It’s BlackBerry 10 day today, and you knew we had to take a few minutes to see just what BlackBerry has to offer. Right off the bat, we’re going to say it’s good enough to keep folks still using the BlackBerry platform happy that they hung around, and probably even tempt a few people to give BlackBerry a try for the first time. Kevin has a good look at the hardware and some of the UI and features in the video. Give it a watch, then join us after the break we can see how it all matches up to Android.
When looking at the hardware, you see what looks like a wider iPhone. That’s because the company formerly known as RIM is using a pretty generic rectangular design, just like the did with the BlackBerry Playbook. It doesn’t look bad at all, but there’s nothing to make the hardware stand out. You don’t have a giant flashy phone, and that will appeal to plenty of folks.
That’s not to say the Z10 is little. Its 4.2-inch screen is in a body that looks very close in size to the Nexus 4. The front of the phone is all glass, but plenty of folks will like what they see on the back -- a removable battery and an SD card. Under it all, is hardware specifications that won’t impress an Android fan, but should be adequate for BB10 -- until developers start to build applications to put it to the test.
The user interface
What you don’t see on the Z10 is any buttons. Technically there are volume and power buttons, but to interact with the UI you use a series of gestures. Again, this is familiar to anyone who has used a PlayBook. Not having a home button sounds like it will quickly become a PITA, though.
The gesture based UI is built into the notification system as well. When you get an incoming notification, we’ll use Facebook as an example because that’s the one Kevin uses, you’ll get a visual cue in the form of an icon and a blinking light. To have a look at what it says, you minimize any app you have open by sliding them to the top and then slide things in from the left to see your notification “inbox”. These notifications are like the ones we see in Jelly Bean -- you can interact with the notification without opening the application that received it. One nice thing -- another swipe in from the left and you can filter the notifications, as they all come individually versus grouped by app as we’re used to with Android.
The app situation
Finally, we have to talk about the apps. There aren’t very many BB10 apps. What RIM has done is create a tool to allow developers to take existing Android apps and convert them to a format that runs on the BB. They are still Android apps, but they're BB apps, too. They run in what's called an Android player, which is just a fancy name for a virtual machine. This should help the early adopters have access to the important apps they need, but it’s already become a conduit to piracy. We think RIM will continue to be vigilant and address these concerns.
I’ve been using BlackBerries for a long time, and this has me intrigued. Like many users, I think the most important thing the BlackBerry has to offer is their messaging features and their excellent portrait keyboard. It will be interesting to see how folks adapt, and if BlackBerry 10 can provide the boost RIM desperately needs in the market.