BlackBerry, the company used to be known as RIM, has put a lot of effort into the newest mobile operating system, the BlackBerry 10 OS. Based and developed with heavy thought on the QNX system, this platform is the company’s last hope of rejuvenating their depleted bank accounts and to make an impression, in a market overcrowded by Androids and iPhones.
Launched with more than a year delay, the BlackBerry 10 OS was expected to be ravaging, in matters of functionality, smoothness and simplicity. Well, as BlackBerry managed to pull that off in some basic chapters like multitasking and navigation experience, there are more than a few topics that might keep you away from a new BB-made smartphone, at least until the next-major update.
Why BlackBerry 10 OS Might Disappoint Many?
First of all, I would like to say, from my own sanity of course, that I’ve been expecting BlackBerry 10 OS like a child expects Christmas. I’ve been up to date with numerous leaks and although the core-features of this platform may look exceptionally well, I must admit that I was deceived.
General User Interface
The BlackBerry 10 UI is pretty intuitive and good-looking, much like on any other mobile OS so far. Sadly, it has some downsides which may confuse users along the path. For instance, the main menu of the OS is completely made out of icons. There are no widgets (apps can become widgets sometimes), no fancy clocks, no specific pages such as Favorites and Media present in PlayBook OS and pretty much lacks any other distinguishing element.
While all applications are installed and displayed in a fixed grid, with no means of custom repositioning, the only way to arrange programs in groups is by creating a folder. Just like on Android & iOS, this is done by dragging one app and dropping it above another, but the problem is that even folders are displayed just like a normal app. So, distinguishing folders between regular content can be confusing at times.
Another issue is in the multitasking area, where although BlackBerry makes an impression with up to eight simultaneous applications running in the background, we must advise that apps are first opened using the recently used tab. This means that you have no control of which applications are kept in the multitasking area, and if the number exceeds eight, the latest opened will be kept. Either wise, you will have to manually shut some apps.
The BlackBerry Hub aims to be a place where all social networks and services, of all kinds, meet, under the same roof. Made available from every application menu within the platform, the Hub may sometimes look a bit too crowded, and tiresome. To put it short, the Hub aggregates the following messages, for every account that you add:
- Twitter replies and direct mentions
- Any message that links to BlackBerry Messenger (BBM)
- Facebook private texts
- Voicemails and missed calls
- Phone’s own text messages
- LinkedIn notifications
- System updates
In theory, the whole system is dope, but when you are a man fed with information from various accounts and various services, things can get a bit too overwhelming. On the other hand, managing each message takes several actions to perform.
For example, in order to select multiple messages and delete them from the “inbox”, you will first have to enable multiple-select mode (which takes two taps) and then another tap to delete it. The same thing happens to single messages as well, because one must first open a message, then open the options menu and only afterwards, go for an erase action. Another variant would be a long press while hovering over the target, which will bring a context menu with helpful options, after a few loading seconds.
The Wonderful Keyboard
I’m sorry that I even have to mention about this wonderful feature, because BlackBerry managed to pull the best stock keyboard we’ve seen, but unfortunately, with some drawbacks.
First of all, users cannot replace the keyboard with a 3rd party development. Secondly, the algorithm driving the predictions feature analysis details like your emails, text messages and so on to learn your most used words; which is great. The problem comes with displaying these predictions.
Unlike SwiftKey, the notorious Android app which displays predictions in the same place, every time, the BlackBerry 10 keyboard will link predictions to the first letter that composes the word. Thus, if your next predicted word is egg, it will appear above the letter “E” and you will have to tap it to use it. This makes users look at the device whenever they wish to enjoy predictions, which is not quite what we hoped. Sure, a small drawback, but one still.
BlackBerry 10 comes with a basic virtual assistant that can fulfill basic functions and commands, but not a tad more. For instance, the feature will help you set a reminder, call a contact or even send a message through BBM, but you will feel powerless when asking for directions or when querying not so formal phrases. At the first sight, is not a match for Apple’s Siri, not even to mention Google’s Now.
The camera application in the next-generation BlackBerry does what it was supposed to do, and nothing more. Simple options like camera switch, manual focus and burst shot are available, even with a special feature called Time Shift. But, leaving all the good on the side, we’ve discovered that BlackBerry has a hard time tracking people with a beard and that although people can manually focus a spot, you have to drag the center-pinned rectangle over the desired location and that a simple tap on the screen will not be sufficient.
Moreover, there is no dedicated shooting button, you can take pictures by pressing anywhere on the screen. A bit confusing at first, but it may prove useful to some.
BlackBerry World of Apps
Essentially, BlackBerry World is the place you’d stop for some apps, movies and so on. As you’ve hinted already, just like with a new operating system launch, there is a shortage of applications right from the start. But what sets ex-RIM apart from other vendors is that their interest in porting applications has brought over 70,000 titles, which is nothing but a good number.
Unfortunately, a wide percentage of those applications are crap, and the ratio of free titles is tremendously smaller than those paid. Moreover, basic apps like Netflix and Hulu are missing from the rooster.
Another shortage comes with apps ported from the BlackBerry PlayBook, where the user interface has been sized to the appearance of a cellphone, but the process has been done in haste as controllers are out of place and in some situations, the menu looks terrible.
When it comes to media content, we’ve found that music is usually more expensive to get than on other platforms and while movies are cheaper on a BlackBerry, downloading has been limited up to five devices, which may be a drawback for some.
Although this section should be included in the apps category peaked above, we have to acknowledge that worldwide navigation is a must these days. Unfortunately, for every new BlackBerry customer, this will have to be replaced to a 3rd party solution, because the Maps service implemented here is elementary.
Once a route is set up, users cannot re-route to avoid traffic, you cannot see a satellite mock-up, there is no way the service will display points of interest and there are no gestures to navigate around the environment. Moreover, if the connection is lost, the service is disrupted completely (there is no offline mode).
Other minor downsides
- BlackBerry Protect, a service design to help you locate a lost smartphone, fails to communicate to the target sometimes and in some cases, the message is delayed. Although this will probably be fixed in the next weeks, another pain is that once a command to play a sound on the terminal is sent, the noise cannot be stopped for 60 full seconds.