BlackBerry announced its brand new BlackBerry 10 OS at a slick launch event in New York. BB10, which is a big departure from the company’s past attempts at touchscreen OS, will be available with the new handsets that were also announced at the event.
The new OS will be available on the new devices Z10 and Q10, but the big news is that the BlackBerry Playbook will also see an update to BB10 in the near future. The tablet should play nicely with the new OS.
It was a great moment at the event when BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins said, “Two years ago we had to make a very serious decision: adopt someone else's platform or build a whole new one from the ground up. We made the decision to go it alone.” And one of the decisions that BlackBerry made was to make the device multitasking friendly and put it at the forefront of the device rather than have widgets or just apps. This panel will also be used to switch between apps and this is the main panel on your BlackBerry 10 phone. Enter BlackBerry Flow. Essentially, it is the multitasking panel from which you can access all open apps and switch between them with just a couple of actions. The panel is accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the phone.
BlackBerry Hub is a collection of all notifications you receive, but it’s more than just a plain unified inbox. At the event, Heins said, “It's like a universal inbox on steroids.” Everything from email to text messages to BBM and GTalk pings will be seen here, but you can also see your contacts from within the Hub and also reply directly to tweets and post status messages from here.
The BlackBerry Z10 is a full touchscreen phone running on BB10
A neat feature is the easy access gesture, called BlackBerry Peek, that lets you take a gander at the pending notifications or the status of your inbox. All you have to do is swipe up from the bottom of the screen and take a 90-degree turn to the right.
BlackBerry has laid plenty of emphasis on using just a thumb to interact. It also made it a point to say that the OS doesn’t involve jumping in and out of screens as much as rival platforms.
We have already seen plenty of videos of the new BlackBerry touch keyboard in action. The prediction engine is really swanky and adapts to the way you type. There is also a very cool secondary heat map layer under the keyboard that invisibly increases the click area for any letter based on how awry your aim at the letter can be.
The BlackBerry Q10 is a full QWERTY phone running on BB10
As far as the UI is concerned RIM is heavily gesture reliant. With no hardware navigation buttons in sight, it is certainly a clean look. Thankfully there is not an ounce of boring in the UI, but it is in no way peppy or garish. It also looks well organised, with even spacing between icons, and between the lines on the default apps like Email and BBM. There is certainly something very BlackBerry about it all, but with a modern twist.
Eventually, any OS is all about apps. And BB10 brings a truckload of them. Well begun is half done. This is the largest collection of apps at launch by any OS. The app store is called BlackBerry World and it includes 70,000 BlackBerry 10 apps at launch. The new BlackBerry World will include a wide range of songs, movies and TV shows, with most movies coming to the store the day they are released on DVD, and next day availability of many TV series. The offering will feature content from all major studios, music labels and broadcast networks. BlackBerry 10 users will have access to leading apps from the likes of Disney, Cisco, Foursquare, Skype and Rovio. We will be bringing you a more in-depth look at BlackBerry World.
The company also showed off other features of the OS. BlackBerry Balance keeps your professional and personal lives separate. Users can switch between the two modes using a simple gesture. Work apps are kept segregated from your play apps. BlackBerry Messenger has also been spruced up. Now you can place voice and video calls through the app. A great new feature is the PC-like BBM Screenshare, which literally lets you share your screen while on a call. It works in virtual real time across continents.
A new app is the BlackBerry Remember, which lets you mark emails, texts, notes, photos, voice notes etc. They are all arranged in one place for you to check them. It also pulls in your notes from Evernote so you can access them in one place.
BlackBerry CEO showing off the new BlackBerry Remember app
The Camera app looks pretty standard with tap to focus, but BlackBerry has introduced the Time Shift feature, which clicks several photos in burst mode and lets you go back in time to pick the image where a subject hasn't blinked or missed the moment. The camera app has a built-in photo editor for adjusting images. Story Maker lets you build slideshows with sound, captions, photos and video right from the handset. And you can also add in neat transitions to the whole effort.
The new BlackBerry 10 browser, the company claims, sets the industry benchmark for HTML5 support on smartphones and supports multiple tabs, private browsing, a reader mode, and lets users share content easily. BlackBerry has also baked in support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync to effectively connect and manage devices as other ActiveSync devices in a company. BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 allows secure access to work email, “behind the firewall” applications and data, and benefit from other security and enterprise mobility management features.
We will have a detailed look at the new BlackBerry 10 OS in the coming days. Watch this space for more.
(Picture credit: blogs.blackberry.com)