Everything we know about BlackBerry 10

Piotr Barycki
01.07.2012

Even though, there are few months left to the BlackBerry 10 premiere a lot of information from many sources has been received and it’s enough to make at least a draft of the newest software. That’s what the following article is about.

When?

That is, definitely, the information which everyone would like to hear. Unfortunately, RIM so far has not given any specific answer, which would be able to satisfy those who are waiting.

The only date that has been so far confirmed is ‘end of the 2012’ that is probably the time around November or October. Shortly before there is BlackBerry Jam Americas conference taking place. And that will be an ideal opportunity to present both finished software as well as the devices that are about to show on the market.

Any premieres before that shouldn’t be expected, no matter any, potentially attractive, opportunities.

What does the prototype say? 

During the BlackBerry 10 Jam in Orlando, that has been taking place in May this year, RIM has given a prototype called ‘BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha’ to every participant. Unfortunately, if one is not a programmer one will not have much use of it. The prototype can only show us, in an inconsiderable way, how the software and the device will present in the end.

Screen

We can be certain of some essential elements of New BlackBerry. Firstly, the first of the models will have 4,2’’ screen and resolution higher than all of the latest Smatphones available on market- 1280×768, which provides victory in PPI (360) contest.

Adding to this the angles that makes the image perfectly visible, without any bias nor colour deficiency it’s enough to say that even in few months time it will be one of the best, or maybe even the best screen available on mobile phones

Above the screen there is one of the most important, for current BlackBerry fans, element- LED, used by either system’s or other applications.

Motions on the frame

One of the more interesting functions introduced by RIM on the first BlackBerry PalyBook and it’s software premiere was an active frame surrounding the screen, it was making it easier and much more enjoyable to use the tablet. That solution helped with i.a. easily an intuitively minimalize, close or swiftly switch between  applications, or activate the keyboard, notices, status bar or settings without necessity to tab small buttons on the screen. In that way the programmers can use the space on the screen more efficiently, and the users won’t have to wonder ‘where did those options go?!’.

A similar solution will appear ,of course, on BlackBerry 10 phones as well, but it is not absolutely certain how will it look like in a final version. In the prototype, just like in RIM’s tablet, all the four sides around the screen are active ( and they work just like in the tablet). However, with the current assumptions it is much easier to use only two of them- the upper and the lower one, which are much wider than the side ones. Since the widening of the whole device is rather not an option ( it would be just unproportionally big to the screen) we can probably count on some slight modifications in the case of motions on those side parts of the screen.

Processor and memory

Beside that all the most important parameters shouldn’t be changed. Among them, a dual core 1,5 GHz processor, based on OMAP4 platform (just like in BlackBerry PlayBook WiFi and BlackBerry PlayBook 4G) and 1GB RAM and over 16GB Internal Multimedia Memory. For now we can forget about memory card slots, though it’s unknown wheather in the final version there wouldn’t be such an amenity.

Of course, RAM with such capacity will now make it possible not only to store the data but also to install applications, and it the previous versions of BlackBerry OS it was not possible or possible with a great deal of limitations.

Connection(s)

For the Internet connection, both in the prototype and in the final model, there is HSPA + module (microSD cards), double WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth (most likely in the 4.0 version) and NFC. A nice addition for the owners of certain multimedia devices will be full DLNA service.

As far as slots are concerned- not much should be changed, microUSB connections will be added (for charging and synchro), also microHDMI and miniJack.

Camera

Everyone remembers the unfortunate, single camera with EDoF technology in the most prestigious model (with physical keyboard) – BlackBerry 9900. Fortunately, for now we can forget about it, because, just like in the case of the battery, RIM is not going to make the same mistake again.

Nevertheless, RIM representatives declare that they are not going to take part in a pointless fight for megapixels rate, they are putting on quality, not on the size of photos taken with help of the chosen photographic modules. In that way the camera in the first BlackBerry 10 will have a camera that, most likely, has the features of the camera from the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha.

