CANADIAN SMARTPHONE MAKER Research in Motion (RIM) has almost finished Blackberry 10, and The INQUIRER has got its hands on a preview of the operating system before its anticipated release early next year.
RIM tells us that the operating system "is built for people with a mind-set who want to be successful, be it a 12 year old school girl or a mum". We're not sure whether RIM is deliberately shutting out the male buying audience, but with its quirky gestures and unfamiliar interface, we're still not overly convinced it's going to manage to lure customers of any sex, despite improving in areas where Android and IOS are still lacking.
We tested Blackberry 10 on a Blackberry Dev Alpha B handset, a test device that with its large touchscreen and lack of hardware keys is a likely representation of what we can expect from the first Blackberry 10 handset.
The Blackberry 10 lock screen looks to attract IOS users with its functionality, showcasing information such as messages and emails, calls, calendar alerts and a camera shortcut button, which RIM claims will help Blackberry 10 users manage their social lives at a glance.
We're not 100 percent convinced though, as while the IOS lock screen is lacking, the one on Blackberry 10 doesn't tell you who has been in contact, which means users will need to unlock the device to get all of the necessary information.
Unlocking the phone is much more fun, though. You unlock your phone by sliding your finger up the screen which slowly reveals your open applications, meaning you don't have to unlock the phone fully to catch a glance at the weather or Facebook updates. However, one issue we had was getting the phone to respond to our gesture, although this is something that users will probably learn how to do seamlessly after using it for a few days.
After a wave of lookalike Android phones and Apple's unchanged IOS interface, the Blackberry 10 homescreen is a refreshing change and far departure from the present user interface on Blackberry smartphones.
Once your device is unlocked, Blackberry 10 greets you with between four and eight "Active Frames", a grid of realtime apps that are a welcome change from the usual grid of applications. These frames are set by the user and RIM claims third-party apps are also supported. Of course, you can swipe to reveal a more traditional app menu, but this homescreen should forgo the need for firing up your most popular apps and multitasking.
What's more exciting than Blackberry 10's quirky homescreen is the way it responds to touch. RIM has created something called Blackberry Flow, which means users can switch through apps and screens with just one finger, forgoing the need for physical keys.
For example, swipe right across the homescreen and you're greeted with notifications, letting you know of any Twitter or Facebook notifications, emails and Blackberry Messaging texts. Keep swiping further and you'll reach the Mailbox, home to all of your messages in one unified, clear and concise inbox. It's easy to manage messages, as you hold down on the screen and you will be greeted with a shortcut menu, enabling you to reply, flag or forward emails.
Although we found the gestures difficult to navigate at first we soon got the hang of it, and can see this feature appealing to those with a fairly hectic social life. While on IOS and Android you have to flick between apps to see all of your messages, the swipe gestures and unified inbox make it all seem so much more effortless on Blackberry 10.