Optus and Vodafone BlackBerry customers can now update their phones to OS version 7.1, an update that offers a number of new features, including near-field communication (NFC) tags.
Devices currently running the BlackBerry 7 operating system include the Bold 9900, the Curve 9360 and the Torch 9860.
Besides various speed and stability enhancements, the new 7.1 software update delivers several key upgrades to the user experience on compatible handsets. The new NFC tag-reader app lets users pair their handsets to allow NFC-enabled devices, like speakers, by touching the two devices together. It can also be used to share data, like photos, between two NFC-enabled BlackBerrys.
Mobile Hotspot becomes available with the 7.1 update as well, allowing users to share 3G data with other devices, like tablets and laptops, over a private Wi-Fi network. Owners of the Curve 9360 will also find that they can now listen to FM radio with their phones. Apparently, the circuitry was always available in the phone, but it will now be active post-update.
The release of the 7.1 update also comes with the news that the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) has secured the BlackBerry 7 operating system for use in handling sensitive government information. The DSD has rated the BlackBerry 7 operating system as safe to handle information classified up to and including the Protected category.
Scott Deacon, manager, Security Certifications for Research In Motion (RIM) told ZDNet Australia that the reclassification of the BlackBerry operating system from the Restricted category to the Protected category is not a mark of the device falling out of favour with the government; rather, it's a reflection of the reclassification of security ratings.
The Australian Government Security Classification System was restructured 12 months ago, and saw the number of classification levels reduced from seven down to four.
BlackBerry 7 has also received the nod from the Pentagon in the US and the New Zealand Federal Government, with the software now rated to handle information classified up to New Zealand's Restricted level.