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By 1 August 2012 | Categories: news

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BlackBerry holding company RIM (Research In Motion) hosted the BlackBerry 10 Jam World Tour event in Cape Town yesterday.

To date this tour has travelled to 23 cities, and provided application developers around the globe with the latest information on the firm’s new BlackBerry 10 (BB10) platform. The Cape Town leg highlights the important role of app developers in the potential success of a new OS, with RIM going all out in support of local developers, providing all of the registered developers that attended the event with BlackBerry Dev Alpha devices to test new apps on.

BB10 is the Canadian smartphone and tablet maker’s new open mobile platform which boasts a novel user interface (UI) far beyond anything on offer on the company’s current crop of smartphones. It should not be entirely unfamiliar to PlayBook tablet users since BB10 is, just like BlackBerry Tablet OS, built on top of BlackBerry’s QNX software.    

Hands-on with BB10

We had a brief hands-on with the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha smartphone, which is a looker (think PlayBook mini-me) despite this only being an alpha device for developers to be able to test their apps. As with Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS, BB10 offers a different look and feel to both iOS and Android, whilst still being slick enough to compete with these main mobile OS rivals. There are three home-screens on offer, with the first one being for apps installed on the device. The second screen is for the running (live) programs with up to eight being displayed, whilst the final homescreen is devoted to unified communications (email and notifications).

A feature of the new platform we really enjoyed was called Peek, as it allows users to peruse their messages and notifications, without having to close the applications they are currently running. For instance, if you are watching a movie and the smartphone’s LED starts blinking red to notify you of a new message, you can simply perform a slight sliding gesture screen to view the messaging icons on the right of the screen. From there you simply click on the Inbox icon to read the message and even open any attachments contained within it, before performing another slide gesture to return to your movie.

Besides the Peek feature, we also thought that the Time Warp camera functionality will grab a lot of attention. It enables the camera to capture a few seconds’ worth of frames right before the user even snaps the pic. This eliminates the occurrence of photos where one person has their eyes closed, since you are able to “rewind time” by selecting someone in the shot and replace them with a previous instance where their eyes were open (see Time Warp demo video posted below).  

 

BB10 is unique   

Rui Brites, RIM’s director of product management in Africa, stated that the BB10 experience will be a unique one. Amongst others, Brites highlighted the BB10 onscreen keyboard, which learns and adapts to the user’s input and typing style. Not only does the keyboard boasts gesture support, providing users with word suggestions above certain letters that they can flick onto their messages, but it also auto-populates the dictionary with the common words and phrases they utilise within messages, emails, IM conversations and on social networking sites.

Within our hands-on with the all-touch BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha device we found that composing messages was very intuitive and quick, and at the very least, as good as the excellent typing experience available on the BlackBerry handsets that sport physical QWERTY keyboards.

Current users may want to take note of the fact that their BlackBerry 7.1 running smartphones will not be upgradeable to BB10, since this OS makes use of enhanced hardware the likes of dual-core processors. However, RIM said that it will still be supporting BlackBerry 7 OS users with future firmware updates.   

To the point

In her keynote address, Alexandra Zagury, RIM’s newly appointed managing director for South Africa and Southern Africa, alluded to the fact that RIM is going through some tough times internationally. Zagury added that it is also an exciting time for the company as it gears up to release the first round of devices based upon BB10 during Q1 2013.

“It’s fantastic to see the level of excitement among developers for the BlackBerry 10 platform,” said Zagury. “Whether developers choose to develop HTML5 apps or native apps, our environment will enable them to use their best skills to quickly create apps with great user experiences.”

In South Africa, BlackBerry devices dominate the local smartphone scene, with data from market research firm GfK showing that BlackBerry has been the leading smartphone vendor in South Africa for over 20 months. For the second year in a row, RIM's BlackBerry brand managed to clean up at the recently held The Sunday Times Generation Next 2012 Brand Survey Awards, scooping the Coolest Cell Phone Award, the Coolest Hi-Tech Gadget Award as well as the Coolest Brand Overall Award.

A lot rests on the shoulders of BB10, and many believe that the success or failure of the OS will determine the future of the company. For us, the BlackBerry 10 Jam tour showed that despite negative sentiment regarding BlackBerry, the company still has some life in it yet. Not only are we excited about the new platform, but we can’t wait to see the new devices which will be making use of its features.
 

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