After months of behind-the-scenes tinkering, BlackBerry finally unleashed its new BB10 OS on us at the tail end of January. Since then we’ve been swiping our way through all of BB10’s features, checking out old favourites like BBM and getting stuck into newbies like Remember and Story Maker.
We’ve already discussed the main BB10 interface and BlackBerry World online store in our BlackBerry Z10 review, but this is our run-down of the best, funkiest and most intriguing BB10 features.
From almost any part of BB10, you can flick your finger up the screen and then to the right to access the BlackBerry Hub – a smart collection of all of your alerts, from texts and mails to Twitter mentions and calendar notifications. It’s a great way to see all of your notifications in one place and the fact that you can respond from within the Hub makes life nice and easy.
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 may have met with them.
Remember is just what it sounds like – a way to remember important stuff quickly and easily. It’s essentially a collection of virtual folders, which you can add text notes, photos, audio recordings and attachments to – useful if you’re compiling all of your correspondence on a particular work project, for instance. Doesn’t sound too shiny or exciting, but it’s incredibly helpful for quick reference.
Flagging emails in the Hub is supposed to automatically add them to Remember, ready for filing. We found that this wouldn’t work with our Gmail messages however, and we’re trying to figure out why it’s refusing to play ball.
Story Maker is BlackBerry’s version of Apple’s iMovie app, which lets you string together photos, video clips and sound clips/music to produce a home movie. You can add in subtitles and hilarious captions, and then share with your friends and family to prove what a talented director you are.
Story Maker is aimed at non-techy people who want their video software to be a simple no-hassle drag-and-drop affair. It’s easy to select a bunch of photos and videos to string together, and slap a song over the top, but don’t expect much more control that that – for instance, we couldn’t see any way to raise or lower the volume of the soundtrack, so you can hear what’s going on during videos. You’re also limited to sticking up captions at the start and end. However, the end result looks decent, with photos flashing up in a cool split-screen montage.
Blossoming from a simple text instant messaging service to a full-on video chat tool, BBM is an excellent way to stay in touch with fellow ‘Berry fans. It works the same as ever, but with Skype-style video chat now included, you can converse with loved ones face-to-face, even when you’re in completely different countries. You can only video chat with fellow BB10 users, but voice chat is still possible with older BlackBerry owners.
However, probably the coolest feature is the new screen sharing function, which allows a remote user to check out your desktop. This is a quick and easy way to show off your mighty collection of apps for instance, or your fantastic holiday photo album.
BlackBerrys are traditionally work devices, but it can be pretty irritating carrying around separate work and personal devices. BlackBerry Balance aims to separate your work life from your home life, giving you two separate profiles to set up however you like. Download games and movies onto your personal section, and fill it with photos of friends and family. Meanwhile, your work section can be used exclusively for filing your important documents and other businessy stuff.
BlackBerry Balance isn’t just a simple profile feature, however. Your work section can also be remotely accessed by your work’s IT team in case of emergency, to wipe any sensitive data. That way, if you happen to be a super spy and your mobile ends up in some evil organisation’s hands, you can have any important files deleted remotely.
Taking a photo of a big group of people is one of the most teeth-gnashingly frustrating experiences ever, especially where kids are involved. Guaranteed, one will be blinking, another will have their finger stuffed right up their nose, and the last will pull a hilarious face just as you push the shutter button.
This is where BlackBerry’s Time Shift saves you from taking a dozen shots, in pursuit of the perfect photo. The camera actually takes two seconds of footage when you hit the button, and you can rewind and fast-forward each individual’s face until you find a moment where they look vaguely presentable. If you take a shot close-up, the join can look a little flimsy, but for a group shot taken at distance it’s a great solution that offers a unique twist on most manufacturers’ ‘multi-shot’.