A closer look at the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha device and some of the secrets it holds

BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha
By Bla1ze on 10 May 2012 02:27 pm EDT
11
loading...
0
loading...
92
loading...

Now that BlackBerry 10 Jam and BlackBerry World 2012 are history, many developers have returned home from sunny Orlando, Florida with a BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha device in their hands. Some have been quietly working on their apps, some have been digging through the device to see how exactly it all works and some are just adoring their new exclusive phone.

RIM has always made developer devices available to folks though not really in this fashion, so the interest in the device itself is quite high. That said; many folks who have checked the device out found some interesting things hidden beneath the covers. Join me as we take a look at some of the goodies found within.

Preinstalled Applications 

BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha Apps

As noted by RIM on many occasions, the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha device comes pretty bare bones. That of course was done intentionally as it is a device designed and issued to encourage developers to create applications. When you load it up, all you get is the camera and a web browser -- nothing more, nothing less -- or so RIM would have you believe.

You see, when you look at the installed applications list there are actually 33 preinstalled apps, meaning RIM intentionally hid the rest from folks much like how they hid some of the stuff on the BlackBerry PlayBook.

As of now, there is no way to make these apps magically appear and become available, though it has been suggested they will be unlocked as OS updates for the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha roll out.

Unreleased Device Codenames

BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha

Looking to pinpoint some unreleased device names? The BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha is a great place to start. As pointed out by J. Duke from OSBB, the Dev Alpha has files outlining some of the devices we mentioned previously in our BlackBerry 10 roadmap. Some of the devices have long since fell off the map and have been scrapped but no matter how you look at it, it's interesting that RIM left them in there. Let's have a look at the list:
  • R044 – Nevada 0x8400270A,1
  • R051 – Winchester2 LTE 0x0c001a06,1
  • R052 – Winchester2 HSPA+ 0x0d001a06,1
  • R053 – Winchester2 LTE HSPA+ 0x0e001a06,1
  • R061 – Colt 0×04002307,1
  • R072 – London 0×04002607,1
  • R073 – Blackforest 0×04002706,1
  • R084 – Nashville 0x8500270A,1
  • R085 – Naples 0x8600270A,1 

The most notable devices in this list are the Nevada, Nashville and Naples or, if you like, the "N Series". Yes, it is a series of devices that information suggests are the first batch of QWERTY BlackBerry 10 devices that are now on the list to potentially be released to the masses. Right now, the Nashville and Naples are mystery devices when it comes to overall specs where the Nevada has been noted in the past as being essentially a BlackBerry 10 version of the BlackBerry Bold 9900.

The remaining devices on the list have all been spotted before in one way or another, so there really isn't all that much to say about them aside from the fact that they remain unofficially announced by RIM, though some such as the BlackBerry London and Blackforest (a 10-Inch PlayBook) have been placed in somewhat of limbo status.

The Winchester 2 series is the updated batch of PlayBooks with the 1.5GHz dual core processor, NFC and the noted various options for connectivity such as HSPA+ and LTE. But what about the BlackBerry Colt? That is the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha -- simple explanation for that one. So that's all of them, right? Not exactly.

BlackBerry Rubicon

If you dig around the files a little bit further, there are configuration files for all the noted devices above but there are also configuration files for what could potentially be another device in the very early stages of development. The BlackBerry "Rubicon" is noted many times throughout the OS. Could it be another device? Possibly. There isn't enough information there to be certain but it is worth noting considering how many times it pops up.

System, PlayBook and Android Apps Do Work

BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha

This one might seem like a no brainer but it needs to be mentioned. System apps, PlayBook apps and yes, even Android apps can all be sideloaded to the BlackBerry Dev Alpha device. Some apps may not look exactly as they should, especially the system apps as they tend to not fit the display properly, but that all can be adjusted when RIM feels like getting around to it and you can be sure everything will look fantastic when it all gets updated using Cascades.

Cellular Connectivity

BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha Data

Although there is no way to really make use of the services on the device yet, aside from data, the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha does have cellular connectivity built into it. BlackBerry developers residing in the US were actually given AT&T microSIMs to use in the device.