The lovers of mobile photography should then be given two cameras for their use- one in the front and one on the back of the phone, that will have, respectively, 3MPX and 8MPX matrices. The better one will additionally have fully working AF mechanism and a flashlight, while the front one, used mostly for video conferences, will be working exactly like the one from 9900 model (EDoF).

The common features of both cameras will be i.a. resolution of the registered data (1080p), a number of registered video caps per second (30) and registered photos per second (up to 15). Adding to this, of course, a set of standard software updates such as: defined photographic modes, possibility of manual focus adjustment, automatic setting of exposition, white balance or face detect.

Obviously, those are the most standard from the accessories and we are fully aware that beside them there is a range of other options waiting, most of them rather not available in the brand competitors.

Keyboard and other buttons

No, the first Blackberry 10 model will certainly not have a physical keyboard. It won’t even have function buttons other than volume regulation and the on/off button. The TrackPad should also be forgotten.

The prototype was accoutred in the camera button, which for many would turned out to be helpful. We can only hope that in the final model the button will be included as well.

How about the battery?

After not so good, as far as the battery is concerned,  series of BlackBerry 7 models ( in comparison with the previous models), RIM can let for another mistake like that. Unfortunately, as for now it is difficult to say what kind of battery the first BlackBerry 10 phone will have nor how will it behave on a daily usage.

The BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha prototype is not offering us a lot of information about that. The link of 1400 mAh capacity was installed in it, probably, just in order to give the necessary power to the phone. It was installed only temporary and never, in any case, a judgment should be given basing on that. What also should be taken into consideration is the fact that testing software, in it’s current edition, has not been given any specific elements that would manage the level of battery usage. That will be, most likely, added in the following stages. Now, it just doesn’t matter, though, it can’t be denied that in the time of commercial premiere it may be one of the most important elements of the whole product.

The Prototype’s system version

Against our expectations, but probably accordingly with RIM’s assumptions, the most important element of the ‘BlackBerry 10 Dev’ turned out to be ‘Dev’. Therefore, basing on the system installed on the prototype phone, unfortunately, it is practically impossible to say anything about it’s final version.

What we discover after switching on the phone is the PlayBook OS, additionally without practically any application. The only things that are visible are the browser and the camera ( just like in the tablet), which even though not hidden (just like many other programs that are in phone’s memory) have been visibly limited (f.e. no access to browser settings, no access to the gallery).

The Rother functions of the system are limited to basic settings, such as switching on/off the WiFi, Bluetooth, GSM etc., which, what’s more, are looking identical to those on BlackBerry PlayBook tablet and haven’t been even properly adjusted ( which makes them really small and unhandy).

In all of this there is nothing extraordinary, though – this OS is never to get in hands of someone who is planning to use the device for something else than testing their own applications. That is why the most important part is hidden ‘under the hood’ and practically no one, beside a programmer, will ever see it.

We are talking about support for such solutions as f.e., Cascade, which (even though the systems seem to be identical!) are not available for the current editon of BlackBerry PlayBook OS. And to that also comes, even smaller than in the tablet, a screen… and that’s it. For programmers it surely enough, clients shouldn’t care about it much, and most definitely people who, after BlackBerry World 2012, wrote that ‘BlackBerry 10 is an unimpressive system, because it is like PlayBook OS and has small icons in menu…’  shouldn’t be let anywhere near that device.

The Final Devices

For now we know, more or less, how the first RIM’s BlackBerry 10 phone is going to look like. However, it is not everything what the Canadian producer has prepared for the following months. In the files that are in the prototype’s memory some very interesting information has been discovered. They consider the next models with the new OS, that should be on the market probably very soon after the debutant device. Unfortunately, for now not much is known about them, except for the code names:

  • R044 – Nevada 0x8400270A,1
  • R051 – Winchester2 LTE 0x0c001a06,1
  • R052 – Winchester2 HSPA+ 0x0d001a06,1
  • R053 – Winchester2 LTE HSPA+ 0x0e001a06,1
  • R061 – Colt 0×04002307,1
  • R072 – London 0×04002607,1
  • R073 – Blackforest 0×04002706,1
  • R084 – Nashville 0x8500270A,1
  • R085 – Naples 0x8600270A,1

According to the sources of CrackBerry service in the case of two devices from the presented list- Blackforest (10’’ tablet) and Colt (the first BlackBerry 10 model) works have been stopped for now. It is often said that the mysterious Colt is exactly the one device that got into hands of programmer as ‘Dev 10 Alpha’ and formerly it was supposed to get on the market in that version (though with a new system).

