carrier-specific versions of the new OS.