During his keynote here at BlackBerry World, RIM CEO Therston Heins gave a sneak peak of some of the new features we can expect to see as part of the company’s BlackBerry 10 operating system. Unfortunately that was all we were able to see since no new devices were announced saved for a developer preview of the RIM’s next generation BlackBerry smartphone called the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha. But that doesn’t mean we weren’t impressed with the software on display.
One of the first thing’s you’ll notice about BlackBerry 10 is that its home screen now features on-screen widgets similar to Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows Phone. Instead of the stale app icons of past BlackBerry operating systems, BlackBerry 10 will feature live widgets that can be updated through push notifications. During the keynote, RIM’s head of software portfolio, Vivek Bhardwaj, showed off a homescreen with weather, mail and calendar widgets. And while we’ve seen this kind of functionality on the aforementioned Android and Windows Phone, we’re curious to see how developers will take advantage of widgets in BlackBerry 10.
Heins and Bhardwaj made sure to heavily promote BlackBerry 10’s multitasking capabilities, showing off a new gesture-based interface that allows you to swipe from right to left to switch between using an app to checking and answering your BBMs and emails and easily swipe back to the original app you were using. As you open messages and emails, they stack on top of each other. If you want to move back to a previously opened message, you can simply swipe to the right to fan out the messages allowing you to select the appropriate app or message.
BlackBerrys are known for their physical keyboards. But with BlackBerry 10, it looks like RIM will be moving away from the physical and instead make the jump to a full featured touchscreen keyboard. According to Bhardwaj, the keyboard gradually adapts to your typing style overtime to help compensate for differences in user’s finger sizes.
One of the coolest features of the keyboard is its new predictive text function. As you begin typing more commonly used words, the keyboard will automatically predict them at which point you can easily swipe them from the keyboard to the text box. Deleting text is just as easy. Simply swipe from right to left across the keyboard and you’ll automatically delete the last word you typed. Swiping multiple times will delete multiple words. Of course, the keyboard still offers the traditional delete key for those times when you misspell a word.
RIM has developed an entirely new camera app that allows you to capture images, tap on the screen to highlight a person’s face and rollback that area of the image to a previous shot. It looks like a very innovative feature that should help users eliminate those awkward moments when a subject unknowingly blinks their eyes during a photo.
In addition to showing BlackBerry 10 running on a developer phone, Heins also showed off a Porche with a telametics system that he said was running off of the BlackBerry 10 OS. We didn’t get to see much of the features BlackBerry 10 can bring to connected cars, but Heins said the point was to show that the operating system isn’t just a smartphone OS, but a mobile computing platform.
Heins says that the software will be debuting later this year on a new range of BlackBerry devices, although he didn’t mention an exact date or time frame. Rumors have been running wild that the software and devices will hit the market some time this fall, possibly in October.
Stick around for more information on BlackBerry 10 as it rolls out. For now, check out the preview video of RIM’s latest operating system below.