It's been two weeks since RIM showed off its BlackBerry 10 OS (BB 10 OS) demo at BlackBerry World and although we were impressed with the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha phone, it was unfortunately only running a modified PlayBook OS at the time.
Earlier today we were treated to an intimate hands on preview of BB 10 OS running on a BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha handset and were shown its multitasking and gesture capabilities.
BB 10 OS' UI looks clean and minimalistic from the short time we spent with it. Running apps are displayed as live cards/tiles on one of the homescreens, and tapping one opens up the app in question instantly. The software is still in its early stages so we didn't get a detailed look at the menus as a whole, but it all looked clean and very finger friendly.
RIM is focusing heavily on gesture support to ensure easy one-handed navigation and aims to banish screens littered with menus and navigation icons with intuitive thumb gestures.
Swiping your thumb from the bottom right of any open app to the left will push in a notification bar on the right hand side.
Continue to slide and you'll drag out BB 10 OS' unified inbox in its entirety. Everything from hotmail to BBM is included here, all in one easy-to-access package.
Swiping your thumb from the left hand side of an email attachment reveals the original email, while continuing the slide brings you back to the unified inbox.
It all works really well and is certainly one of the thumb-friendliest methods of navigation we've seen.
RIM's hardware keyboards are the stuff of portable QWERTY legend, so its onscreen offering has a lot of pressure to live up to. RIM appears to have tackled the touchscreen keyboard challenge head-on and has implemented a host of features to provide one of the best-looking stock touchscreen smartphone keyboards we've seen.
RIM has worked with TouchType (the maestro's behind SwiftKey) to deliver a keyboard that intelligently learns your mannerisms from your Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as your messages and emails, to accurately predict what you're going to type next.
Although we couldn't test this feature to its full extent today, we were fans of the predicted words appearing on the keyboard itself, which could then be swiped up to use as the next word.
Swiping down cycles through the numbers and symbols, while swiping from right to left deletes the previous word.
Perhaps the most impressive ability is the custom keyboard feature which learns where you hit particular letter keys and invisibly adjusts the 'sweet spot' according to your typing habits. Over time, this will ensure that miss-hit keys are greatly reduced and that you should be able to type near fluently with little to no effort.
Our time with BlackBerry 10 OS was brief, but it still gave us a good idea of the direction that RIM is heading into with regards to intuitive gestures and the honing of the all-important keyboard which is the portal to nearly all of a smartphone's communication abilities.
We like what we've seen so far, so here's to hoping that RIM continues to develop what is shaping up to be a promising platform so that BlackBerry can finally be thrust into the next generation, joining the iPhones and Androids of the smartphone world at last.