It is also speculated that the devices marked as Nevada, Nashville and Naples can be different variations of BlackBerry devices with QWERTY keyboard, both in versions with keyboards under the screen and with the one slided from the side.

In the case of Winchester2 and London there are no greater doubts – the first one is a new version of BlackBerry PlayBook tablet with 7’’ screen, a better processor and NFC in various net configurations, whileLondonis a code name for the first commercial BlackBerry 10 phone. There are no doubts at all about the fact that the final market name will be completely different, as it (always) was in the past.

For who now?

 

Unfortunatelly, BlackBerry 10 won’t get into any of the current phone markets, including all the lastest models of BlackBerry 7.x. It has been already confirmed a long time ago by RIM, however, during the BlackBerry World 2012 representatives of RIM have additionally reminded everyone about it.

It does not mean that BlackBerry 10 won’t be available for any of the current devices. The possibility of updating will be certainly given to the first model of BlackBerry PlayBook , which has been officially confirmed by RIM as well.

Between BlackBerry 7.x and BB10 a thick line must be drawn separating both generations of systems, and between PlayBook OS and BB10 an equality sign can be put or at least a straight arrow, which means that there is, in the future, a possibility of transferring form one system into another.

Although, the matter of availability of that app is still left unanswered, we shouldn’t be expecting any change before the debut of the phones with this operating system.

Operating System 

Currently abort the operating system we know a lot and very little, at the same time. A lot- if we take into consideration the fact that it won’t get on the market any sooner than at the very end of the year, and very little- if we just consider the fact that … we simply want to know more. To know what we are really waiting for.

We can still decide for a better analysis of what we have at the moment, the more so because recently a lot of information have been revealed both through the official and unofficial channels.

Native and unnative applications and Android

 

Fortunately, RIM have finally understood what is their biggest problem and why, despite the fact that devices produced by them are still very good and the system efficient and functional, day by day they loose most of the market. The problem was the environment for which the programmers have to write and tools that were used for that matter. For a very long time now everything seems to be changing in order to make everything almost entirely complete for the BlackBerry 10 premiere.

Beside the new websites with advices, information and tools, programmers have received a completely new ‘background’ (QNX) and almost free choice of the program environments and additional solutions that enable creating both simple and more complicated applications more easily than in the case of previous editions of BlackBerry OS. The applications themselves can be much more complicated as well and (what is really important for the customers) much more attractive, even without the creators’ trying harder.

We can choose then, practically from each of the most popular environments- starting with the simplest, though not that limited WebWorks ( which has already created few impressive apps), through Adobe AIR (also extremely popular- the winner of AppCircus- Cooklet was created by it) and finishing with the most advanced NDK in C/C++. To that list we can add i.a. mentioned before free framework Cascades (for C++) and a set of other (including i.a. Ot) that programmers will certainly appreciate.

Thanks to that applications made for phones and tablets with BlackBerry 10 could be not only powerful (NDK) but also almost completely universal (WebWorks), which will enable them to function on many platforms at the same time, therefore developers will be able to quit the tedious duty of rewriting their own products practically from the beginning.

RIM is also not going to abandon the idea of easy transferring and using, within their own operating system,  applications written specifically for the Android system. That solution will be, in a much better version than so far, available in the BlackBerry phones with OS 10 from the very beginning.

From the amendments that are already known so far certain is development of the multitask mechanism – so called Android Player, which will enable simultaneous usage of several Google programs from our phones (and tablets) and each of them will be showed in a separate window. Thanks to that it will be more and more difficult to distinguish between native applications and those that were taken from the Green Robot. For that helpful will be also expanding the list of operated API, that way the programs will finally get  access to elements of the device, and system which have been so far out of their reach (i.a. camera). For programmers a nice addition will certainly be the integration of payment system with BlackBerry’s AppWorld system within the application.

