BlackBerry 10 shown for the first time: See it in action

blackberry 10 shown for the first time see it in action interface

Today, Thorsten Heins delivered the first of what may be several defining moments for Research in Motion throughout 2012. The core BlackBerry brand and platform, which helped define smartphones a decade ago, is losing major market share to newer operating systems like Android and iOS. Three months ago, RIM ousted its co-CEOs, promoted Thorsten to the top spot, and has been silently doubling down on its current strategy to have its own platform running on its own devices (read about all that drama here). The move is risky, and today we got our first real look at the next generation of RIM products: BlackBerry 10. 

The new smartphone OS, which is built on the same software that powers the BlackBerry PlayBook could be a sink or swim moment for RIM when it launches later this year. It has seen numerous delays, but Heins insists that it is now coming along nicely. 

BB isn’t doing that bad, says Heins

“It has been three months since I had the honor of being named CEO of research in motion and a lot of people have written about us,” began Heins. “I’ve seen it, you’ve seen it. We’ve all seen it… Let me be clear, I’m here because I believe in the unique value that BB delivers to our customers every single day.” 

BlackBerry World 2012 Thorsten Heins

Heins then went into some puzzling, and un-sourced, statistics about BlackBerry:

  • 63 percent of smartphone users access social media compared to 87 percent of BB users
  • 65 percent of smartphone users use calendar compared to 91 percent of BB users
  • 22 percent of smartphone users search for apps compared to 34 percent of BB users
  • There are 77 million BlackBerry users
  • People from 115 countries are at BlackBerry World this year

All these statistics are pleasant, but presentations from Salesforce and Citrix drag things on. Luckily, BlackBerry 10 is actually shown off. 

BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha device

blackberry 10 shown for the first time see it in action dev alpha device

The device you see here is called the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha device. It’s not final, but all the developers in the audience at BlackBerry World will get one to take home. From its outward appearance, it looks nearly identical to a BlackBerry PlayBook tablet in almost every way. It is a completely touch device and has a 4.2-inch screen and front facing camera as well. “We’re taking our time to do this right,” said Heins.

BB 10 has “Flow”

blackberry 10 shown for the first time see it in action flow interface

Other than the 4×4 grid of widget/shortcuts reminiscent of Windows Phone (in a way) that you can see at the top of this post, Heins and head of software portfolio at RIM, Vivek Bhardwaj, showed off BlackBerry 10’s ability to “flow.” Basically, no matter what app you’re using, you can hold your finger down and slide it to the right to take a peak at the last couple apps you were using. They said this new feature allows you to more easily move from task to task and check what you were just doing. We’ll have to test it to fully realize the benefits of a feature like this, but it does look pretty nice.

BlackBerry 10 official screenshots of FlowThis feature is possible because BB 10, like the PlayBook, keeps all of your background apps running in real time. Other platforms like Android and iOS have a system of freezing apps when they are not in use, allowing them to be held in status and resumed later. This technique has been preferable since it doesn’t use many resources. The PlayBook, from our testing, only seems to hold things in real time, which is great, but it means that only 5-10 apps can be running at a time. Once you have opened too many, the OS will automatically shut down your oldest app, even if you were writing a critical email. Hopefully RIM is adding in some application freezing as well. 

“We want a user paradigm that’s easy and fast. It’s all about the flow,” said Heins. “Everything you have going on keeps running real time in the background. No other platform can do this. You have it real time at your fingertips… you can take action on any one of those inputs at any time… you just flow through it… Applications keep running at any time and you just flow through them.”

New BlackBerry touch keyboard

BlackBerry 10 Onscreen Keyboard

While Heins defended BlackBerry’s classic keyboard vehemently, he also showed off the new BlackBerry 10 keyboard, which is completely touch-based. It’s certainly not a looker, but supposedly this new keyboard customizes itself to your use. We’re not sure on how exactly it is customizable, but Heins and Bhardwaj said that it can be adapted. You can swipe down to change the keyboard in some ways as well.

BlackBerry 10 keyboard close up

While you’re typing, words will appear on the keys, similarly to how the PlayBook recommends words to you. If you want to delete what you’ve typed, you can hit the backspace key or swipe to the left on the keyboard to instantly delete the entire last word (nice feature). 

“Timeline lens” camera

BlackBerry 10 timeline lensThis photo is from Engadget, as I failed to grab a good shot of this feature. Heins showed off new camera software that appears to let you retroactively zoom in on someone’s face in a picture and rewind it, allowing you to fix things like closed eyes or a bad smile. Fantastic idea, but it wasn’t actually shown on stage, so it’s hard to say how well it really works. 

