Omio News Blog

BlackBerry 10 OS: hands-on review and pictures

We have has recently attended a briefing for the upcoming BlackBerry 10 OS, due to arrive on handsets in 2013.

Omio is now publishing a comprehensive walkthrough of that platform, with hands-on photos along with our first impressions.

This yet-to-be-released operating system is near its final stages, and is seen running on the second developer handset: known as Dev Alpha B.

We reported last week that it has been tested by more than 50 mobile phone networks and is on track to be adopted as RIM’s main OS, replacing 7.1. This was found on handsets such as the BlackBerry Bold 9900, and Touch 9810.

BB10 is based on the PlayBook tablet QNX operating system, which is a device that will also be able to run the new platform – only at a later stage.

The first and second images show the lock-screen on OS, with notifications brought in from emails, calendar, Facebook and with quick access to the camera.

Following on from there is the ability to peek behind the lock-screen to reveal the last app or accessed part of the phone, by just swiping up from the bottom of the display.

The fourth picture is the panes of BlackBerry 10. These are live, minimised apps, that can be brought into the foreground by just selecting them.

There are eight panes allowed, with four showing at any one time. Applications can be added to the list by simply running them; every time a new one is run, one drops off the list.

The fifth screen shows the panes minimised and the notifications, which are always accessible by swiping from the bottom of the screen to the right.

Swiping from the left to the right of any screen reveals the BlackBerry Hub. This is the centre of the operating system and holds all the emails, BlackBerry Messages, Facebook and Twitter updates, among others correspondence .

The next two pictures show the BlackBerry Hub and the way emails can be answered. There’s a slide-in bar on the Hub that has all the regularly needed email functions; such as reply, reply to all, forward, marks as read and file.

On the bottom right of the hub is another large slide-in menu, which features: compose, settings and refresh – for the messages on the phone.

The Hubs’ functions are accessible from a button of the same name, on the bottom left of the screen. The ninth image shows the calls; BBMs; text messages; notifications; email access; Facebook and Twitter feeds brought into the platform.

Sliding down the top of the Hub’s screen displays the calendar, which is again always present and is easily accessible on BB10. The busier the day, the larger the fonts. The events of the calendar come with a variety of options, from all the correspondence leading up to the meeting, and detailed contact profiles of those involved in the event.

The 11th image displays the new virtual on-screen keyboard of the operating system, which has multiple layers for improved character recognition.

It learns the individual style of the person entering text, whether they use two thumbs to type or one finger – and then accommodates itself around that user.

The predictive text has been worked on, with better next word guessing than before. And swiping up the screen, selects the word presented.

For example, we were shown a 25-word sentence that only needed four swipes of the screen to fully enter it.

Swiping down the keyboard opens the characters and numbering side on the keyboard, where a flick from left to right can delete a letter or word – in the same way as a backspace key.

The 12th picture shows the apps on BlackBerry 10 and the transitions between the screens, where one fades into the other – just like the lock-screen transitions.

That image also notes the personal and work buttons, at the top. Selecting these offers two separate segmented parts of the handset, both customisable to show different sets of icons and features that are locked down – depending on what needs to be seen and when.

Wrapping up this hands-on walkthrough of the BB10 is the clock and its alarm being set, by sliding a dial around the display; ending with the installed apps on this BlackBerry Developer’s Alpha B phone.

Our first impression of BlackBerry 10 is that it is a good operating system that takes its design cues from the PlayBook tablet OS, with the way the gestures are performed on the screen – from the off-screen area, onto the display.

The whole platform is well laid-out and fast to respond, taking advantage of multi-core processors for the first time in a RIM mobile.

The absence of any email/messaging icon was noted, by the always-present and accessibility of  BlackBerry Hub is in the answer to that missing feature.

There are also nods to the way other platform in its design; from the Apple iOS, Android and a curious one – the Palm/HP mobile OS.

This was with the way the active panes/apps that can be instantly called up with no lag, and in a similar function to the card interface used on the Pre and Pre Plus.

There is a note of concern, as BB10 appears to be solely setup for touch screen handsets. We are finding it hard to see how it can fit into the traditional physical keyboard BlackBerrys, which RIM is famed for producing.

Using an optical keypad would not deliver the same experience and would be surplus to requirements,  in much the same way as the reworked virtual keyboard.

There is also the price point for phones featuring this polished and glitzy user interface; how can RIM make it affordable for those lower entry devices, found in the hands of nearly every teenager today.

That said, we have no doubt the company can accommodate BB10 on the likes of the low-end 9320 replacement and the higher-end BlackBerry 9900 mobile.

We have already reported on several leaked Research In Motion devices that are purported to run the platform, here and here. These show promise and they could be great devices, if and when the rumoured handsets do come to fruition.

It will be sometime before we see BB10 on an actual retail handset, but we expect that CES 2013 will be the launching stage for a new RIM mobile phone or even Mobile World Congress – next year.

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Rob Kerr