The buzz around BlackBerry 10 has admittedly died down due to its delayed and overdue appearance. Thankfully, that wait is almost coming to an end - slightly over a month after the upcoming BlackBerry Jam Asia event on 30th of January next year, we will finally get a glimpse at the official devices. Yes, BlackBerry 10 will come in two form factors, full touchscreen and QWERTY, in the initial run. Fortunately, the BB10 OS experience is said to be exactly the same across both type of devices, though we'll have to wait for the actual devices to be out before we can ascertain that claim.
This isn't the first time that the BB10 operating system has made its appearance but it's the first time that it has been officially shown in Asia. The salient selling points of the OS have remained more or less unchanged. As Vivek Bhardwaj, Head of Software Portfolio at RIM, puts it - the OS strives to conform to a natural experience and hence, all physical navigation buttons have been stripped down, resulting in a gesture-heavy experience. Of course, power and hardware buttons like the volume rocker still remain (for screenshots, simply hold down both volume up and down button). To meet the current needs of a constantly-evolving smartphone climate, emphasis has also been placed on creating a visually-pleasing user interface, a major shift from its traditionally text-heavy UI.
It is unsurprisingly then, the three keywords surrounding the BB10 experience are Flow, Peek and Hub. Content should "flow" continuously with users always able to "peek" at ongoing activity and notifications, without users having to go back and fro - this is heavily emphasized in the below demo video, where Bhardwaj showcased the OS's ability to keep important information, literally, at your fingertips and in one central "hub":
BlackBerry Hub is essentially what the People Hub is to the Windows Phone 8 platform. In here, you get all your connections in one place, be it your emails, contacts, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. Not only do you get your information in one integrated hub, you can also update your status here. Simply because it's the main hive of activity and communications on the BlackBerry OS, RIM has made it easy to access by simply swiping up and then right in a single action, as you can see from our video embedded above.
RIM has always been well-known for its physical QWERTY keyboards on it mobile devices and as such, it is no surprise that RIM gave a lot of attention on the onscreen keyboard in the BB10 OS. The keyboard engine dynamically learns your pattern of typing and word pattern based on your usage and thumb size to offer more accurate suggestions. If the smartphone device is passed on to someone else, it will intelligently detect his/her thumb size, usage pattern and re-calibrate suitable suggestions. Instead of being displayed in the bar above your keyboard, these suggestions hover above the next letter in the "predicted" word. Simply flick up your chosen suggestion from the keyboard.
The camera on the BlackBerry 10 OS gets additional features such as Face Detection and a nifty one called Time Shift. Similar to LG's Time Action Shot, the camera allows users to take a few seconds of stills before and after it has been fired up. After that, you can cycle through forward and back to select the correct moment. You can zoom into faces so that you can have a better idea of which photo to select.
Will there be more BlackBerry 10 devices coming out next year? According to Hastings Singh, Managing Director of South Asia, Research In Motion, the answer is yes. RIM has plans to tackle all three target markets (premium, mid-range and affordable) and will be introducing a total of six BB10 based devices throughout the entire year. The first two to be introduced on the 30th of January will of course be the flagship models and RIM aims to compete the two premium products with other popular high-end devices like the Samsung Galaxy S III and the iPhone 5. As such, the pair will retail at equivalent premium prices (not known as of now) and be available in the Asian region by the first quarter of next year. The other four would be marketed a little differently as RIM finds it important to provide devices for markets with an appetite for affordable price points.
Mobile phones aside, existing and new PlayBooks will also be slated for BB10 OS updates, but that will not happen until after the launch of the new BlackBerry 10 smartphones. There will not be any changes in support for older BB 7 OS devices as RIM plans to run the two operating systems concurrently.