And all of those are the changes that are yet to be introduced in PlayBook OS 2.1! And who knows what is that we can expect from BB10.

One thing is for sure- in BlackBerry 10 both developers and users will have a choice. The former ones seem to perceive, just now, the new RIM’s system as one of the best for career development and for making honest money on their products. The main advantages (except of the superiority of system platform) are i.a. extraordinary for them painful fragmentation of Android, low earnings in the case of applications for that system and even lack of NDK in the case of Windows Phone, and also a quite serious change, which MS is preparing for the Windows Phone 8. Who knows, maybe BlackBerry 10 will become the most interesting platform for programmers, just after or on par with iOS. RIM is doing everything they can to make it happen and probably they have already managed to convince at least few most important producers, both the corporations (Gameloft,EA) and also some smaller yet environmentally influential ones.

Taking everything into consideration we don’t think that anyone will particularly miss the applications from the previous versions of BlackBerry OS, that (unfortunately?) just like in the case of PlayBook OS, also in  BlackBerry 10 won’t be supported in any way (unless they have been created in WebWorks).

Already Installed Applications 

There are no doubts that RIM already knows that if the system is about to be successful at all it Has to be a system that is complete almost from the very beginning, and if not 100% complete, it has to be full of the necessary applications. The best example of a failure is PlayBook OS, which is still not equipped with  the basic, even for the simplest phones, Twitter application. Theoretically, it may seem a little bit funny that we care so much about the application that is not even productive, but unfortunately that is the truth. Services that are used by million of users every day must have a proper support form the producer.

Unfortunately, in that case we don’t have much information about the programs, that will be already installed on BB10 in a factory. The only thing that is known is just a Twitter client (a photo above) or (probably) video editor and Facebook application.

 

Most certainly there will be also many of the basic programs such as, Chatu Video, a browser, message application (about that later), contacts, YouTube or multimedia service application. Everything else still remains unknown.

Additional features and extras

Except of  the standard, good working applications RIM also needs to encourage potential new culients with something really exceptional if they want them to decide to leave their phones with Android and iOS for BlackBerry 10. One of such features will be an option of instant sharing of our screen view with other users.

Unfortunately, in that case this solution has not been neither officially confirmed by RIM, nor described in details, therefore we can only assume how it works.

Of course that is not the only feature that makes us say ‘WOW’ – about some of them we write later on, about most of them we probably have no idea.

Lockscreen

So far the lockscreen in BlackBerry OS was… well, it’s hard to say it even existed, unless we decide to use that name to refer to the sign ‘screen locked’ that appear in the middle of the screen. Since the BlackBerry 10 premiere RIM has been planning to adjust to current trends a little bit better and lockscreen will look like the one that is presented on the sketches above. Similarly like in the case of motions of minimizing and such, also in that case an active element of the frame will be used and unlocking will be possible by a single slide of a finger from the frame to about one third of the screen (there will be no need to press ‘power’ button).

What is really interesting is the fact that, just like in the competitors, also here a quick video access will be available by putting the video icon in a right place. Apart from that the screen will be showing standard information, though now we are lacking data and we cannot say for sure that RIM is not preparing any surprise for us in that matter (we do hope they are).

Main Screen, Multitask and Motions


In the case of main screen RIM has chosen  quite innovative solution based chiefly  on so called ‚flow’, which makes everything on the device seem  to be extremely smoothly switching form one option to another, from one menu to another, and from one screen to another.

A final effect for that are really … three main screens. Theoretically, it might seem unnecessary fuss, however, in practice it can become a hit – both functional and intuitive.

The main screen, appearing just after unlocking will be, presented in the middle on the picture above , multitask screen that shows miniatures of every application running in the background. However, everything seems to indicate that in that case, unlike in PlayBook OS, not necessarily the miniatures of of running applications will be showed, just shotrened notes about them ( just compare  few screenshots from one period). Unfortunately, it is unknow whether it will be a standard function or, say, one of the avaliable options to choose from. We are not even entirely sure if that observation is 100%  correct, but it’s worth taking such solution under consideration.

