As everyone awaits patiently for the arrival of BlackBerry 10 ranging from the critics, to the fans, to the gadget freaks and mostly the marketers. Initially RIM was planning to launch BB10 before the end of 2012, with at least one flagship device running the operating system arriving in time for Christmas.
However CEO Thorsten Heins confirmed in July that BlackBerry 10 will be delayed until early 2013, as the company continues to fine tune the software, to ensure it launches in the best possible state.
Heins said: “We expect a successful launch of BB10 in the first calendar quarter 2013 – this is our number one priority.”The timeline has shifted to [this date] and is related to the large volume of software code to work through over last few months.”This is taking more time than anticipated. To be clear, the change in timeline is not related to architecture, but the integration challenge of bringing all this code our diligent R&D teams have created and get it ready for use globally.”
We saw the near-final version of BlackBerry 10 running on the new Dev Alpha B handset, building on the other test units and newer devices we’ve seen in the past. The Dev Alpha B handset is currently being seeded to select BlackBerry developers, to aid them in their quest to produce applications for the new platform.
RIM has already handed out over 5,000 of the original Dev Alpha devices, and we wouldn’t be surprised if the new handset gets the same sort of circulation.
BB10 sees the implementation of a whole new user interface, with RIM doing away with the familiar BlackBerry system we’re all used to, in favour of something which resembles the likes of Android and iOS, although with its own unique features. With BlackBerry 10, RIM has merged home screens, widgets, app lists and a unified inbox into one slick interface, offering up an easy-to-navigate user experience.
The lock screen shows notifications for alarms and unread messages on the left plus your upcoming meetings as well as the date and time, with a button to launch the camera straight from the lock screen to grab a quick snap.
You unlock the phone by sliding your thumb up the screen and from there slide from anywhere on screen and the handset starts to draw in around where you slide so if you just want a quick peek at the information in one area of the screen, you can just drag to show it and then let go – with the device remaining locked (more on that in ‘Peek’ mode below).
The main home screen comprises of ‘Active Frames’, technically mini-applications, which give you an overview of information from a particular app and launch the full version when tapped.
Users can select up to eight of these active frames, which arrange themselves in order of most recently used, with the latest app appearing in the top left position.
A maximum of four frames are shown on the screen at any one time, and if you scroll down and you’ll be able to view the others – the display in order of use allows you to jump quickly between your recent applications. RIM tell us that any application, even third-party ones, will be able to appear as an ‘Active Frame’ on the BB10 home screen, which is excellent news for anyone left frustrated by the limited widget options on Android or live tiles on Windows Phone.
For those of you who may be concerned that these ‘Active Frames’ could be both data and battery intensive, Research in Motion assures us that this is not the case, with the QNX core of BlackBerry 10 providing efficient power management, and the frames only downloading the minimum amount of data required for them to update.
Swiping from right to left will take you to the app list, with 16 apps on the screen at any one time – if you have more than 16 apps additional pages are added and can be accessed by swiping the same way again – familiar territory for iOS and Android users.
At the bottom of both the home screen and app list you’ll notice a shortcut bar, with quick links to the phone, search and camera applications – allowing you to quickly jump to these regularly used features. There’s a pleasant fading animation as you flick between pages, and you’ll see the previous page of apps fade away to the side of the screen, to be replaced by the new page.
The idea behind BB 10 is that it Flows… which is the phrase RIM is using mercilessly to describe the new OS.
The whole Flow concept really comes to life when you swipe up from the bottom of the screen – this minimises the current app/screen you’re viewing and shows new notifications counts down the left hand side, including new emails, BBMs, texts and social media messages.
If you continue the slide to the right, the unified ‘Hub’ application can be previewed – allowing you to ‘peek’ at your messages.
Complete the slide and you’ll open the hub fully, otherwise you’ll be returned to the page you were viewing before the little red light on your handset started to flash.
This means you can easily see who has just messaged you without having to close down your current application, and knowing who it’s from allows you to make a decision on whether or not to answer them straight away or continue with what you were doing originally.
When we say all, we mean all, as the unified inbox, or the ‘Hub’ as RIM likes to refer to it as, can deal with multiple email accounts, text messages, BBM, call history, third party messaging apps such as Whats App and a whole host of social networks including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Of course, with so many accounts feeding into the handset, the more popular among us will be quickly inundated with notifications from various different channels, and this is where the peek idea makes it easy to see when you’ve got anything new to look at.
To make the reams of messages easier to manage place your finger on the title in the bottom left corner of the message centre and pull across to reveal a list of all the accounts you have linked up and then select the one you’re interested in – this will then populate the Hub which notifications from just that source.
There are also various options which can be selected for a particular message, hold down on the communication in question and a slim column of tools will pop up to the right for you to choose from, including reply, forward and delete.
Drag down from the top of the message centre and the Hub will automatically pull in your calendar events for that day in the top half of the screen, allowing you to quickly see what you’ve got on without having to launch the full calendar app.
Peek works much better when you get your head around all the gestures – however it may prove to be overly complex for some users, although RIM will be providing video tutorials on its BB10 handsets during the initial set up phase when you switch the phone on for the first time.
Having the ‘peek’ idea work the same way in so many applications helps you get used to it as well (though we don’t yet know how well third-party applications will be able to do the same thing, although RIM has said it’s developed nearly every API asked for when it comes to developers, and they have full access to the Peek code).
When you do get into a message or an appointment, you can see more information about the people involved in a way that will be familiar to BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 users; you can see who you know in common, what messages you’ve exchanged or recent social network updates.
It’s a new look for the ‘flow’ between different apps and information sources that BlackBerry has always been good at, but with a fresh modern look on a much larger screens……Guess you might need to catch your breath and start dreaming about having a blackberry 10? I won’t tell when but , watch out for part 2!! So be preparing to dream the more…lol