BlackBerry 10 in a car

BlackBerry 10 car

Every presentation needs its “One more thing” moment these days, and Heins decided that unveiling a BB car onstage would generate some excitement. This concept car integrates PlayBooks in the back seats and uses BlackBerry 10 in the dash. Though it sounds new, this concept is anything but. QNX, which is an OS RIM bought and turned into BlackBerry 10 (and PlayBook Tablet OS), has been used in cars for years. Sixty percent of cars, according to Heins, already have QNX-based dashboards. If RIM can get all of the car makers to replace QNX with BlackBerry 10, now that will be exciting. No such partnerships were announced today. Heins says the car is just one new area where BlackBerry can go.

“This takes us into the new era of mobile computing,” said Heins. “Way beyond smartphones and tablets.”

Teaser video

This teaser was shown at the end of the show. It doesn’t show much (not even a phone), but check it out.

Developer kit released

For developers in our audience, you can find the BlackBerry 10 dev kit here. It was released right after the presentation.

Excited about BlackBerry 10?

We have to admit, while the hardware and visuals certainly weren’t anything flashy, it is nice to see RIM unveiling some original software ideas. The ultimate success of BlackBerry 10 later this year will depend on a lot of factors, but as a first glimpse, I’d have to say that today was a success. For the first time in a while, we are thinking about the future of RIM. Before today, it was hard to imagine much of a future at all. 

What do you think? Does RIM stand a chance?

Update: Added some better screenshots.


Stop buying old tablets, says Samsung, buy the new Galaxy Tab S5e instead

Samsung has launched the Galaxy Tab S5e -- the E is for Essential -- a reasonably priced tablet that includes many of the features we like from the Tab A 10.5, and the Tab S4. Here's what you need to know.

Exotic Masterwork Weapons are in Destiny 2. Here's how to upgrade

Destiny 2's new Masterwork gear offers a number of special bonuses. Here is what you need to know about it, including how to find the gear in the game and even create it yourself.

These Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts will take your skills to a new level

Windows 10 has many new features, and they come flanked with useful new keyboard shortcuts. Check out some of the new Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts to improve your user experience and save more time!

Spotify could terminate accounts of listeners using ad blockers

Bad news for those who block annoying ads on Spotify -- the company has updated its Terms of Service to explicitly ban ad blockers. Consequences for users found circumventing the rules include suspending or terminating your account.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Coffee Meets Bagel dating app data may have been breached

Are you planning on using Coffee Meets Bagel to find love on Valentine's Day? If you've been using the app for a while, you'll probably want to change your password -- the company said a data breach may have taken place before May 2018.

Worried about extra data charges? Here's how to check your usage on an iPhone

It's common to get a little nervous about nearing data limits. Keep your peace of mind by checking how much data your iPhone is using. Our guide on how to check data usage on an iPhone helps you stay in control.

Exclusive: Take a look at what a next-generation 5G phone will look like

With 5G phones debuting at MWC in mere days, there is discussion about whether they will be clunky bricks that die after a few hours? A reference design from Qualcomm offerrs a glimpse of the future: This is what 5G phones will look like.

North Focals smartglasses discount cuts the price by a massive $400

Canadian startup North is hoping smartglasses will be the next big wearable. After announcing its new Focals smartglasses in late 2018, the company opened product showrooms in Brooklyn and Toronto and has made its first shipment.

New Apple patent hints clamshell-style foldable phone may be in the works

Apple has filed a patent for a foldable phone that suggests the company could be following in the footsteps of the likes of Samsung and Huawei. The patent describes a clamshell-style foldable phone with two separate sections.

Xiaomi Mi 9 will be one of the first phones with monster Snapdragon 855 chip

Xiaomi's next major smartphone release will be the Mi 9, and the company hasn't held back in giving us a good look at the phone, revealing the design, the camera, and a stunning color.

Galaxy Watch Active isn't official yet, but you can see it in Samsung's own app

Samsung may be about to resurrect its Sport line of smartwatches under a new name: The Galaxy Watch Sport Active. Leaks and rumors are building our picture of the device at the moment.

Bag yourself a bargain with the best budget tablets under $200

The battle for your budget tablet affections is really ramping up. Which tablet, costing less than $200, should be commanding your attention? We take a look at some different options for the budget-conscious.

What is Wi-Fi 6? Here's a look at the next evolution of the wireless standard

We're exploring the new naming convention for wireless standards, how it affects the devices you buy, and what the upcoming Wi-Fi generation is changing for the better.
Home Theater

Samsung accidentally leaks its new Galaxy Buds ahead of launch

It's been all but certain that Samsung would launch a successor to its Gear IconX wireless earbuds soon, but a newly leaked photo and recent FCC certification document seems to indicate that the debut is very close.