So far, I haven’t covered many of the rumors surrounding BlackBerry 10, or the leaked photos of it because they have been flooding in several times a week, and it would be exhausting to keep track of every leak as they come in. I’ll leave that to the likes of CrackBerry, and BerryReview. However, now that the Launch of BlackBerry 10 is exactly one month away (January 30th 2013), I think it’s about time I did a roundup of all the screenshots, rumors, news, features etc. that we have seen to date.
First of all, we know that on January 30th 2013, RIM will unveil two BlackBerry 10 phones, a 4.2 inch full touch screen device, and a touch screen and QWERTY combination phone similar to the Bold 9900. These two devices are rumored to be named the BlackBerry Z10 (Alas, it is supposedly pronounced Zee 10 not Zed 10; sorry fellow Canadians), and X10 respectively.These two high end devices will be launching in early 2013, but two medium, and two low-end devices will also launch at some point later on. Presumably, those two pairs will also be a full touch screen, and full QWERTY set similar to the full touch, and QWERTY pair (Z10 and X10) that will be launching early 2013.
BlackBerry 10 will NOT be available as an upgrade to any current BlackBerry phones, due to their previous generation technology. However, an OS upgrade will be available for all PlayBook users sometime after the release of BlackBerry 10. Recently, due to the fact that BlackBerry will be offering Music and Movies from the BlackBerry App World as well as Apps and Games, it was renamed ‘BlackBerry World’.
RIM has been touring around the world with the BlackBerry Jam event, helping developers port their apps to, and develop for BlackBerry 10. This has been extremely successful, and we also have word that RIM is actively working with the developers of several hundred of the top apps for Android and iOS to have their apps brought to BlackBerry 10 for launch. RIM has stated that there will be between 70 000 and 100 000 apps in the (newly renamed) BlackBerry World at launch, which is extremely impressive for any new platform. For comparison, after being out for nearly two years (Launched in April 2011), the PlayBook is currently somewhere between 40 000 and 50 000 apps right now. Windows Phone which was launched in 2010, has approximately 125 000 apps, and Android has nearly 750 000 apps, but has been around since 2008. However, none of the platforms just mentioned had anything like 70-000/100 000 apps available at launch, so good on you RIM for that!
They have released the Dev Alpha A and B testing devices for app developers to test their apps on. RIM has also been showing off BlackBerry 10 behind closed doors to critics, the media, and enterprise customers. And the response has been very positive. As seen in the video here, BlackBerry 10 has clearly made an impression on those who have seen it. BlackBerry’s stock has also rallied, after falling considerably from its all time high (on June 19th 2008) of $150.30, to a low of $6.10 in September 2012, to over $14 in Early December, but Back down to $11..75 as of Dec 30th 2012, the day of the writing of this article.
The full touch screen phone is, as previously mentioned, rumored to be called the Z10 and feature a 4.2″ 1280 by 768 display (an impressive 356 PPI), a Dual-Core 1.5Ghz processor, 8MP bvack camera, and 2MP front facing camera, 2GB of RAM, NFC, 4G LTE, a micro-sd card slot, and a removable 1800 mAh battery. The specs have not yet been released or leaked for the full QWERTY keyboard model, but it is rumored to be called the X10, and will feature a 720 by 720 display, and will probably share many of the same specs as the Z10. There have been many excellent leaked pictures of the Z10, and it’s UI, but we have seen very, very little of the X10, and even less of its UI. The X10 is slated to be released “Shortly after” the Z10 is. Although they will both be unveiled on January 30th 2013, you will not be able to own either of them until slightly later. BlackBerry 10 devices will no longer feature the trackpad, or the other 4 navigational buttons that BlackBerry phones have traditionally sported, relying instead on a completely touch powered user interface.
There will also be a new virtual keyboard for BlackBerry 10 touch screen devices that includes predictive text and much more. While you type, the keyboard learns your typing patterns so, for example, if you consistently hit on the far left of the ‘a’ key, the keyboard will automatically adjust itself to treat that as the center of the ‘a’ key. When you type, as predictions for the word you wish to type are formulated, they will appear just above the next key you would hit to continue typing that word. If you don’t want the suggested word, you can merely keep typing and the predictions will change as you keep typing. However, if you do want the suggested word, merely swipe up, and that word will float up into the text box and be added into your sentence. This makes for much faster typing, as you do not have to continuously lift your eyes, and focus, from the virtual keys, to the word prediction bar above it, as in most virtual keyboards today. Rather, you keep typing, and completing words in one smooth, fluid motion, which ties in with the BlackBerry 10 Flow concept.
The keyboard will also recognize of you forget to tap the space bar while typing. So, if ‘youwrotethisbyaccident’, BB10 will realize that you meant to type ‘you wrote this by accident’, and correct that for you. Also, the virtual keyboard on BB10 has support for up to 3 languages at the same time! So if you speak more than one language, as many people do, the autocorrect engine will not try to force you to stay in one language at a time, but will recognize when you change languages, and incorporate word predictions in whatever language you are typing in. You can click the back button to delete a letter, or swipe backwards from the delete button to delete an entire word. You can also swipe downwards to reach the symbols section of the keyboard. The BlackBerry 10 Keyboard predictive text engine and keyboard were created by Swiftkey in partnership with RIM.
Here is Vivek Bhardwaj, Head of Software for RIM and Thorsten Heins, demonstrating the BlackBerry 10 keyboard at BlackBerry world on May 1st 2012.
