BlackBerry is still fighting for survival as a mobile phone maker, and its latest move is to add a virtual assistant on par with Apple's Siri, Google Now and Windows Phone's Cortana.
Newer BlackBerry phones already support voice commands, but the BlackBerry Assistant sounds more advanced. Users can set reminders, launch apps, send BBM messages, search through e-mail and calendars, listen to recent e-mails, set the ringer to "phone calls only" and find out what's happening on Twitter. All of these actions happen within the app, which apparently adapts to the user's behavior and becomes more accurate over time.
While it doesn't sound like a major departure from virtual assistants on other platforms, the ability to use more than just a rigid set of voice commands has become table stakes on mobile devices. BlackBerry needs this kind of feature if it wants to hang onto its mobile device business.
BlackBerry Assistant will be part of the company's BlackBerry 10.3 software. While there's no word on when BlackBerry 10.3 will launch, it will be built into the BlackBerry Passport--a phone with a square screen and physical keyboard--when it arrives in September.