BlackBerry 10 OS: Hands-on

We had the chance to check out BlackBerry 10 OS in action this week, and we’re both surprised and impressed at how huge a departure it is from the existing BlackBerry interface. Here’s the full skinny.


Active frames

After a few minutes with BlackBerry 10 you'll notice it appears to have taken some design tips from Android. The lock screen features lots of useful info, from your next scheduled appointment to any waiting messages, plus a shortcut to the camera app. Flick the screen up and you come to the main screen, which can be populated with up to eight ‘active frames’, reminding us of Android’s widgets or Windows Phone’s live tiles. They’re effectively gateways into your favourite apps (weather, calendar, social networks) which display live info, and are handy for taking in lots of info at once.


BlackBerry 10 hands-on preview

Flick up from the lock screen (left) and you'll find yourself on the home page, filled with active frames (right)


Let it flow

Flick to the right and you’ll find shortcuts to all of your apps – so far, so familiar. However, BlackBerry then demonstrated its new ‘flow’ system, a major component of BlackBerry 10 that should prove useful for business users.

From any menu you can flick your finger up the screen to call up the notifications bar (which typically shows if you’ve got any new messages) and then flick left to enter your messages window.


BlackBerry 10 hands-on previewFrom any screen, swipe up to see your notifications (left edge of left screenshot) and then along to enter your messages (right)


Flick left again and you can configure this window to show specific message types, from BBMs to Twitter DMs. Say you get an email asking if you’re free at 3pm for a catch-up: simply flick up and your day’s schedule is revealed, and you then flow into your full calendar if needed with another swipe.


BlackBerry 10 hands-on previewFrom messages, swipe again to select which messages you see, or down to open your schedule


So far it seems like an intuitive way of working, and while personal users probably won’t use the natural flow into the calendar much, we can see professionals using it all the time.


Cyber stalking

We’ve all stalked people on the internet before, right? You know the deal, you get an email from a colleague who you’ve never met before, asking to meet up to discuss work-type things. You have no idea who they are or what they look like, so you get on Google and stalk them out (bless the interwebs!)

The BlackBerry 10 OS will be a cyber stalker’s bestest buddy, thanks to its new calendar feature which lists all attendees for any upcoming meetings. You can select an individual and BlackBerry 10 will gather as much info as possible from the web if they’re not already your contact, from the likes of LinkedIn. As well as a photo, you can see their recent activities and any prior times you’ve met or spoke with them.


BlackBerry 10 hands-on previewThe calendar's new stalkery features should be fun to play around with


We’ve yet to have a proper play to see how accurate this information gathering is, but it certainly shows great potential.


Just my type

BlackBerry 10 also features a brand new virtual keyboard. Featuring a clean, stripped-down look, this is no ordinary keyboard. For a start, the word predictions actually appear on the board itself instead of above it, hovering over the next key you’d need to press to form that word. For instance, type in ‘Hel’ and the word ‘Hello’ will appear over the L key, as that’s the next key you’d need to press. This way you don’t have to keep looking above the keyboard to see if your word has appeared. When you spot the word you want, simply flick up from that key and the word will appear in your message.


BlackBerry 10 hands-on preview

Your predicted words appear above the keys instead of in a separate row


Impressively, the board even recognises foreign languages. Type in ‘Merci’ for instance, and you’ll get ‘beaucoup’ as a next word prediction. Other gestures are also recognised, such as swiping left across the board to delete your last word.

Finally, a feature that we haven’t tested but sounds intriguing is the new ‘heat map’, which detects where your fingers fall on the keyboard and adapts the board to deal with your personal style.


All work, no play

Business types will also appreciate the secure ‘work’ area of BlackBerry 10, which allows you to access important work documents under the protection of a password. Don’t worry if you lose your phone, as you can remotely delete any hot files with a computer: great news for those forgetful Government types who have taken to leaving their possessions on trains.


BlackBerry 10 hands-on previewPull down on the apps screen to switch to Work mode


Features ahoy

The new BlackBerry 10 browser hasn’t evolved too much, but now your address bar is found at the bottom of the screen. You can also save a ‘reader’ version of a complex web page, which presents an article as a text file, with any relevant images still embedded. We’re promised full Flash support for watching videos online.

Last up is the camera, which now has a cool ‘rewind’ feature. Say you take a photo of your friends and one of them is blinking or pulling a stupid face. You can select them and ‘rewind’ back in time up to roughly half a second, to get the perfect pic.

We’re also intrigued to see the new BlackBerry app store, which is your one-stop shop for music, movies and apps. Apparently old BlackBerry apps won’t be compatible with BlackBerry 10, so existing owners won’t be able to transfer over their old purchases.

All of these features will be fully explained and demonstrated in a series of videos that come installed on BlackBerry 10 phones. We’re looking forward to having a full play when the first mobiles land in early 2013.

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