When not connected to WiFi, if you have a microSIM you can transmit data with it. It even shows up as running on AT&T 4G (see: HSPA+) or if you have a SIM from another carrier, the device will work with that as well as it is carrier unlocked. That's not the interesting part though. The AT&T SIM given does NOT seem to have a BlackBerry data plan.

When I popped the SIM into my 9900 it worked, phone calls, etc. but no BlackBerry data. So here's the interesting part: you can add the Dev Alpha's PIN on your BBM and you'll get a popup on the Dev Alpha saying xxx wants to add you on BBM.  So think about that for a second - BBM with no BIS.

It has a number also. You can call it -- but there is no way to answer the call given the fact the phone UI portion has been removed for now. If you're really desperate to receive phone calls on the device though, you can just use a Bluetooth headset.

Viewing The File Structure

BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha

Given the fact RIM left the device with pretty much no apps on it, there isn't a great way to view the file structure on the device. That doesn't mean it can't be done, but it does mean they made it rather difficult to do so.

The browser is the gateway that works though, as you can see in the shot above -- you can indeed access the files should you need to. Pictures, videos, music and more can be browsed to on the device and loaded from there. You can of course also install some apps that allow for file structure browsing.

Camera Samples


View the full set on Flickr

Overall, images are on par with that of the BlackBerry PlayBook, as expected. No telling what RIM will do for cameras when BlackBerry 10 rolls out to the masses but I'd like to think they learned their lesson and will no longer go with any EDoF cameras on any of their devices.

Video Sample

Another section where the PlayBook comes into account. The video quality is certainly on par with that of the PlayBook but just like the camera portion, hopefully RIM will no longer go with an EDoF set for BlackBerry 10. It's just not up to the task and auto focus on the devices is a must-have, especially when even the iPad 3 takes great pics now.

Final Thoughts

BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha

The BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha is an interesting little device. Although RIM will say it was never meant for mass consumption, it's no secret that this device was being considered for mass production and possible launch into the consumer market at one point or another.

In the end, they had to do something with all the ones they had built and to give them away to developers as a test bed for RIM's next-generation OS was a brilliant idea.

Just remember folks, this device is in no way indicative of what future hardware may look like from RIM but one thing for sure is now that developers have this device in their hands, they're more fired up to work on BlackBerry 10 than ever before, and that's a good thing!

Reader comments

A closer look at the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha device and some of the secrets it holds

129 Comments

+1 I wanted to know more about this devices and this basically answered all my questions. Thanks Bla1ze!

**Oh, I do have one more question! When is Netfilx and Skype coming to Playbook?... ahhhhhhh juuuuussst kidding!

My Playbook has been getting e-Mails from my gmail accounts just as fast as my Blackberry does. In fact the alert usually goes off a hair faster on the Playbook.

My gmail account gets to my PB faster than my Android phone! Honestly, though it is about 3-5 seconds faster, so not a huge difference.

Free or not from BIS will depend on MNO(mobile network operator)

anyway the principle of access will be changed.

as in the post is mentioned that BBM is accessible while BIS is not, this means they have BB Social bundle active which provides access to social apps and instant messaging

Curious that of the phones I've had, my Blackberry was the slowest with push emails. BIS always felt like an unnecessary layer to have to go through, and many times delivery would lag severly by a few hours. Unacceptable. That the new BB 10 devices break free from this really is exciting news; it may be a factor in my next choice of phone because honestly BIS is what pushed me away from Blackberry.

Can someone here please write an article about how BIS works? I think some people here dont know or forgot. While I think it shouldn't be necessary to keep a device functioning, I certainly think, the user should get the possibility to chose whether or not he wants to have it.
Like a SMS the Blackberry Push on your device doenst have to check with the Internet if there are new mails. Therefore you have lower Data-Tranfers (good for roaming) and most important - almost no use of battery life. Take any other phone and enable push there and you will see, that the battery-life is cut in half (at least). And for reference on your own device you can try running IM+ in the background, recieving all messages as they come and compare that to IM+ using Push support - or try using Whatsapp without BIS enabled (you can change it in the whatsapp settings, where they also tell you that it wil decrease the battery life). With Whatsapp you will see, that the difference absolutely doesnt come from having one more app open but from having BIS enabled or disabled.
If you arent convinced yet, try having LogicMail open instead of the normal message service.

