Re-designed. Re-engineered. Re-invented.
Research in Motion (RIM), the Canadian maker of the Blackberry phones that were the rage with business executives just a few years ago, is fighting to stay fit after Apple and Samsung enticed away virtually the whole world with their smartphones. Now, RIM is making what some say is a last throw of the dice. On Wednesday, January 30, it launches a set of new devices that will run on its all-new Blackberry10 (BB10) operating system.
The launch would be in the US and other Western markets. India and most Asian countries, which have been sustaining Blackberry sales, may have to hold on awhile. What is BB10 all about? And the most important question: do you need a new handset to run BB10? Or can you upgrade your existing handset? Let’s look at the leading features.
Blackberry App World
A few years ago Blackberry opened its apps store, called the Blackberry App World, which has been subsequently renamed Blackberry World — the equivalent of Apples iTunes store, the Android Play Store and the Windows Store. The Blackberry Store is finally getting more apps, with trending apps, games, music and movies, even TV shows on the offer. The last-mentioned may not be available in India, though.
Blackberry Balance2If you are juggling your device between work and home use, chances are that your family may get to see some official communications. Blackberry has upped the bar for OS manufacturers, with a facility to switch between a work and a personal profile. The work profile will allow download and use of only company-authorised apps. This data is not accessible from the personal profile. Only Windows has anything remotely comparable, though BB10 makes things seamless and secure.
The Hub allows you to manage all your conversations at a single place, from Linked In, Twitter and Facebook to email, phone messages and even calls. You can access new messages and even update your status on each of these from the Hub. In previous releases of the BB OS, you needed to go into the individual app to do this, now the Hub is a sort of master app, taking communications to a whole new level.
The upgraded RIM browser seems to be super fast to render web pages, and has a reader mode that removes everything and gives you clean text to read. It allows you to ‘share’ from within the browser. The old laggard seems to have been vanquished, and it also supports HTML5, making sure whether that is a web page or a web game you are playing the experience is seamless.
Toggling between apps
The problem with the whole app ecosystem is that you end up with a phone filled with apps and multiple screens, and navigation becomes cumbersome. BB10 allows you to go directly to a screen, so if you have all your travel apps on page 4 and all your gaming apps on page 2, you can jump that page with a one-click operation. Other operating systems offer the search option to get to an app, but this may be handier for people who organise their stuff.
The New Keyboard
Touchscreen and BlackBerry used to be an estranged couple. No longer. All BB10 devices that we have seen have touchscreens. The whole BB experience used to be about the QWERTY keyboard, and touch kind of slowed down typing. But now, predictive texting has been taken to a new level and there is a direct thumbs-up action to fly suggested words into the text. Apple’s iOS may still be ahead for typing in Hindi, though.
From an information technology standpoint, Blackberry has always been one of the most secure ways for messaging and for corporate users. The aim with BB10 seems to be a convergence of corporate use and consumer experience. What we have seen so far is promising. We look forward to the launch to see exactly what Blackberry has in store for us.