BlackBerry 10.2 tips and tricks: New Features examined
BlackBerry 10.2 has landed with the arrival of the BlackBerry Z30, the company's new 5-inch handset. You can expect BB 10.2 to roll out to other BB10 devices in October, bringing a run of new features and tweaks to your BlackBerry user interface.
Here we're quickly running through the top new features that will be coming to your handset, making day-to-day use better, and where to find them. There are some other tweaks, as well as a noticeable improvement in performance on the Z30 over the Z10, but we can't say how much is down to software and how much down to hardware until we have a fully updated Z10 later in the year.
First up, although much of BB10.2 is the same as 10.1, there's been a change to some of the backgrounds to make them black rather than white, for example in the system settings menu.
This gives the icons more punch, and setting a Z30 with BB10.2 alongside a Z10 with BB10.1, the new software makes the old look very dated.
It's perhaps strange then that this change doesn't apply to all the native BlackBerry apps: head into the settings of BlackBerry Hub, for example, and it looks the same as before with the white background and blue top bar.
Many smartphone manufacturers are now following the trend of using dark backgrounds because it doesn't need as much power as lighter ones, therefore prolonging battery life, although it is really just a change in colour scheme that gives everything a lift here.
This new feature does exactly what it says, letting you filter out the things that really matter when you're peering at reams and reams of messages.
Priority messages get a red indicator to the right-hand side and there's a new option in BlackBerry Hub to only show priority messages only - great for when you step off a plane and need to deal with the important stuff first, or just to help you pick those things that you should deal with whilst mobile, leaving the rest until you return to your PC.
This isn't just left to random, however, there are a range of controls in the settings menu you can engage to make sure that Priority Hub is getting the messages you want. At launch, it gives you three rules: same last name, high importance, conversation you started.
The "same last name as me" will pick out your family members, so you don't miss that email from your brother about Christmas lists, and the conversation you started option means that you'll get those replies you have been seeking.
Importantly, BlackBerry told us that these Priority Hub rules will expand in future releases, bring more control and organisation options.
That's not all: press and hold on a message and you can add that person to the priority list as well.
At a glance lock screen notifications
One thing that BB10 is good for is telling you how many messages you have waiting for you. That's good, but it's not quite the same as having the details of what those messages contain.
In BB10.2, you can tap on the lock screen notification on the left-hand side of the display (as in the lead photo above) and it will expand to give you some more detail on what's waiting. It's a little like swiping down the notifications bar in Android for a glimpse at what you've missed.
It's not scrollable so for something like email it's not effective for browsing, but it means you can glance and go, or see if there's something important you've just missed. When that LED starts blinking, you can at least look at what the notification is for and decide whether it's important or not.
You can disable the option if you're worried about the security implications.
Toast notifications: Instant Previews
BB10.2 also brings toast notifications, the sort that pop-up at the top of the screen when something happens. That means that if you're flicking through photos or browsing the internet you'll be able to see when something happens, in addition to the LED flashing.
BlackBerry calls this Instant Previews and you can change the settings for each of the different types of message you receive. In some cases you can elect for "priority only" to separate the wheat from the chaff, but in others it's on or off.
It's a nice arrangement with plenty of control so you can reduce the alerts at will, as well as just being able to tap on notifications as soon as they arrive to go directly to that message, rather than having to swipe away to the Hub.
It's a similar approach as Windows Phone, but we can't help feeling that here it looks better implemented.
You can control instant previews through the main notifications settings menu.
This is a great option for those handling lots of emails, with lots of attachments. If you're looking for that PDF with your flight details or that picture you were sent, then heading into the menu from an email account will let you view those attachments from messages.
There are list or grid view options, giving file names, as well as the person who sent that attachment through. You can sort by various factors and there is the option to search, although this only searches file names, not the sender.
Once you've found the file or files you want, you can download it. Once you have the file, you get further options for sharing it.
Sharing on BB10 is pretty good, with plenty of options for getting that photo out to your social networks or through messages. BB10.2 makes it better, with sharing, on some content, having a smart hub that will make suggestions for you.
If you regularly share pictures with a particular person, or if you regularly share to a particular network, then these options will be right there for you. It means that sharing to an individual is much faster, as the right type of message opens with the address in it ready to go.
You can also quickly share after taking a picture by dragging the thumbnail up from the corner of the camera app. This will open a share or delete option for you to drag the picture onto for instant action.
New camera options
Much of the camera remains the same, but there's now a 1:1 aspect shooting option for those square shots of your dinner.
The in-app editing options are pretty much the same, but things have been refined. Previously the options were "artistic" and "styles" and both applied filters. Now there is simply an option for filters and a separate option to apply the frames.
You can now set more than one alarm, with an additional option appearing in the clock, meaning you can have one to wake you up and another to remind you to leave the house, one to tell you to leave work, one for … you get the idea. All can be scheduled or recurrent, just as before.
All active alarms appear on the clock face as before, but we wish they offered different colours for at-a-glance reference.
Browser and weather apps
The BB10.2 browser has enhanced the Reader option, where it strips away all the website design to leave you with an easy-to-read text story instead, with smaller pictures.
It's basically the same as before, but now the bottom control bar disappears as you scroll down, returning when you scroll up again. There's also an option to invert the text, so if you want to read on a black background rather than white - great for reading in the dark - then you can do so.
The weather app has now been tweaked and looks much nicer. The background has animated weather - for example, it will rain on rainy days - but it's not over-the-top like some apps can be.
It also gives you more useful information up front so you can see the conditions across the next five days, as well as being able to switch over to an hourly forecast via a tab at the bottom of the page.
There's a new option in the system settings that will give you information on what your apps are doing, as well as being able to manage the default apps for different file types: for example, if you have multiple apps for viewing images, you can set the default here.
The app manager contains a device monitor that will show you what is stressing the CPU or what is hogging the memory, so if things are running slow, you might be able to spot what the problem is through this new option.
Clicking on an app will pull up the details, giving you a graphic depiction of CPU and memory use with the option to stop the app.
Copy and paste
Copy and paste now has much better handling that before. Previously if you highlighted a word or paragraph, you'd have a sidebar with the options to select all, copy or share. This now appears in a pop-up box right on the page so there's less messing around.
In addition, if you copy something to the clipboard and then switch over to the great universal search feature, there's a paste icon ready and waiting for you. Previously, you'd have to long press in the search bar and then tap the option in the sidebar, so things are much more convenient now.
We will be bringing you a full review of the BlackBerry Z30 as soon as we can.