Yes awesome post ! Love reading articles like this, good job ! Definately is nice to know about the device now, looks great & makes me excited for the future blackberrys :)

I believe all dev alpha devices are tracked by RIM via the barcode on the front. They know who has what as they distribute them. Seeing as selling these is illegal, you're unlikely to see any on eBay until after BB10 phones are officially out.

Also, if I'm not mistaken, BlackBerry can track the location of all these devices simultaneously, with personally identifiable device "tags", probably via GPS. If any unauthorized user gets a hold of this, there are significant ramifications - at worst, accusations of corporate espionage. (Which is more than just mere "theft".)

The proper procedure, should this device be found, is to do nothing with it and contact BB immediately, and follow instructions.

Since when was the London placed in a limbo status Blaze? I thought the blackberry london was going to be the first BB10 device? what has changed?

There has been very little communication surrounding the London.

That's why I said limbo status.. if it is to be the first BB10 device, RIM has taken it "underground" so far now that there has been very little talk of it.

A lot of speculation mind you, but very little what I would consider solid information surrounding its status.

Oh no! No BIS (ie reduced dependence on BIS) suggest that revenue from carriers for sending data through the NOC may decline. RIM's one golden cow is now possibly getting less golden! You comments please Mr Umi.

BB10 most certainly needs a big BIS upgrade at the carrier side so maybe AT&T is already running an alpha version. Someone should try to add his/her Dev Alpha to BBM while running on T-Mobile or whatever.

It will get data. I put my Rogers SIM in while I am in the US hence, why it shows I am roaming in the screenshot above.

Great article... Nice intro to the Dev Alpha. I'm hoping to get access once BB10 Jam (short show) comes to Montreal or Toronto as announced previous. Lots to consider when developing and it'll be nice to have a prototype 10 on hand. Cheers.

nice tiny playbook. If typing was as good as on PB, this could be the piece of choice to switch from native keyboard finally. Thinking on a vertical slider with a full keyboard behind (not as small as the one from the Torch) this could getting an Uber-device :-)

Bla1ze, Your articles always indicate technical competence. The way you express yourself, however, is another story. Oh, how I wish you could write. Do you know that you can't? Do you care? If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, you'll have to step up your game.

Does the editor care? Does anyone proof your work? Maybe Chris can help. His writing is crisp and to the point.

Can you do better? Considering the fact that you're writing in the comment section and not the actually article, i'm going to say no

Yes, I can write a lot better. That's not the point, however, nor is the fact that I posted a comment. I was trying to be helpful. Good journalists write well, and La1ze should aspire to doing so. Furthermore, Crackberry.com should insist on having well written articles.

BTW, the correct way to use the conjunction "however" in a sentence is the following: Bla1ze's articles may not be grammatically correct(semicolon); however(comma), they are full of geeky greatness. :)

You also don't use a comma before the word "and".

Here's a bit of advice: Make sure your back is clean before you complain about others.

+1

I'd rather this REAL, informative blog post as opposed to reading any other garbage out there.

Cheers Bla1ze - thanks for the Dev Alpha info (I've been patiently waiting for a review since last week)

Does that mean as a blogger you shouldn't care about the quality of his writing? Why are you and your admirers so defensive? I was simply trying to be helpful. I admire the technical aspects of your posts but think you could / should be a stronger writer. Do you actually think that you're good enough, and that you should not try to become better?

Of course, one should always strive to be better but alas, better doesn't happen overnight. Better happens over time and the more I write the better I will get. Go ahead, have a look at some of my older articles -- you'll see progression from five years ago to now. That said though, I write like a human being not a robot and yes, I do take a certain amount of pride in that fact as well.

FWIW, your comment never bothered me at all. My reaction and comment, IMO, was quite far from defensive. I have thick skin and take criticism quite well and most times, take time to improve based on that criticism.

Thanks for your comments and insight, appreciate it. :)

How were you being helpful? You didn't point out any errors or sections where you thought the writing is bad. Admit it, you were just being condescending. Just by reading your comments its easy to tell that you are full of yourself. How about you try to become better at not offending people? Then maybe people won't complain about your "helpful" comments.