One other major concept of BlackBerry 10 is BlackBerry Flow, and that is probably the concept that defines BB10 best. Since 2007, with the introduction of the iPhone, practically every mobile OS, BlackBerry included has focused in an in and out paradigm, whereby you enter an app from the home screen, and you can exit to the home screen, and enter another app. However, with BB10, all the apps you are running stay open, in a minimized state, in the Active Frames page, for you to use and switch between with just a swipe. These apps in a minimized state show relevant information, and can be entered with a tap. They are neither widgets, or live tiles as many, myself included, have mistakenly said. The whole OS is build to just flow, and is designed to be as smooth and responsive as possible in every way. Here are some of the guys from BlackBerry explaining Active Frames and BlackBerry Flow.
BlackBerry Peek is also a very important part of the BB10 experience. The single most important use of peek would be in accessing the BlackBerry hub. From anywhere in the OS; from in an app, the Active Frames page, the app drawer, absolutely anywhere in the OS, you can swipe up (and hold), which will show you your notifications, then simply swipe to the right, which will bring you to the BlackBerry Hub, which is not an app, but an ever-running part of the OS. In the BlackBerry Hub, you can view all your messages, calls, calendar appointments, BBMs, emails, texts, FaceBook or Twitter messages etc. It is essentially the unified inbox that all BlackBerry users know, on steroids. The other part of BlackBerry peak is a new kind of in-app menu, that you activate by swiping to the right in the options panel at the bottom of the screen to show an options menu as shown in the picture above being demonstrated in the BlackBerry Hub.
One feature of BB10 that I think could be a real selling point for the enterprise, or those who need a smartphone for work and personal use is Blackberry Balance. Using this feature, while on the home screen, pull down, and after registering your account with your IT administrator, running BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server), you will have two partitions on your device, personal and business. Both these partitions are fully encrypted, and data that can be read on your personal partition (photos, music, apps), cannot be seen or read on the business partition. You have a business App World, and a personal one, one on each side, and they can both run at the same. The business App Wold has apps that your IT Administrator has wite-listed, or pushed to your device for business use. This allows your business, and personal lives to live on one device, without one endangering the other. This will eliminate the need for carrying two devices, one for personal use, and one for work.
Here is a Demo of some of the features RIM has showed us to date on the BlackBerry Z10, and following are a select few of the leaked screenshots of both the Z10 and X10.
If you look closely, the UI for the X10 does not yet appear to be fully finished. Look at the way the application icons overlap with the home screen page number indicators.
So, from many different sources, we have a very good idea of what the Z10 will probably look like. We only have limited photos of the X10 however, so we don’t really know if we’re seeing the X10 or the forth-coming Dev Apha C (Which is a full QWERTY keyboard developer testing device, whereas the Dev Alpha A and B devices were both full touch models). However, the general consensus is that is is probably the X10. So, although it’s just an educated guess, I’m willing to bet that it’s probably some pre-production X10 hardware that we’re seeing there. However, just to complicate things further, here is a photo that was taken with the leaked Z10 and X10, with another white QWERTY device with keys that remind me of previous BlackBerry Curve models… So is this the Dev Alpha C after all, or is it something else? We’ll find out January 30th when the rumored Z10 and X10 will be unveiled, along with the Dev Alpha C.
The leak that I think I am the most excited about so far is the BBM Screen Share feature whereby you can share what you’re seeing on your screen with a BBM contact while in a BBM video chat. This is a really cool feature that no other solution currently offers that I am aware of that could really help boost productivity or make sharing content easier. So without further ado, here is a leaked image that is supposedly a feature advertisement for BBM Video Chat Screen Sharing. Also, in a leaked concept video, BBM file sharing is also shown off… What else is there that RIM hasn’t told us? Well, obviously, a lot. We can only hope there will be more cool surprises like this that RIM will be showing off on January 30th!
Another thing I would like to show you are some speed and compatibility tests in which BlackBerry 10 is significantly faster, and more web standards compliant then the high-end competition. The next two videos are browser speed and HTML5 compatibility tests that The Gadget Masters YouTube channel did, featuring the Dev Alpha B unit running the Developer preview build of BlackBerry 10 compared to the iPhone 5 running iOS6. It is important to note that the Dev Alpha B is obviously neither final software, or hardware. So it is quite impressive to see BlackBerry 10 already beating the iPhone 5 in browser speed and HTML5 compatibility.
Here are the speed tests:
Here are the Compatibility tests:
In another test by the Gadget Masters, App opening time is tested with the same app running on the Dev Alpha B and the Samsung Galaxy S3.
The Very last thing I want to show you before I wrap up this comparison is an Inside BlackBerry Blog video that showcases the awesome performance of the BlackBerry 10 browser in handling HTML5 heavy content.
Although there are a lot of things that we still haven’t seen about BlackBerry 10, and much of what we do know is subject to change, and may not turn out in the final product, we have a fairly good idea of what it will look like. Granted, there is still room for RIM to surprise us on January 30th, and I hope they do, but everything that we have seen so far looks excellent, and I wish all the best to RIM on the road to recovery!
*Updated on January 2nd 2013 to include BBM file sharing, the BlackBerry Hub, BlackBerry Balance the BlackBerry Flow and Peek concepts, Active Frames, the new predictive text touch keyboard, and various other additions.
Note* All credit for images goes to CrackBerry, Berryreview and NerdBerry.