Research In Motion yesterday previewed features that we can expect from their upcoming BlackBerry 10 mobile software, proving that despite a year of continuing setbacks, the beleaguered mobile company still has some innovations up its sleeve.
New RIM CEO Thorsten Heins used his first BlackBerry World conference to reveal a swish new keyboard for their upcoming touchscreen handsets, as well as a time-travelling camera app that should prevent missed smiles and blinking in pictures!
All this was shown on an early developer’s handset, that was essentially a scaled down version of their PlayBook tablet.
A new virtual keyboard may not sound like the most compelling of announcements, but for a company that holds messaging so central to it’s core identity, it is definitely important to get right.
On first impressions the keyboard looks nice and spacious, with plenty of room for even the larger thumbed among us to glide around. Each row of letters is separated, with a clear dead zone in order to minimise miss-pressed keys, that also allows space for predictive word suggestions to appear.
The new software will be able to scan a user’s previous messages in order to make word lists for predictive typing and auto-correct, something that would usually take some time to adapt to, but in this case will be available straight away after setting up the handset.
In addition to this, the hit points of individual keys will adapt dynamically to the natural typing of the user, great news for those of us who always miss the same buttons!
Lastly the keyboard software will incorporate a number of touch gestures, for instance horizontal swipes to delete entries and vertical swipes to switch from letters to numbers, or to select text suggestions.
For those of you who are quite happy with your touchscreen typing, the prospect of a time-travelling camera may hold more appeal.
Everyone’s taken a picture, only to find that someone has blinked or pulled an involuntary stupid face just as the shutter clicks.
The camera app in BlackBerry 10 will take a number of images before and after the shot, and will allow you to glide either forwards or backwards in time to get the perfect snap.
The demo previewed on stage suggested that faces can be independently manipulated, receiving a rapturous reception from the audience.
It’s a nice idea that had the ‘wow’ factor, and could save you from some spoiled photo’s, but we’re still holding out for a Blade Runner style camera software that can look round corners.
Whilst there is no indication that RIM are to ditch the physical keyboard completely – something that has been a unique selling point for the BlackBerry - it is good to see them try to innovate in a field that they have struggled to compete in, that of the Android and iPhone dominated touchscreen market.
To say that RIM have had a bad year would be an understatement. A massive loss of service in October 2011 affecting tens of millions of users saw their reputation as the last word in reliability in tatters.
Add to this a drop in market share from 10% to 5%, and shares dropping 77%, it was little surprise when co-founders Mike Lazardis and Jim Balsillie stood down as joint CEOs back in January.
New CEO Thorsten Heins recently announced a renewed focus on the business markets in an attempt to consolidate the company’s strengths and core values.
Whilst the announcement of a flashy camera app will attract some headlines, we’re happier to see the messaging interface being given some due care and attention.
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