Perhaps you should let us know why you think you are qualified to give other writers advice. You come over as remarkably arrogant.

Once past actual illiteracy, quality of writing is very hard to define. One of my English teachers at school used to go quite ape about the fact that his novel remained unpublished while science fiction authors like John Wyndham had large sales, despite their (in his view) lack of writing ability. But our English mistress (Girton, friend of Iris Murdoch) was of the view that if there is a market for writing, it cannot objectively be called bad. There is no standard.

I found that the article conveyed all the information I needed in a perfectly clear way. For a technical article, that's what I expect. Too many blog posts are obviously written by someone who went to journalism school. The result is overwritten and overhyped text aimed at people with a mayfly attention span. Technical people are already interested or they wouldn't be there, so they just want the essentials without fluff.

I dunno, Blaize, I do a lotta writing, and I never thought that yours was bad.
'sides, I'm more interested in good facts, ACCURATE reporting, and interesting opinions.
If I want great writing, I can always find John Updike, John Cheever, et al.
But those fellers don't have a lot of insight into BlackBerry...

Get over yourself. If these posts were edited they would probably suck. I like reading it coming straight from the writers. And I totally take him seriously - he's way smarter than I am on this stuff.

For the last few years of me being here on CB, one thing ive noticed and learned, Bla1ze is not only competent, but respected, not just here, but throughout other tech sites who credit him on news, leaks and rumors that's basically never questioned. Do you have that status? Are you writing tech articles that are read and respected? Its troll comments like that bringing this community down. Sure, i may have just taken the bait and gave you the attention you so deeply craved like a White Castle slider.
If YOU want to be taken seriously as a troll, mission accomplished. Otherwise, I feel you need to step up YOUR game.

Are you asking the Crackberry team to edit their articles the same way my university profs edit my essays? Well, then by the time the article hits the front page of this site, the new will no longer be news!

I found grammar errors on papers written by even PhD English profs.

One reason why I've always preferred math over tomes on proper grammar - math is principled and never actually changes. Language Arts (as such, an "art form") are in constant flux and is always changing.

Thanks for the article Bla1ze, always nice to read your posts.

Just an idea: With the less-than-what-we-expect specs for BB10 in the Dev Alpha, wouldn't this phone (with proper BB10 uploaded into it) be a great "low-end" phone for the market ?

Just a thought.

Si.

Interesting idea and certainly one I'd welcome. The hardware itself is quite good, even with the flaws which all could be corrected through the OS itself really. Thanks for the nice comment as well, appreciate it. :)

Hi Bla1ze,

Thanks for the article. I always enjoy yours.

As an aside, you always seem to be traveling. What line of work are you in that takes you all over?

1.5Ghz Dual Core with 1GB RAM so I've heard. I'd say the CPU was below expectations as quad cores are creeping into the market now. Personally, I think the specs are irrelevant if everything performs smoothly. Quad core is not necessary... Yet. Specs are hugely important in an Androiders mind, however, nobody actually knows why ;)

Because the Android market is full of the sort of people who worry about how many valves their car engine has and endlessly "upgrade" their desktops.

Because QNX is a proper multitasking embedded OS, you would expect it to benefit less from multiple cpus than would Android. It is already designed for efficient task multiplexing within a single cpu. My suspicion is that in the quad core machines, most of the cpus are switched off most of the time to conserve power. In theory, therefore, if you are using one of 4 the standby power might be lower than 1 of 2. But there are other ways to achieve that, such as a clock range extended at the lower end.

This is in line with the fact that "clock speed" (in Hz, though commonly in the MHz or GHz range) is never an accurate indicator of the actual speed of the processing. The file system (what I like to call a "branched web") and synapses between connections are also factors. The future is not in 10 GHz processors or anything like that, but in power-synaptic efficiency. Quantum computing will pave the way largely in the future.

Interestingly, as the cost of a faster CPU rises exponentially, the benefits of it also decrease proportionally exponentially, as well. Only extreme gamers and large corporations could truly benefit from the highest-end CPUs.

Exactly my point, iOS and BlackBerry 10 users don't need to care about specs, because, generally, the platform is smooth.

