Combining the powerful Neutrino OS from QNX, beautiful UI from TAT and industry-leading WebKit browser from Torch Mobile, BlackBerry has created the most advanced mobile platform in the world – BlackBerry 10. In addition, incorporating an advanced contact management system from Gist and licensing the SwiftKey keyboard has allowed BlackBerry to take its traditional strengths to the next level. After using the Dev Alpha B (running BB 10) for the past 3 months, I have discovered 10 ways in which BB10 has surpassed the outdated and stagnant iOS 6.
1) Dynamic Lock Screen
BB 10 has a beautiful lock screen that is also informative. Users can take a look at the lock screen to see if they have any new emails, BBM messages or messages from social networks (e.g. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn).
At a time when few people wear a watch and instead rely on their smartphone to provide the time, the dynamic lock screen is particularly useful. A user can wake the device (and show the lock screen) with an upward gesture from the bottom bezel. After looking at the time and notifications, if there aren’t notifications that requires attention, they can simply move their finger back down to the bottom bezel to turn off the screen (and save battery).
With the design experts from TAT putting in their magical touch, waking the smartphone is slick and enjoyable. The lock-screen fades beautifully as more of the home-screen is revealed (with an upward gesture from the bottom bezel). The fading effect adjusts to wherever your finger is on the screen, and allows you to move your finger from side to side as you also move up. This is in contrast to Apple’s boring lock-screen, which requires a fixed, one-directional movement to unlock the device.
Putting the device to sleep for the night is also intuitive and slick. You simply move your finger down from the top bezel to pull down a black screen (like shades for window). As soon as the device is put to sleep, an alarm clock appears for you to set the alarm for the next morning.
2) BlackBerry Hub – A Powerful Communications Center
Continuing with BlackBerry’s strength in messaging, the Hub allows users to receive and send emails, text messages and messages from Social Networks (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn). In addition, users can post status updates to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn without leaving the Hub. Continuing with BlackBerry’s specialty in saving users’ time, this removes the need to open a Facebook app, a Twitter app and a LinkedIn app when a user wants to update their social networks.
In addition, the Hub also contains several of your upcoming calendar appointments. When you are in the Hub, you can simply drag down to reveal the next calendar events. Thus, it saves you time by removing the need to open the Calendar app in order to view your upcoming events.
3) Peek and Flow
The Hub is not an ordinary application – it is always running in the background. Thus, no matter which app an user is using, they are always one gesture away from the Hub (and their messages).
To Peek at your notifications, you simply swipe up from the bottom bezel (no matter which app you are currently in). Once you see your notifications, you can swipe back down to continue with what you were doing (if the notifications are not important) or you can swipe to the right to enter the Hub, to view the message in detail (or reply).
4) Advanced Touch Gestures
BlackBerry 10 gets rid of the outdated physical home button on the iPhone 5, and allows uses to use touch gestures to control the OS. For example, when in an app, the user can swipe to the right to reveal the context menu. In addition, the user can swipe down from the top bezel to reveal the action menu (e.g. to select the Help button). To activate the keyboard, one simply swipes up from the bottom bezel with two fingers. The touch gestures are intuitive and powerful. Getting rid of physical and capacitive buttons also frees out space for a bigger screen or smaller phone. This UI is simply the future of smartphones.
5) Industry-Leading Browser
With a HTML5 Test score of 484, BlackBerry 10 has the fastest browser in the industry (unless you also count the Tizen 2). In contrast, iOS 6 only has a score of only 386. In addition, the BB 10 browser is faster than any desktop browser. For example, its HTML5 Test score of 484 is higher than Chrome Canary’s 453. The QNX Neutrino OS and RIM’s acquisition of Torch Mobile are the reasons behind the industry-leading browser on BB 10.
Having the #1 browser in the industry also increases the number of apps available on BB 10. This is because the browser can use HTML5 web apps on the internet. Thus, the number of apps on BB 10 is significantly higher than the number in the app store (BlackBerry World). Through its ability to use web HTML5 apps, the number of apps on BB10 is increased to a nearly infinite number.
6) Active Frames
BB10 (unlike iOS 6) supports real multi-tasking. Thus, an user can have 8 open apps at the same time. When minimized, these running apps form a Active Frame, which provides tidbits of useful information. For example, from the Active Frame of the Calendar app, you can see the name and time of your next calendar appointment. Without opening BBM, you can see a contact’s updated profile picture, and their latest status updates.
Thus, with BB10, the user can obtain relevant and valuable information without even opening apps.
7) TimeShift Camera
I have heard “wows” from colleagues and friends every time I demonstrate the TimeShift feature on the BB10 camera. The camera has a facial recognition ability, and allows you to move forward and backward in time to avoid blinking eyes or change facial expressions. The most incredible use case is when there are multiple people in the picture. You can put person A at +2 seconds, person B at 0.5 second and person C at -1 second. Thus, you have created the perfect moment that did not actually exist.
8) More Development Languages and Tools
BlackBerry 10 offers 3 ways for developers to develop native apps– C++/Cascades, Webworks (HTML5) and Adobe Air. In addition, developers can port their Android apps to BB 10 using RIM’s Android porting tools. Of course, developers can also use cross-platform tools such as Unity/Union, Marmalade, PhoneGap and Sencha.
This is in contrast to iOS 6, in which there is only one method available to developers – iOS SDK. The lack of a HTML5 SDK means that the many web developers that exist cannot put their skills to use.
BB10′s ability to run Android apps is a significant advantage over iOS. In fact, from talking to BlackBerry employees in the past, BB10 could run iOS apps too (if iOS was open-sourced). This also applies to any other OS (e.g. Windows). Thus, by buying a BB10 device, you are virtually also getting an Android device for free.
9) Support of Open Standards – DLNA, NFC and HDMI
BlackBerry adopts open-standards including DLNA, NFC and HDMI, which is convenient and results in cost-savings for consumers. This is in contrast to iOS, which supports none of these three standards.
With the launch of the Bold 9900 in August 2011, BlackBerry was the first major smartphone maker to support NFC. In Canada and the U.S., customers can already use their BlackBerry to make payments via NFC at thousands of locations that display the Contactless symbol. The L-series has a NFC chip, and there are already several NFC sample apps for the Dev Alpha available for developers to use to create NFC apps.
BlackBerry 10, like the PlayBook, has a HDMI output. This makes it easy for the user to display pictures or videos on a large-screen TV. In contrast, a lighting-to-HDMI adaptor is required for the iPhone or iPad, which costs an extra US$39/CAD$45.
Unlike Apple, BlackBerry is part of the http://www.dlna.org/. This allows you to wirelessly display pictures, play videos and music from your BB10 smartphone on a TV (or any other electronic device with DLNA support). In order to use a similar feature on the iPhone 5, you would need to buy the Apple TV for $99.
10) BBM – Beyond Instant Messaging
BBM currently has 60 million active users around the world. With the launch of BBM 7 this month, free voice calls over Wi-Fi is now available. BBM Video Chat on BB10 has been confirmed by Thorstein Heins. In addition, a collaboration feature, in which users using BBM Video can share documents and files instantly, has been leaked in pictures and videos. This is particularly useful for meetings.
Furthermore, RIM executives have recently said that BBM Money is “coming soon”, with the interpretation being late 2012 or early 2013. This feature allows BBM users to transfer money, which is convenient for friends who owe each other money, or in-person transactions (made through Kijiji for example).
BBM 6 already had far more functionality than than Apple’s iMessage. With the addition of voice calls, video, collaboration tools and BBM Money, BBM is set to widen the lead further.