BlackBerry OS 6 – Red Star Rising
It would be both right and wrong to describe the new BlackBerry Operating System as just eye-candy on the existing java based system.
Correct in that what it does is make the OS look very much better. Incorrect in that in making it look better it also works better and is easier to use.
The most significant change is the addition of a decent browser - the previous browser was a bugbear of both RIM and users. RIM bought the company Torch for its webkit based Iris browser and then named the device after them. There is pinch to zoom and tabbed browsing. Not only that but the pages in the unviewed tabs are active, not simple screen shots as in Safari.
The iPhones’ browser is no longer a reason for buying an iPhone over a BlackBerry. This will stop BlackBerry users defecting and maybe lead some who’ve used a BlackBerry before to return.
Not to belittle the whizzy sliding stuff and customisable home screen, but it is what goes on behind that provides great foundations.
Since the Nokia communicator and the first Windows Mobile phones there has been a rift between those devices which are a computer with a modem, and those that are a phone with computing functions. The BlackBerry sits between the two. It’s a messaging device which also does computing and voice.
Those messages provide the foundation for what RIM calls “Super Apps", that is applications that are always connected. BlackBerry users are used to the flashing LED, which says that there is some new information, and the red star notification on icons to show what’s been updated.
This can just as easily be Sky Sports tracking goals as a Bloomberg stock-market update. The speed and reliability of BlackBerry push makes it ideal for people who always want to be up to date. Ironically that’s much more the older teens than the grey men in grey suits who form the traditional BlackBerry target market.
An iPhone, even with iOS4, isn’t there because it just doesn’t have the APIs. While Apple may say “there’s an app for that", very often there isn’t. You can’t for instance record a phone call on an iPhone, or read a text message directly into an application.
While the excellent SmrtGuard will let you access your lost BlackBerry to get it to dial you back so that you can hear conversations where you’ve left it, or make it ping loudly, or track the device by GPS, the Apple version does none of that because it doesn’t have the APIs.
So consumers know they like their BlackBerry, but often can’t put a finger on why. IT people might be able to point to the significantly lower bandwidth of the messaging system, or the end to end security that means even some spooks are happy to use it, but that’s not cool like having hysteresis as a menu scrolls or album artwork in the music player. You don’t hear BlackBerry developers moaning "if only" in quite the same way as iPhone developers do. All users know is that while another phone might be connected, a BlackBerry feels more connected.
With OS 6, RIM has fixed the browser and look and feel, but the future looks to be in good hands too. There will be a migration from the current underpinnings to QNX, the OS in the Playbook, and the acquisition of TAT, The Astonishing Tribe, who are UI designers with gaming roots puts BlackBerry in a very good place for the future.
typing this on my 9800...
I've been a Blackberry user on and off since the 7x00 series devices. A couple of years back I caved in and bought a Pearl as I finally caved in and bought a personal. Blackberry.
I've had few regrets, namely the AWFUL browser on the pre-OS6 devices, but when I got one I knew it was awful! With the Torch I really think they do actually have a handset that matches (and indeed surpasses) the iPhone in many areas. Still not beating the iPhone for media consumption and gaming, but for what matters to most people who buy this type of handset it's stunning.
If Adobe do roll out Flash as they are suggesting, and RIM do roll out a JVM to run Adroid apps (again as the rumours have been saying for months) then the iPhone really does have a serious competitor!
I gave my wife my old 8900 to replace the HD2 thing she's been using, and after a short grump about the keyboard she's already suffering from Blackberry Thumb!
My BB has a button on the left side that is customizable. However, the default setting is audio profiles. Press the button, and point at the sound profile you want. I usually pick "Loud", however, very easy to switch to "Vibrate Only" or "Silent" for the movies. If you're concerned about silencing a call, pressing any button on the thing (at least mine) stops the ringing. Since my holster is a stretchy-sides flip-top, it's very easy to do.
Got a 9780 recently
With OS 6, and while it has its little quirks, all I have to say is that it feels amazing compared to previous OS 5.
Got myself a Torch, and I like it very much. The push messaging is very good indeed, as is the battery life. I went for one from 3 because you get Skype for free too then! The in / out holster thing is very good, the browser is pretty good, I like the choice of touch screen and physical keyboard. I even like the fact that I can download the software dev kit for free and write 'n' run my own apps (not that I've done that yet).
I don't like the fact that you have to buy an app to lock the screen orientation. Pulling out the keyboard locks it in portrait, and often that's what I want. You have to buy an app to allow you to put the phone number of an SMS sender in to an existing contact. It will allow you to create a new contact, but not add to an existing contact - grrr! The camera is OK, but not as good as the one in my old SE C905. I wish the memory card slot was external. I wish that more apps were touch screen aware - Google maps doesn't do pinch zoom (there's soft buttons instead that aren't too bad to use), Opera seems totally unaware of the touch screen and isn't anywhere near as good as the in built browser which I find odd given previous experiences with Opera. The GPS is very good, and the Blackberry maps are certainly alright.
I got the Torch because I couldn't wait for a BB based on QNX. I've looked at QNX as an embedded OS before, and I really like its truly odd architecture. Linus and Tanenbaum might have a thing or two to say about it! I wanted a QNX based BB just for the OS.
O seductive power of a blinky light.
I don't have a phone that does email (well, it might, if I let it), so instead I make do with a set schedule of acceptable times to check mail. I'll be ready to deal with whatever comes up then, and at the other times I'm presumably busy doing other things. At three hour intervals it's not as relaxed as Donald Knuth's, that is once every three months, but he has a human secretary to filter for and deliver to him the interesting tidbits, and I don't. Oh well, whatever it takes to stay organised.
On the other hand, it might be useful if the device could differentiate. Perhaps change colour for important messages. And I don't mean by the headers or anything else the _sender_ adds, but by local criteria, as I am the one who decides what's important, not the sender. Not even a direct boss: I decide the message is important enough to look at now perhaps because of where it came from, not the other way around.