Blackberry 10 marks a crossroads for the future of parent company RIM, but may also help solve the touch-to-type conundrum faced by smartphone users. Anyone who spends too much time typing, then re-typing nearly every word in a sentence through unintuitive on-screen keyboards has much to look forward to with Blackberry 10.
The iPhone touchscreen revolution in smartphones caused us to trade the robust functionality of the hardware in exchange for a sleek, magical on-screen experience. Physical keyboards are still around, but only on sub-par phones. Now Blackberry is on the verge of releasing the 10 platform that many are expecting will sign the death certificate for RIM. But maybe, just maybe, we could see typing-friendly smartphones with Blackberry’s signature reliability, security, and some impressive new usability.
The Blackberry 10 platform will be available on two new phones set to debut on January 30th; the Z10 and the X10. Images of the X10 have been leaked to Crackberry; it appears that the X10 with have a full Qwerty keyboard and touchscreen, while the Z10 will be fully touchscreen. Four more devices will follow later in 2013.
RIM’s presence at CES 2013 last week has tech bloggers across the Internet speculating that they could have been wrong to think Blackberry was all but finished. One feature that stands out is their emphasis on BB10’s ability to switch between apps with an interface called Flow. They demonstrated that all open apps can tile for selection with one swipe. Additionally, there is a universal inbox for all messaging and social networks called Hub. Gizmodo’s review of the Blackberry 10 from CES sings praises of the touchscreen version of the keyboard. The word suggestions appear above the letter rather than in a bar above the whole keyboard. The spaces between the lines of keys reflect not only the traditional design of the BB keyboards, but provide a spacing that allows for more accurate keying.
The bad news is that RIM still has a huge hurdle to overcome with app support. Like Windows devices, they can be as fast, handy, and attractive but won’t sell without more common application availability. Unlike Microsoft, RIM likely can’t afford to wait around for very long it to catch on with developers. However, the Hub aggregated inbox is open to developers, which will hopefully encourage them to consider BB10 worth spending time on.
I’ve missed Blackberry. I was never so prolific a tweeter and emailer as I was when I had my good ol’ Blackberry Curve. Texting and driving was a skill, and I had it. My job at the time called for 24/7 communication. I’m just not sure I could accomplish the same thing on my Samsung Galaxy S III. I love it, it’s gorgeous, but I would never bother typing more than one or two sentences at a time with the on-screen keyboard. It could be a preference thing, but we all know DamnYouAutoCorrect.com doesn’t exist because on-screen typing is easy.