Text and photos by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
I got a sneak peek at BlackBerry 10 OS running on a developer smartphone earlier today. Expected to launch on January 30th, the all-new OS features a number of user-centered features as well as strong messaging and imaging features but are these enought to bring back BlackBerry from the brink? Hit jump for a video and some impressions of the newest mobile OS.
I have been excited about BlackBerry 10 ever since I heard the new OS was going to be based on the rock-solid QNX platform that runs on the PlayBook. Designed for multi-tasking and powerful multi-core processors, it seems like the right type of OS to take Research In Motion forward.
Demoed on the Dev Alpha B device, a developer-specific smartphone with bare-bones design that may or may not be realized in final hardware, BB10 was quite a treat to check out.
The software showed to me was in no way a final version (although the gold build of the SDK was released to developers today) and even crashed the device I was using twice. This was expected behaviour for a demo device.
Overall, the new OS is smooth and intuitive. Like the PlayBook, the BB10 Dev Alpha B device has no physical home button and everything is navigated with a series of swipes.
Being a BlackBerry, email is front and centre and is always accessible via the Peek feature where you can slightly move the homescreen (or any screen for that matter) and glimpse the status of mail, messages, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all in one go, this is known as BlackBerry Hub.
These services are also rolled into the new calendar function so when you meet with a particular person who is in any of those services their latest status and any relevant information will be brought forward which is extremely helpful before a meeting to 'catch up' on clients and colleagues.
BB10 is a solid an serious enterprise and business smartphone OS but RIM has also realized that it needs to be a friendly and delightful personal mobile OS.
If Windows Phone 8 has Live Tiles that show various updated apps on one screen, BB10 has Active Frames which are essentially widgets of open apps that give users a status report. So glance and go is no longer exclusive to Microsoft's mobile OS. BB10 allows up to eight Active Frames to be open and updating simultaneously.
RIM understands that users might have work and personal uses for their devices and allows each user to have a separate section for work and personal apps. The work-focused section can be managed remotely and if ever the user leaves that job for another, then the work-related files can be wiped while the personal apps and files remain untouched. RIM is clearly aware of the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend that urges the enterprise to accept and support the smartphones and tablets employees buy on their own and want to use for work.
Another interesting and unique feature was BB10's camera which has a setting called Time Shift. This makes it possible to find the perfect shot when taking a portrait. The camera seems to be capturing various images before and after the shutter is pressed, ensuring that the best possible image is captured.
The new BlackBerry software keyboard, is also quite innovative since it has a predictive text feature that guesses the words you are trying to type and floats them above the keys.
If the word you want presents itself, simply swipe it up on screen and it quickly appears as the next word. English, French and Spanish languages are available off the bat with RIM planning to add more in time.
Overall I think BlackBerry 10 is promising and seems to have a well-realized vision. It offers something new, unique and actually useful to customers. It seems that all the key features users have loved for years like unified email, BBM and a great keyboard experience will continue while a variety of new features will enhance the user experience.
The software was pretty smooth and comparable to what is available on existing mobile operating systems but with a decidedly BlackBerry feel.
The actual hardware and the application ecosystem are the missing components of the new OS that we expect to find out more about by January 30 during the OS's global launch.
Although the hardware's already been leaked in a Vietnamese gadget website, from what I can see button placement and general dimensions fit with the Dev Alpha B device I saw yesterday. Who else is excited about RIM's comeback in 2013?