The problem for BlackBerry is getting the market from Android - Android users will most probably say "well that's crap, I've got 4 cores at the same speed as yours."

I think it's just a problem for RIM marketing to get around, perhaps an advertising campaign could get around the issue of the 'need' *cough* want for high CPU specs.

BB10 is definitely going to be much more efficient with its use of resources than the other Operating Systems out there.

They aren't low-end unless you are somebody who blindly goes with the idea that quadcore is automatically better than dualcore, the screen most definitely isn't low-end by any stretch of the imagination and such a device would cost far more than would be even remotely sensible at the lower end of the market.

The spec on the dev alpha is probably going to be very close to the final specs of the first bb10 devices.

2 questions....

First, how is the screen? I know the specs of the screen are awesome, but how does it actually look? Does it compete with the iPhone 4 screen? Is it better?

Also, what is the keyboard like? Is it identical to the PlayBook 2.0 keyboard?

The screen is awesome and it certainly is up there with the iPhone, it actually has a higher ppi than the iPhone 4 so it does look great.

The keyboard is, as you mentioned -- just the same as the PlayBook but we already saw the BB10 keyboard so the one on the Dev Alpha is not final in anyway.

Just a question, Bla1ze. I attended BlackBerry 10 Jam, and have an Alpha device. It's awesome.

My question is, do you think that release devices will have brighter displays? The resolution, colour and clarity are all perfect, but I can't help but think that a consumer device would need a bit more light.

If this screen is so great and has a higher ppi than the iPhone, then why does it not have a cute name? How about the "Pupil" display or the "Dialated Pupil" display or perhaps the Cornea or astigmatism?

I don't do this to be funny, and the retina display is impressive... but for some reason I always want to call it the rectum display instead.

Good write-up, but I'm not sure what we are left with. Since this is not indicative of the final device, why does it matter? I mean, what do we really know for sure?

Good question and realistically, it's just for the curious minded folks out there who had questions about the device itself. Not everyone got one, so I figured it was worthwhile to note some things.

All that said, some of what you're seeing on the Dev Alpha will filter over to other forthcoming devices, what exactly -- we dunno. RIM just wanted to be sure people are aware this is NOT the final working product so alas, I have to convey that message as well.

I would hazard a guess that the production models will have at the least everything the Dev Alpha does - likely impoved in some areas though.

I think I'm gonna start saving money to be able to get one of these devices when it comes out! can't wait!!!!!
thx for the review!

This particular device will never see release. This wasn't a review, more so a look at it for those who were curious. Again, this device is NOT final and in no way reflects what RIM will release to consumers.

I REALLY hope that for the new devices won't have the same RETARDED 'network' file system as the PlayBook. It's so freaking slow

This is true (and my BB 9900 has it too) - however, the image stabilization isn't without flaws. If you wanted to record a TV program from a camera with this, for example, it would have to be turned off. Also, it doesn't always work when it should.

The geek in me wants one, just cos it looks like a mini PlayBook :0)

So, if anyone wants to donate one please let me know.

I actually was talking about the BB10 device, the final device not this one! i can't buy the alpha dev anyway can I?!!

Depends entirely on how much you are willing to pay...

Haha, I kid, we all agreed to a document when we collected them stating we aren't allowed to sell them. All devices are barcoded too, so the barcodes are linked to a database connecting each device to the identity of the person in posession of it.

Anyhow, I love mine, and it's feature rich since I sideloaded all the PlayBook .bar files I needed!

Hahaha, that was cruel - I'm sorry.

I live in Arizona! I knew automatically when I saw the environment haha its cacti* plural Lol but I'm assuming that's Phoenix :-(

There's no BIS probably because BIS isn't launched for the Playbook, yet...

At present RIM hasn't released a device with the new OS that connects via BIS. Once the cellular Playbook is released no doubt BIS will magically appear for the BB 10 Alpha devices.

EDoF camera...is sounds like a bad thing. Is that what the playbook has? I find the playbooks cameras are pretty great. Also what is BIS and why is not having it a good thing? Sorry I'm ot familiar with these acronyms haha

BIS is blackberry internet service. It's what makes data compression possible and delivers push notifications and e-mail.

