Research In Motion revealed more details on BlackBerry 10 at its annual BlackBerry Jam developer conference in San Jose, and while devices running the new OS aren’t scheduled to launch until next year, some of the functionality demonstrated show that the twice-delayed platform could well be worth the wait.
New ‘flow’ user interface
BlackBerry 10 looks almost nothing like previous versions of the operating system, which is no surprise given it’s a completely new codebase. Don’t worry - the blinking red notification light that BlackBerry users know and love is still there, as is the unified messaging inbox for grouping all your notifications, but that’s about it.
BlackBerry 10’s user interface has been well and truly modernised. There’s a horizontally scrolling apps launcher, multiple homescreens with ‘active frames’ (also known as widgets), a task switcher with live thumbnails that update as each app continues running in the background, and an innovative ‘Peek’ feature that lets you take a quick glimpse at your notifications and the BlackBerry Hub without leaving what you’re currently doing.
All of this is part of BlackBerry’s new ‘flow’ paradigm, which focuses on making it easy to dip in and out of apps and manage your information without having to jump through the usual user interface hoops.
Peek is probably the best BlackBerry 10 feature so far. It makes notifications and the BlackBerry Hub accessible from any screen, and works in a similar way to the notification shade of Android, only you swipe up from the bottom for notifications and from the left hand side for BlackBerry Hub.
If the red LED is flashing for a new notification, you can swipe up from the bottom to see your notification icons- a red star appears over the icons with new notifications. If you want to see details of the notification, you can then swipe to the right to reveal BlackBerry Hub, which lists all of your notifications in reverse chronological order.
BlackBerry Hub is essentially a rebadged version of the unified messaging inbox from previous versions of the BlackBerry operating system. New notifications from any apps that plug into the BlackBerry Hub API (such as email, SMS, calendar, BBM, Facebook, and Twitter) appear here in reverse chronological order, making it easy to deal with the stream of information coming in from different sources.
RIM claims BlackBerry 10 offers the best virtual keyboard on any operating system. We’ll reserve judgment until we can try it out for ourselves, but one truly unique feature is its ability to do predictive text in multiple languages without having to manually toggle the keyboard between languages.
BlackBerry Balance enables systems administrators to keep corporate information secure from a user’s personal accounts. This feature itself isn’t new, but BlackBerry 10 makes it a lot easier to use, as you now have personal and work profiles, each with their own accounts, data and apps. You can switch between the two profiles easily by swiping down from the top of the screen and selecting the one you want to activate.
Data in each profile is completely protected from the other profile, so if your IT department wipes your BlackBerry, you’ll still have all of your photos, music, apps and accounts in your personal profile.
New BlackBerry App World
BlackBerry App World has been given a much-needed lick of paint. You can now see which apps are trending, and top apps lists have infinite scrolling, which means the list doesn’t stop after a certain number of apps. RIM is also going to be selling music, movies and TV shows, the latter two available to buy or as rentals.
RIM has yet to confirm whether we’ll be seeing any of this content launch in Australia, but here’s hoping.
Jenneth Orantia attended the BlackBerry Jam Americas conference as a guest of RIM.