 

[fot.: CNet]

Of course in any way it does not affect functioning of the applications which –according to RIM’s declaration- just like in PlayBook OS, will be running in the background uninterrupted, without the necessity of waking them from sleep state later on. If RIM will succeed in optimizing battery usage in such cases, then it can be definitely one of the greatest ‘hits’ of this operating system. A matter that is still waiting for an answer is multitask screen service and the number of application that it can hold. Of course RIM will allow for using more than about four programs at once, and access to those invisible on the first screen will be got by scrolling the screen down.

In the lower part of the screen there will be three icons- phone, searching and camera. It is unknown whether those are going to be personalized in any way, though definitely it would be desirable.

Most likely those are NOT all of the motions that the new OS will offer to us. BlackBerry 10 looks like a system that surely can be managed in that way easily and best. Therefore, not using that potential would definitely make a revenge on RIM.

[fot.: knowyourmobile]

Except of the multitask screen there are other ‘main’ screens : the one that presents standard net of applications (picture above) and … inbox (below) always easily accessible from the level of the main screen. Switching between the screens will be easy and done by making the simplest of the motions. In the case of multitask screen and net of applications it will be one motion to the right and on to the left horizontally, and getting to the inbox will be possible by making a gesture from a lower corner to the middle (notification window opening) and then from right to left. That type of access is will be possible form a level of every application.

Notifications, messages and mailbox

RIM would definitely lost any chance of success, especially among their current fans, if anything went wrong with the mailbox installed from the beginning, or to put it differently – if it wasn’t the best mailbox that could compete not only with mobile systems but also with the stationary ones. A lot indicates that such effect can be achieved.

[fot.: knowyourmobile]

The access to the mailbox can be get by the means of standard icon in main menu or a motion described by us before. The second solution turns the attention mostly to the smoothness of switching between the notifications and mailbox and back to the main screen, after we finish all the tasks.

Inside we find abundance of both options and aesthetics. Starting with preparing everything from the scratch in the effective, elegant and minimalistic Cascades, and ending on a full integration with the most popular social services (Facebook, LinkedIn) and a characteristic system of ‘multitask tabs’, that allow us to see, on the relatively big screen (4,2’’ seems to be perfect), a list of our messages, their content and f.e. an attachment… at the same time. Of course, those ‘tabs’ can be minimize as we wish (all we have to do is slide a finger in to the right) until we… finally close the application in the same way (unless we opened it in that way from the level of notifications).

Just like in other cases, also here there is no lack of questions. Firstly, the most curious is the matter of integration of applications from independent producers with the mailbox, which is possible in BlackBerry OS 7.1 and older versions, but is not possible even in the newest PlayBook OS. If RIM really wants to create a competitive system, then that element really has to be ahead of the competition significantly and that kind of integration will be one of the good steps in that direction (though, of course, it will not make everything unique by its own).

The informative LED is also important, though it seems to have been forgotten by the producers these days.

Keyboard


No matter how the BlackBerry devices look like, their biggest advantage is and always will be the keyboard, even if everything we get is touch screen. Those were the words with which Thorsten Heins started a presentation of the new screen keyboard, which in the first models with BlackBerry 10 will be compensating for the lack of physical QWERTY.

Just by the first look it is perfectly clear that not much is left from the old keyboards, which we had a chance to see in 9800, 9860 and even PlayBook OS. All design has been visibly simplified, and every ‘aesthetical’ addition has been brought to the minimum. Of course, graphical changes are not enough to talk about any kind of breakthrough, that’s why ‘under the hood’ there are a lot of other news waiting for us.


Among them we will find i.a. upgraded mechanisms of AutoCorrect and word prediction, managed additionally not only by the the words that appear above the keyboard of words but also by the motions. Appropriate words, accepted by the system for the most likable basing on the characters written, will appear over the letter, which normally would lead to writing them. All you have to do then is slightly touch the button over the chosen letter to put the full word.

