Feeds

A brief history of the BlackBerry UI

Obvious thinking

High performance access to file storage

The first generation of BlackBerries

The first generation of BlackBerries – at least GSM ones as we saw them in the UK – had a two lines of icons – although there were more through scrolling. The excellent jog dial was a great mechanism for choosing which program you wanted. [Although RIM called it a ‘trackwheel’ to avoid the wrath of Sony.]

BlackBerry 6210

BlackBerry 6210

The process of select and confirm with a scroll and a click on the wheel was reasonably obvious and very quick. Keyboard shortcuts addressed the problems of scrolling through long lists: T for Top, B for bottom and M for more, when only part of a message has been downloaded. These mnemonics work well if you are an English-speaker but pose the problem with translation. Do you use new mnemonics in a different language – so that they are easy to remember, or do you keep them for consistency?

The advent of colour didn’t affect the UI much. OK, we got three lines on the display, but a jog dial was still an excellent way to get through the menus. Unfortunately, the CSTN screen was muddy and poorly defined. Many users found their old, slimmer, monochrome device easier to use and read.

BlackBerry 7200

BlackBerry 7200

Despite being a Java OS, there was no need to add applications in the early days, but as time moved on the market changed. The increasing number of apps, growing screen size and the need to drill down into folders needed something where users could move more quickly from one icon to another without having to visit all those in-between. The track-ball provided the solution, again with a press to select.

Voice was no longer an adjunct to BlackBerry features and a more phone-like design meant that QWERTY keys wouldn’t fit and be usable. While a high proportion of the world’s population are happy with T9, American businessmen would rather use Christopher Scholes 1873 design than a Tegics’ 1996 one. So QWERTY was fudged with a two-letter-per-key implementation called Suretype. This scores well on obviousness but ultimately falls between the stools of learning curve and eventual speed. This fate befalls the vast majority of text entry innovations from microwriting to fast-tap. Each develops its band of followers, but very few have seen the success of QWERTY or T9.

Understanding American businessmen, however, is something RIM is excellent at. This is why the phones have font scaling (albeit with a poor selection of fonts) and audio tone control, because old businessmen have failing sight and hearing.

High performance access to file storage

Next page: Wisdom of Pearls

More from The Register

next story
Report: Apple seeking to raise iPhone 6 price by a HUNDRED BUCKS
'Well, that 5c experiment didn't go so well – let's try the other direction'
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Nvidia gamers hit trifecta with driver, optimizer, and mobile upgrades
Li'l Shield moves up to Android 4.4.2 KitKat, GameStream comes to notebooks
AMD unveils Godzilla's graphics card – 'the world's fastest, period'
The Radeon R9 295X2: Water-cooled, 5,632 stream processors, 11.5TFLOPS
Sony battery recall as VAIO goes out with a bang, not a whimper
The perils of having Panasonic as a partner
NORKS' own smartmobe pegged as Chinese landfill Android
Fake kit in the hermit kingdom? That's just Kim Jong-un-believable!
Gimme a high S5: Samsung Galaxy S5 puts substance over style
Biometrics and kid-friendly mode in back-to-basics blockbuster
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.