The new Avatar in the Smartphone world
BlackBerry 10 is a proprietary mobile operating system developed by BlackBerry Limited (formerly Research In Motion) for its BlackBerry line of smartphone and tablet handheld devices. It is based on QNX which was acquired by BlackBerry in April 2010. On 1 May 2012, Thorsten Heins, CEO of BlackBerry officially unveiled the BlackBerry 10 platform. The features shown off at the BlackBerry World conference included a unique platform-wide flow interface, a new intelligent keyboard, as well as a camera app which allows the user to adjust the photo or individual faces by moving through time scale to optimize picture quality. The user interface also includes the ability to run 8 “Active Frames”. Active Frames are applications that are currently running within the operating system, but minimized and showing a feed of live information on the home screen The Operating System also features the ‘Hub’, a list accessible from anywhere in the OS where all notifications including emails, social networking sites and text messages in one complete list.
Gestures are largely integrated within the BlackBerry 10, featuring four main gestures for easy navigation. Quick swiping up from the bottom edge of the bezel will result in users returning to the home screen. From there, users can view and close active applications. Users can also swipe from the top edge, to bring down a quick setting shade on the home screen, or an option shade on other supported apps. Also, while using any application, the upside down J-hook (starting from the bottom of the bezel and moving upward and right) allows users to peek at any notifications or messages on the BlackBerry Hub. Finally, swiping left to right (or vice versa) scroll through the available screens.
Similar to BlackBerry Tablet OS, BlackBerry 10 OS also supports multitasking with gesture integration. Swiping up from any application brings up the running application screen, which function as an application switcher and a task manager. Users can switch through running applications by tapping on any of the apps or close them by tapping on the ‘X’ on the lower right of the app itself. Some apps also offer widget like functionality, similar to Android. Examples of this include, picture app cycling through a photo album or calendar app showing upcoming events and meetings. Most accessed apps are also view-able to users on this multitasking screen.
BlackBerry Hub acts as a notification center, with the user’s entire social and email accounts integrated into one app. These include, at launch, standard E-mail client, Twitter, Facebook, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), and LinkedIn (with options to turn any of these services off). Standard notifications like missed calls, voicemail, and system updates also appear on the hub. The hub can be accessible from any app/lock screen, by performing an upside down j-hook gesture. Users can perform various tasks like compose emails, send emails, and browse social networks, without accessing other apps. Developers are also given options to integrate apps into the Blackberry Hub.
BlackBerry Balance is a new feature introduced in BlackBerry 10, enabling users to keep both personal data and office work data separated in its own spaces. Using Blackberry Enterprise Server 10, IT departments can allow users to set up work-spaces that automatically install applications and email accounts. After completion, users can navigate between personal and work profiles, by swiping down on the apps page. All of the user’s data is secured via 256-bit AES encryption, and any files created will stay within the profile partition.
BlackBerry 10 features a new virtual keyboard layout that mimics BlackBerry’s past generation’s physical keyboards. The letters and numbers feature fonts and frets similar to previous BlackBerry devices. The keyboard also learns the user’s typing preferences, trying to auto-predict the next word. The keyboard also uses contextual information to predict the next letter in a word sequence. In this case, words will appear above the letter that the OS thinks that the user will touch next. Users can then perform a flicking upwards gesture above the letter to quickly select that word.
The operating system was released on January 30, 2013, with two devices being announced, the Z10 and the Q10. The Z10 phone would be the first to be released, and featured a full touchscreen, whilst the Q10, featuring a physical keyboard, would be released at a later date. The Z10 was released on the 31st January in the UK, the 5th February in Canada, and will be released in late-March in the USA. Reviews of the device have been mixed. Some critics have commented on how the new OS has completely evolved from Blackberry’s previous devices, and the ‘flow’-like connectivity between all applications. Others have commented on a lack of many popular apps, confusing gestures, and not feeling fully integrated.