Prior to the release of BlackBerry 10, we ran a lot of "Brainstorming BB10" editorials thinking about what it would be like to get BB10 in our hands. Now that it's here and we're spending quality time with it, it's time to keep the brainstorming going in the pursuit of constant improvement.
I had a startling revelation yesterday. I realized that not once in my two months of regular BlackBerry Z10 use have I actually swiped up to see or open Active Frames beyond the most recent four displayed. Not. Even. Once.
BlackBerry 10 allows you to run up to eight apps at once. When minimized but left running, these apps are displayed on the BlackBerry 10 homescreen as Active Frames, and sit to the right of the BlackBerry Hub and to the left of the traditional app launcher screens. If no apps are open, the Active Frame panel simply disappears and you can swipe from the Hub directly to your application icons.
On the homescreen, the Active Frames panel will display up to four Active Frames, ordered by their recency of use. However, if you have 5, 6, 7 or 8 apps open on the phone, you have to swipe up on the homescreen for them to slide into view before you can see what's on the Active Frame or tap on it to maximize the app again.
In practice, I never, ever, ever do this. I have found my homescreen swiping flow to be very horizontal. I swipe from the Hub, through the Active Frame panel and into my app icons. If the app I'm looking for is not displayed in the first four Active Frames, I simply continue to swipe right into my app launcher icons, and tap on it there. In many cases, the app is actually already open but is displayed as the 5th through 8th Active Frame. It doesn't matter though, as I would never open it again via Active Frames. It feels more efficient and consistent to swipe into the app pages, where I know exactly where the shortcut for that app will be.
I'm not sure if I'm alone on this usage behavior or not. If you're with me, or if you're not, please sound off in the comments. If I turn out to be an exception to the norm, then that's cool. No need for change.
However, if the vast majority of people end up like me on this, then I think there are some ways to further improve this homescreen Active Frames flow experience. The starting point? Getting rid of the need to swipe vertically on the Active Frame panel.
I initially thought maybe Active Frames could become smaller, so up to all eight could be displayed on one page. However, if this were done they would become too small to offer up useful info.
Rather, I think it would make sense to add a second page of Active Frames. Give users the option to choose if they want the 5th through 8th Active Frames displayed as a second panel to the right of the first Active Frame panel, or keep it as is.
OR yet another option - give users the ability to pin apps on a second page of Active Frames. The first pane of Active Frames would display the most recent four apps. The second pane could display up to four always-open apps. I know a lot of you are wishing you could pin your most frequently used apps. This would be a clean way to do it.
That's where I'm at with this one for now. I don't have the answer. I have a thought. Be sure to check out the video above, and get the discussion going on this one in the comments. That's what Brainstorming BB10 is all about!