There's been a lot of talk about the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha device leading up to BlackBerry World 2012 and the BlackBerry 10 Jam, including some leaked photos that we posted this past weekend of what we *believed* was the Dev Alpha device. Turns out those early photos were the real deal, which we confirmed when we received an early hands-on look at the Dev Alpha device.
Reminder: The Dev Alpha is not a BlackBerry 10 Phone. RIM has made this message loud and clear, but we'll repeat it once again for good measure before we give some thoughts on the device:
The purpose of this seeding is to give BlackBerry 10 Jam developer attendees a testing device to create excitement as they start to develop BlackBerry 10 applications alongside us.
To be clear, this is not a BlackBerry 10 device. It's the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha. It includes a modified version of the BlackBerry PlayBook OS which shows the path to the BlackBerry 10 OS, which has been customized to a phone. This device will allow developers to test the applications they are building with our BlackBerry 10 toolsets.
The Dev Alpha definitely looks like one would expect a BlackBerry 10 development device to look. It has the appearance of a shrunken down PlayBook tablet, featuring a 4.2" touchscreen display at 1024x768 pixel resolution, which is the same resolution of the PlayBook (which puts the pixel density at over 300 DPI). Another PlayBook similarity is the OS. The Dev Alpha as developers will receive it is running a stripped down version of the PlayBook OS, which when loaded features only the web browser and camera as apps. Developers can, of course, sideload their apps for testing and as the launch of BlackBerry 10 phones nears, developers will receive OTA updates to the device.
Picking Up the Dev Alpha
Picking up the Dev Alpha for the first time!
Considering the Dev Alpha is *just* a developer device, it gets us really excited for what the actual first BlackBerry 10 phone will look like. Reading through previous comments on CrackBerry related to the leaked Dev Alpha photos, a lot of you out there would be happy as punch if BlackBerry put out a phone with this hardware as it is in these photos. And looking at the phone in person, it does look pretty nice, with that utility feel of the PlayBook.
On the subject of size, the device is what I'd call everyday usable big. With a 4.2" display, the Dev Alpha makes the iPhone look tiny, but the Dev Alpha still feels good in the hand compared to some of the other smartphones out there, which have taken display size a little too far in my opinion (at some point a phone becomes a tablet...). Knowing that developers need to test their apps for given resolutions, one thing we can expect to carry over from the Dev Alpha to the first BlackBerry 10 phone is that awesome display.
As noted above, RIM made it clear that looks aside, even the underlying guts of the Dev Alpha shouldn't be taken as representative of the first BlackBerry 10 phone. In other words, you can expect an even faster chipset to be powering the BlackBerry 10 phone you buy compared to what's in the Dev Alpha. And we're ok with this. The guts in the Dev Alpha are still pretty solid, so even faster is even better.
The big question mark for us still after going hands-on with the Dev Alpha is of course the OS experience. On the Dev Alpha we're still looking at the BlackBerry PlayBook OS, which uses bezel gestures to navigate around the device and swipe between apps. But that's the PlayBook OS, and we know RIM has been heads down working on BlackBerry 10 and we're dying to see it.
Bottom line: The BlackBerry Dev Alpha device is a nice piece of kit that gets us salivating for real deal BlackBerry 10 phones. We hope all the developers getting a free one at the BlackBerry 10 Jam put it to use and build tons of apps so we can download them when BlackBerry 10 phones hit the market later this year. Let's get to it devs. You build those apps, and we'll blog the hell out of them and spread the word!
Photos of the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha Device
BlackBerry 10 Alpha Dev Specs
OS: BlackBerry 10 Developer Preview V 10.0.4.197.
Display: 4.2-inch 1280x768 HD LCD (356dpi) touch screen.
Storage: 16GB Internal.
Network: Quad Band HSPA+, No LTE support enabled. microSIM.
Connectivity: Bluetooth, NFC
Cameras: Front Facing with no flash. Rear Camera with Flash.
Ports: 3.5MM Headphone Jack, microHDMI, microUSB.