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BlackBerry 7.1 OS announced: BlackBerry Tag and Wi-Fi tethering released today

While PlayBook 2.0 (ETA, next month) and BB10 (ETA, quite a few months) is what we’re really after, it’d be silly to overlook RIM’s announcement of BlackBerry OS 7.1.

The first update to the version 7 branch of the OS brings with it a number of changes, the most interesting among which has to be BlackBerry Tag. This is RIM’s NFC platform that’ll allow you tap two NFC-enabled BlackBerry phones to share contact info, URLs, pictures and other files.

You might have noticed that most of the current BlackBerry line-up features an NFC chip embedded. From the lowly Curve 9360 to the very pricey Porsche Design P’9981, if you’ve recently bought a BlackBerry, then you’ll be able to make use of BlackBerry Tag.

As well as making it easier to share things with friends, tapping two 7.1-upgraded phones together will also allow you to instantly invite a friend to your BBM contacts list – a mobile Mason’s handshake of sorts?

BBM, the star BlackBerry player, has got a little love and attention too. The new BBM app allows users to add customized personal messages of up to 160 characters in their profile and set the picture for their BBM avatar directly from the camera.

Whatever the Tether

An addition to the BlackBerry 7.1 feature is the ability to use your BlackBerry phone’s 3G signal and turn it into a Wi-Fi hotspot. Finally – Android phones have been able to do this for well over a year and iPhone owners since iOS 4.3. Still, better late to the party than never right? It a very useful and neat feature that’s saved our bacon when our ISPs have failed us.

Another addition is that you can use the BlackBerry search tool, is that Bing-powered search results are suggested as you type, adding a Google Instant-style element to this tool. It’d be nice if we could change this (swap it out for Google for example) but we’ll take improved web search tool over nothing.

BlackBerry Traffic has also been updated, bringing turn-by-turn voice directions to phones. BlackBerry Travel now allows you to plan a trip or journey from your phone, searching for hotels, flight, car rentals and limo deals, while BlackBerry Maps searches now pulls up local offers and discounts from nearby businesses.

Finally, a little surprise tucked away for Curve 9360 and 9380 users is that the FM radios can be accessed by way of a new app after the OS 7.1 update.

The BlackBerry OS 7.1 rollout begins today and will be hitting BlackBerry OS 7 phones “over the coming weeks.”

Source: RIM

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