The PlayBook's camera, by contemporary standards, is OK, but I'm not too crazy about the sub-par adjustment to the reproduction of the brightness of the environment (often times, it comes out too bright or not bright enough), and the colors aren't quite vivid enough. It acts more like a 65K color camera than one with 16.7 million colors. Also, the picture itself is kind of grainy. Altogether, though, it's a decent camera, but it's well below the expected standard for 1080p.

Fascinating piece, bodes well for RIM .I am now incredibly curious about hidden apps and functions of PlayBook . Could you please tell me what they are ? I never knew they existed until I read this post. Always eager to learn more about the incredible PB !

Adding to what Bla1ze said, as well as the ones that work on PlayBook performing better, I believe (correct me if I'm wrong), that RIM are planning support in the player for access to various other features of Android fairly soon. Camera included... I think.

(though I tweeted you Blaz1e, I'm officially commenting here as well)

This in-depth look and write-up was amazing! I have yet to be an owner of a BB10DA, but come June's Jam tour to Toronto (finger crossed that they be handed out) I have much more to look forward to than just a fancy new testing tool to flaunt. Again, great job on your full detailed coverage of the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha. Very much appreciated. ^DigitalHomeBoy

Haha, I love how this was put. The PlayBook camera is great for videoing in good light, outside. Photos aren't good and the same goes for indoor videos.

"In the end, they had to do something with all the ones they had built and to give them away to developers as a test bed for RIM's next-generation OS was a brilliant idea."

I think you are almost certainly mistaken on this part, while the design might have been considered for a potential release, they simply wouldn't have had thousands of them sitting around with nothing to do since they would be useful for their internal testing prior to getting newer hardware and this 2000 or so given away to developers was probably built specially for them.

To have killer battery life you can't have LCD backlighting. LED is the only way to go. BB10 won't be great if the hardware doesn't match the current batch of Android devices. There is a reason why Samsung is the #1 smartphone manufacturer: displays are large and stunning, yet battery life is excellent.

If referring to the Galaxy S II, the battery life is appalling, the display is great and the build quality is absolutely terrible. I've never held such a cheap feeling phone. The hardware such as processing and RAM isn't AS necessary in a BB10 device because it is QNX based and QNX handles resources incredibly well whereas Android doesn't handle memory as well.

I'm wondering, are you basing this off of Samsung ad campaigns, or do you own a Samsung?

Great article Blaise, thx!

Maybe BIS will be optional for BB phones in the future.

That is, buy a phone + BIS plan or buy a BB +micro data sim..

Possibility?

I have come to enjoy, appreciate and love reading these blogs regardless of how geeky, nerdy and techie they are, even if there are typos to the masses, THEY'RE GREAT!!! :)

ROCK THE 'BERRY BLAZ1E!!

RIM should release a WiFi only device than runs BBM! Expand BBM's reach so even kids can get in on the act. Apple was smart to allow iMessage on all iOS devices.

I have a few questions, regarding expectations for the new line of BB10 devices - it's understandable that some specs will be released/added on later, so not all is known about them yet.

1) Will they have fully integrated HTML5 and Open/Web GL support? I'm aware that it certainly has HTML5 integrated, but will it be up to leading standards?

2) I believe that the BB10 launch could only fully be successful with the inclusion of an LTE-integrated line (though not necessarily all models must have it). Seeing as how the "Winchester2" (future PlayBook) has one in the works, how likely is it that it becomes the standard for BB10 phones, given the costs?

3) Will the BB10 launch be accompanied by a licensed BlackBerry Cloud(TM) product? (http://img41.imageshack.us/img41/6784/blackberrycloud.png) I saw an illustration of this in the works (TV/wireless integration), but will the infrastructure be proprietary to BlackBerry?

4) Will BB10 devices and the newer PlayBooks have "remote console" support? (i.e. Using the PB directly from the BB10 device, and vice-versa)

5) Will BB10 have built-in augmented reality? (Not something I care a great deal about, but interesting nonetheless)

P.S. Great writing, BTW!

The physical one? Coming, in a future device.

The BB10 one? Coming, in the full BB10.

Both? Coming, in a device that is meant for consumers - not developers!