Although, it sound really complicated but here is an example:

  • The Word that we want to typ is, say, ‘because’
  • We write ‘be’  and above the ‘c’  a word ‘becaue’ will appear
  • We touch gently the ‘c’ letter and the full word appears on the screen

Of course, above other letters some other words can appear, the dictionary will prompt them or those that we use often will appear, f.e. above the ‘c’ there will be ‘because’ etc. the only challenge now will be preparing a mechanism that is intelligent enough and that will prompt the most likeable or the most often used words, or protecting from the problem of legibility of the keyboard.

BlackBerry 10 System will also have a special, additional mechanizm which will minimize the number of errors that may occure due to different writing style and various sizes of hands. In time, taking into account characters put by us that will be marked as wrong (f.e. clicking some symbol, deleting it, putting another  that is next to it) , the center of ‘sensitivity’ of a given button will be changing. That way the virtual keyboard won’t be like the physical one- untouched- but will optimize the location of buttons on its own.

Apart from that the keyboard will be also learning our language. As a result AutoCorrect will be functioning way better, as well as word substituting and prompting on ‘the buttons’. Of course, acquiring our style and habits to a decent level would be rather time-consuming, that’s why BlackBerry 10 will automatically  skan our messages, notes on social sites, communicators etc. practically immediately building a considerably big database full of words and phrases most often used by us.

The motion service couldn’t be forgotten as well, as they seem to slowly become one of most intensively used navigation solutions in this system. Moving down on the keyboard will give access to numeric pad, moving down again – opens symbols and slide form right to left – activates Insert.

RIM confirmed that also in the case of the keyboard in BlackBerry 10 they cooperate with the virtual keyboards’ producer – TouchType, they have created f.e. one of the most popular keyboards in Android –SwiftKey. That company’s solutions have been used also with the screen keyboard for BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, PlayBook OS 2.0 version.

Camera

While the majority of the producers decided that the most important part of the race for phone users and occasional photography lovers will be investing in number of pixels, RIM has focused on entirely different aspect- image tools option. And even though all we have seen so far was a small piece of possibilities of the new photo application we can’t deny that it seems to be fantastic and –what’s more important- innovative.

Among the new possibilities there will be so called ‘Time Machine’, which allows for register of few photos at a single opening of camera application and then free choice of selected fragments of photos from all that have been captured that way.

Thanks to that we no longer have to worry that the moment when we will be about to take a photo someone blinks, which would make the photo unsuitable for showing or keeping in a family album. All we have to do is select the face area and choose from a timeline the moment when the face looked the best. All the other elements of the photo remain unchanged, though of course, if we need to we can ‘treat’ them like that as well.

And this is only a part of possibilities, all the more, RIM is actively cooperating with i.a. Scalado company which, beside the patent used in ‘Time Machine’, has also other interesting solutions in their portfolio.

Network connection

From the already disclosed news the one that is the most interesting we left for the end and it concerns, of course, network connection. So far for every user it was clear that BlackBerry = BIS (or BES, in some corporation cases). According to the last CrackBerry editors’ finding the future of BlackBerry 10 may look entirely different, which was also indicated by the answers given by RIM representatives in one of the interviews run by us at the beginning of this year.

It turns out that, even though BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha isn’t theoretically equipped with BBM (it is locked inside the system), the application is still working in the background and after sending an invitation on PIN of the prototype the invitation for the communicator is showed (though there isn’t much to do with it). An interesting fact here is that the device receives invitations even though the network connection is made by operator’s standard set of data, that has nothing to do with BlackBerry Internet Service.

Of course, we can’t assume that RIM will for sure quit BIS, which is their asset and source of income, but there are many factors that indicate it may happen, including f.e. choosing ActiveSync as the main ‘connection’ with mailbox in PlayBook OS 2.0, which is still a certain form of BlackBerry 10 preview. Surely RIM’s infrastructure won’t be unplugged overnight, but who knows how will it be used in the future ?

For this, as well as for thousand other answers we will have to wait, and wait and wait. The only that we have is the hope that, probably, we won’t have to wait any longer than to BlackBerry 10 premiere !