Guess it took longer than expected? I’m sorry for that, got all tied up with work. But decided i steal some time from my work to give the last piece of the coming of Blackberry 10. Guess you all are ready to continue dreaming of the phone?
Personal and Work modes
Sweep down on the home screen or an app list page and you’ll see Personal and Work buttons that let you switch between the two BlackBerry Balance modes. In Personal, you can install any apps you want, send any email, save any file and so on, working in a partition that’s encrypted for privacy but not locked down in any way.
You use your BlackBerry for work though, you’ll also have a Work partition that’s also encrypted but completely separate and can be locked down if that’s what the company wants. Drag down on the screen, pick Work mode and all your personal apps disappear – so you can’t accidentally copy a work file into your personal cloud storage account.
Your company can have complete control of this work section, giving you as much, or as little freedom within this area as they see fit – and everything in Work mode is fully secured, with remote wipe available just in case your handset goes astray. However work won’t be able see what files you have on your personal area when they’re managing it, because your personal partition is encrypted.
Select Work mode and you’ll be prompted to enter a password before gaining access to your protected area, which means prying eyes won’t be able to steal a glimpse at all your company secrets. Phew. Work mode still features the same UI as found in Personal mode, with all the flow and peek activity present, allowing you to perform some slick, one-handed operations.
Other apps use the swipe-down motion in a different way, allowing to function like a menu key – for instance the mapping app allows you to change accounts or settings with a quick finger flick.
Then there’s Cascades, a new navigation system cooked up by RIM especially for BB10, allowing for quick multitasking from within applications. The example we’ve seen is in the messaging app – open an email it will display full screen, but drag your finger from left to right and the message will slide with you, revealing the inbox below.
This means if you get a new message in the middle of reading an email, you can check who it’s from without having to close the application – similar to the notification bar on Android and also now iOS. If you were to open an attachment from the email, a PDF document in the case of our demo, pulling to the side to view the cascade will show the app’s layers stacked up – a more visual paper trail, if you will. It’s certainly an intuitive feature that we found to work smoothly on the development handset – but it will be interesting to see how this feature is embedded into other applications and if it will have the same pleasing results.
New App world
BlackBerry App World is also getting a makeover with a cleaner, more intuitive design ready to show off all the apps RIM is pushing developers so hard to make in time for launch. As well as offering applications, the new App World will also provide music and videos to purchase and download – allowing BlackBerry 10 handsets the chance to compete with the likes of Google Play, iTunes and the Apple App Store.
There’s a separate version of BlackBerry AppWorld where your company can offer specific work apps – like an app that uses the NFC chip in your BlackBerry to unlock the door to the office, as well as locking out applications they don’t deem suitable for using while at work.
BlackBerry handsets are famous for their physical boards and RIM is keen to bring this typing experience to its BB10 touch screen smartphones with its own offering. Visually the keyboard looks similar to the stock Android offering, but each row of keys is separated with a silver line, or ‘fret’ – which is supposed to reflect the metal strips between buttons on the Bold range, such as the Bold 9790 and Bold 9900.
Next word prediction, auto-correct and spell check are all common features on smartphones today and RIM has spent some time developing its own system to offer an efficient typing experience. It sees next-word suggestions appear above the character the word begins with, and if it’s the word you want to use, you just need to swipe up over the word and it will be added to your sentence.
As with many offerings these days, the keyboard will learn your style of writing, meaning it will be able to suggest better words the more you use your phone.
RIM is making a big song and dance about its camera application as well, especially the ‘Time Shift’ feature, which allows you to select the perfect smile of your subject after taking the photo. Fire up the camera app (from the lock screen if you so wish), which was relatively quick to open on the Dev Alpha B device, select ‘Time Shift’ mode and snap your subject, and the app will then search for faces in the image.
Once a face is located in a photo, you can tap it and literally roll back time to find the point at which your friend had their eyes open and the perfect grin. If there are multiple people in your snap, you can individually adjust each person, however during our demo we found ‘Time Shift’ struggled in lower lighting conditions, subjects face’s need to be illuminated well for the camera to detect their mugs.
‘Time Shift’ did take several seconds after the photo was taken to detect faces and offer us the chance to tweak the image, but this could be down to the fact it’s running on a development build of the software, and speed could be improved in the final product. Of course the camera can take standard photos and record video alongside the ‘Time Shift’ function, which itself is an impressive function, but we wonder how much we’d actually use it day to day.
The BlackBerry browser has also had a refresh, bringing it in line with the minimalist style of current offerings on other devices, and the location of the URL bar at the bottom of the page is reminiscent of Internet Explorer on Windows Phone. Even though Adobe has already ditched future support and upgrades of its Flash platform, RIM has made sure it’s built in support for the dying format, allowing you to access all your favourite Flash built sites and videos of Korean men dancing on invisible horses.
There seems to be a partnership with a particular search engine, allowing you to search via the URL bar, as well as pulling info into other applications, but RIM are currently not in the position to disclose whether they’ve opted for Google, Bing or something a little more left field. Sweep from left to right while in the browser and the ‘peek’ functionality comes into play again, this time showing various internet-centric options such as History, Bookmarks, New Tab and currently opened tabs.
There’s also a Reader mode built into the new browser, which lifts article text and images from a web page and displays it in a more manageable and easy to read format, stripping out fancy ads, menu bars and any other clutter which gets in the way of actually reading something.
As we’ve mentioned briefly earlier on, RIM is promising that BlackBerry 10 will help to deliver decent battery life, even with the big touch screen and those lovely ‘Active Frames’. RIM has even gone as far to say that’s its two BB10 launch devices, one fully-touch screen and the other sporting the famous Qwerty keyboard, will offer up a full days battery life, thanks to a lot of hard work by the QNX team on power management in the core of the BlackBerry 10 platform.
Obviously we were unable to put this claim to the test during our brief hands on viewing, but we’ll be sure to push the new BB10 devices to their limits once we get our review units in.
Although the operating system is in development, we must say that we were impressed with how smooth and slick the interface felt under out fingers – seamlessly zipping around without fuss. BlackBerry assured us that is smooth experience would still be present in the final product, thanks to the clever integration of the HTML 5 system, which optimizes the performance of the software. We certainly hope they’re right.
There are plenty of features of BB 10 that are exciting – the gestures work very, very well after a few minutes, the powerful messaging ecosystem is still there and even the on screen keyboard is great. What does strike you about the new OS is how the phone is so integrated – Facebook, Twitter, Email are all available, connected to your friends or easy to share to throughout the phone.
It’s a much more complex OS than iOS or Windows Phone, but there are only so many ways to re-invent the Smartphone wheel; in the case of BB 10, RIM has gone for usable power over rows of easy to use icons. It’s a bold move, and one technophiles will love. If the hardware is decent too, there may be enough BB fans out there willing to use the finger-flicking platform… but with so many things to learn, it will take some serious and quick education to get users up to speed.
But hey! it seems the aliens must have gotten the blackberry 10 before us……..LOL!