BB10 is a bold move and aims to combat the decline in market share that the Canadian manufacturer has seen lately. The smartphone world has changed since RIM once reigned supreme and with Microsoft making a big push against Android and iOS with Windows Phone 8, is there still room for the BlackBerry brand?
RIM is making a big change to its range with the introduction of the new OS, with the initial launch device featuring a full touchscreen rather than the physical QWERTY keypads for which the company is famous.
While there have been full touchscreen BlackBerry handsets before, the Torch range producing some particularly notable devices, the new OS is designed from the ground up to work alongside such handsets, which marks a notable change in strategy for RIM.
While ditching the physical keys for the launch of BB10, RIM has not spared on innovation where the keypad is concerned.
The BB10 keypad takes predictive text up a notch, with the OS rooting through your messages and social networks to learn which words you most commonly use. These are then presented across the keypad itself, with a simple upwards swipe being all that is needed to add them to whatever text is being composed.
As intuitive as that is, BB10 takes this a step further by also learning the way in which a user taps each key and adapting the keypad’s responsiveness accordingly. This is something which could prove very useful for people with unwieldy fingers.
In a move to bring each user’s contacts together into one easy-to-access place, RIM has created the BB Hub. Similar to the People Hub seen on Windows Phone, it pulls together contact information and displays the interactions that you have shared.
Rather than limiting itself to contacts that have been stored to the handset itself, BB Hub treats social networks with equal importance and pulls tweets and Facebook messages through as well, creating a seamless link between all the people you interact with.
Accessible with a simple swipe to the right across any screen, the BB Hub is an excellent way of keeping contact information together and it works really well.
BB10 also puts an original spin on notifications, with a menu and list of them all kept in another sliding menu that can easily be accessed. Giving you a quick glimpse of where each notification comes from and what it pertains to, BB10 allows you to check updates without having to leave the app you’re working in.
‘Peek’, as it is known, goes a long way to creating the seamless flow that BB10 has throughout. There is certainly feeling when using the OS that you can move between functions rather than having to leave one before entering another.
Whereas Android and iOS both have their own versions of multi-tasking, we have found that they give the impression that while other apps may be open in the background you can only actually do one thing at a time. BB10 gives a genuine feeling of multi-tasking, and the interface behaves in a way that it’s almost like having several documents spread out on a desk in front of you.
This feeling of ‘Flow’, as RIM has called it, is integral to BB10 and is one of the platform’s most distinct features. The new BlackBerry OS doesn’t have a homescreen as such and instead works on this system of multi-tasking whereby each part of the phone’s functionality simply flows over the others as it is being used.
While swiping upwards from the bottom of the screen returns the user to a multi-tasking and apps menu, the feeling you get when using BB10 is that everything is always going on and there is no set home point that you always end up returning to.
While initially this can be a little disorientating, given a chance it allows the user to easily switch between functions, something which could really appeal to business customers who have often opted for BlackBerry in the past.
Finally, RIM has introduced the Time Shift function to the BB10 camera app, having first demoed the photographic innovation at BlackBerry World 2012 in May. Put simply, if you take a photo of a group of people and one of them has their eyes closed, Time Shift allows you to highlight their face and shift the image back a few frames until they are open.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Time Shift is that it then seamlessly merges this altered part of the photograph with the rest of the image, with no distortion around the edges at all. It’s a brilliant feature which will hopefully be backed up by decent camera technology in the final BB10 launch devices.
There is plenty more that we could go into regarding RIM’s new mobile platform, with facets and features that will position it well in the fight against its rivals.
With such a significant move away from previous BlackBerry OS, it is understandable that some consumers may be unsure of what to expect from BB10. However, on first impressions, the platform is a strong and original take on smartphone operating systems and puts a unique spin on the way in which a smartphone can operate.
Whether or not the Canadian firm can tempt back consumers who may have drifted to Android and iOS or not remains to be seen, but on the software side the manufacturer is certainly putting up a good fight.