BlackBerry 10 and the Alpha Dev B pictures and hands-on
BlackBerry maker RIM has released a new developer testing device for its operating system BlackBerry 10, called the Alpha Dev B. We've had a chance to play with the new hardware and -more importantly - the latest software, to see just some of the features that will work when the first BlackBerry 10 devices start appearing in shops at the start of 2013.
Okay so there are some caveats. The latest developer build isn't finished, Don Lindsay, vice-president, user experience at Research in Motion, has told Pocket-lint exclusively that there are still plenty more features to come, and those new features that are on show don't all work.
But hey why should we let that stop us sharing with you what we have seen, allowing us to give you some insight into what we can start to expect from the new OS?
At the crux of the BB10 operating system is the BlackBerry Hub. It's basically the new name for the unified inbox and it sits at the heart of the BlackBerry 10 interface. It is always there, it is always available, it is always just a gesture swipe - in a L shape incidentally - away.
This isn't an in-an-out experience remember, so the Hub hides like a playing card at the bottom of the operating system regardless of whether you are using apps, surfing the web, playing games or taking pictures with the camera.
As you would expect from a unified inbox, it’s the inbox that takes in everything: email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, are all here. BB10 is about allowing you to quickly work your way through your messages. It's about efficiency and in this regard, BB10 delivers - and delivers well. If communications is your game, we've yet to see a better experience on any platform.
That experience is helped by a new feature called Peek that lets you do just that, peek into what messages you have.
It's not as helpful as the Hub. It works in a similar way to the Windows Phone lock screen. Icons instantly give you the number of messages you've got for the services you are running - 11 emails, 2 Twitter mentions, 3 LinkedIn requests, you get the idea.
This Peek feature, like Hub, will be available at any point regardless of what is going on. It's like the first taster before you dive into the Hub, which the starter before you dive into the meat of what you are trying to do in the first place.
Based around the Hub, BlackBerry have tied in other features to save you loading up yet another app.
As a core communications device it is easy to forget apps. Like Windows Phone there is so much that BB10 offers without even loading a single app. BB10 is about connected services and features that flow into each other (yep, another buzz word you'll hear lots from RIM over the next 6 months).
That means pulling down from the top of the screen while the Hub reveals your calendar appointments coming up - a peek into the future - and clicking on a contact not only brings more information on that person, but possibly details about their company, latest news, info titbits, stuff that might help you get that deal, it's about being informed all with a couple of swipes. All the time ignoring the word Apple loves so much - Apps.
Once you get past the Hub and all that connects to it, BB 10 soon starts to become a regular looking phone operating system though.
There are apps (even though it's not about going in and out of apps), there are live tiles where apps run, allowing you to peek into what is going on within them even though they aren't running, and an interface that at times can look a bit clumsy. Swipe here, swipe there, now swipe this, now swipe that.
"We have to strike a balance between newness and familiarity," explains Lindsay to Pocket-lint at the developer conference BlackBerry Jam in San Jose.
That newness stretches to a new intelligent keyboard that can be used one handed and which tries to guess your next word. As you type, words appear in between the keys, a swipe up on that word selects it - speeding up your typing no end. There is a clever new camera interface that allows you to rewind time within certain parts of a picture to make sure everyone is smiling - no really.
On the innovation stakes, the hits really do keep coming. Take the new browser for example. It's noticeably faster than anything RIM offers at the moment, has a Reader mode to simplify layouts when on the go, is hardware accelerated so will only get quicker in the future with new hardware, and supports Flash - why? Because it can.
For RIM and Lindsay it's all about the "moments of charm" and we certainly agree BlackBerry 10 has lots of charm wherever you turn.
But we know from WebOS and the lessons learnt by HP that innovation and charm doesn't always equal success.
RIM's challenge isn't to create an innovative platform, it's proved that it can do that. It is to create a platform that is relevant in such a crowded market dominated by Apple and Google.
Microsoft, with the help of Samsung, Nokia and HTC, is being incredibly aggressive as it tries to prove the same arguments.
RIM has to convince consumers to ditch all the above and stick with them or even come back having left for pastures new.
"Moments of charm" or not, a lot of what will decide the fate of RIM and its new BlackBerry 10 OS will be whether developers will develop cool apps for the new operating system. At the moment it is early days, but as even Microsoft has shown with Windows Phone, that can be a very tough job.
From what we've seen at BlackBerry Jam in San Jose, RIM looks to be doing all it can, and the results look positive, but the final resurrection or nail in the coffin will come from whether or not those cool new apps to show off on that cool new operating system ever appear.