Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/11/23/bb10_latest_ui/

BlackBerry 10: AWESOME. If the hardware matches it, RIM jobs are safe

Our Vulture fondles his way through the new OS

By Andrew Orlowski

Posted in Operating Systems, 23rd November 2012 13:37 GMT

Opinion BlackBerry users have a love-hate relationship with their phones. The devices were often forced upon users rather than chosen. At the same time, the handhelds were the most usable and useful communications gadgets you could put in your pocket.

Yes, there are things a BlackBerry can't do very well or at all. But it is capable of doing so many things that its rivals can't match. You have to wonder if the rest of the phone industry has been taking some strange stupefying drug.

For example, the BlackBerry knows when it's in a holster. It knows when it's on a nightstand so it can do all kinds of "I'm in a nightstand now" things. You know what's "incoming" without taking it out of its case - you can tell that from the LED indicator. (Enthusiasts have written programs to allow you to set sophisticated 'Blinkenlights' sequences of coloured flashes, telling you in much more detail what is going on.) The obsession with usability extends to giving everything a shortcut key. You can set up a custom shortcut key to show you all the emails from Alice in the last three months, for example.

Nobody else does this. Has RIM replicated this in its new user interface for BlackBerry OS 10? We've already written up a quick preview of the QNX-powered mobile operating system - here's a follow-up hands-on tour of the kit.

First off, BlackBerry-maker RIM has acknowledged, or not forgotten, that getting to messaging fast is what the BlackBerry is all about. If BB10 has a "home" screen, it's the "Hub": a list of calendar appointments, and messages aggregated from SMS, email and social networks. Everything else is a kind of card-style overlay on this. Yes, there's a Palm-style app grid. Software can be put into folders, just like on Apple's iOS.

On Android and iOS notifications are a separate area. On BB10 - and Windows Phone, too - the notifications area is your home. And you can do a lot from the notifications screen. It's brutally utilitarian; Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 wins on style and novelty, but BB10 trumps all comers on efficiency. (You can only get one line of text on a tile in WinPho 8 - it's a bit limiting.)

The BB10 Hub

The BlackBerry OS 10 Hub (apologies for the phone cam pic of a phone)

Here's the Hub. Icons to trigger common actions are down the right-hand side:

A menu of message sources

Anything new? A quick summary view is always a swipe away

Are you listening, Ballmer? Why can't your Windows mobes do this?

And here's an action that I couldn't perform on Windows Phone OS: flagging a message accessed via IMAP. It's pretty basic:

Flagging a message: Microsoft, please note some of us find this useful

As with Windows Phone, a contacts card pulls in information related to the person, such as looking for photo albums. BB10 also looks for related info but it's more focussed on business:

A contact with actual useful information about pulled from news articles

Context information pulled in for a contact

Using two applications AT THE SAME TIME? Surely not? Surely yes!

On rival mobile operating systems, it's a pain to switch between apps when you simply need to compare information shown in each one. Here's some thoughtful design in BB10 that makes that redundant: two views overlaying each other.

Peeking underneath an overlay is quite handy

And fear not, the app grid is still there. It's just not the home screen any more, but just a plain old app launcher. Today's BlackBerry OS already gives you a list of activity under the contact card and there's no change there in BB10.

A screenshot of the BB10 running a weather application

A running app with the launcher underneath

In the above shot, a weather news app has been thrown into the corner as a live tile - oops - an "active frame". Multiple widgets showing useful stuff can be thrown together this way. The underlying QNX system is fully multitasking and can juggle various bits of software, but you can close apps manually if you must.

So how does it all fit together? Well, you need to learn a couple of universal fingertip gestures on the touchscreen: 'up' is one, and straightforward. 'Up-and-right', a kind of dog-leg, is another. That's more than Apple's iPhone requires - but it only takes a minute or two to get used to.

Once you've got used to it, and that the Hub is the home screen, BB10 is by some distance the most brutally efficient multitouch interface I have used so far. It makes the others look like hard work.

Yes, the odds are stacked against RIM - and when it comes to the as-yet unseen hardware, it needs to pull some crackers out of the barrel. But phones sell on the user interface, and this is very good indeed.

For more, you can peruse the BB10 user interface guidelines here. ®