Though the BlackBerry Z30 has a lot of cool stuff going for it, like stereo speakers and new antenna tech, what's most exciting for early BB10 adopters is the OS 10.2 update the Z30 brings in tow. We've touched on most of the new features in our extensive review, but let's dive a little bit deeper into the features that Z10, Q10, and Q5 owners will also be getting to enjoy later this month.
Though you're likely familiar with the broad strokes of 10.2, I've found more than a few surprises when digging into the update.
One of the most visible updates in BlackBerry 10.2 are lock screen notification previews. In 10.1, you could see the notification count on a per-app basis, but now you can tap each of those icons for a sneak peek at what exactly those notifications are. Though this is most handy for e-mail, you’ll also get previews from other Hub-enabled apps, like Twitter and Google Talk. It’s worth noting that if you’re on a corporate server and using Balance to separate personal and work info, your work correspondence won’t show up here unless the work side is unlocked. Lock screen notification previews are a really sensible way to see what’s happening at a glance without having to unlock your device.
Priority Hub is the next biggest addition to BlackBerry 10.2. Not only is this a new section of the Hub, but it also adds visibility to other notifications throughout the Hub with a little red stripe. (You can get another little stripe on the left side to color code your different e-mail accounts, too.) By default, conversations you start, messages sent from people with the same last name as you, and e-mails flagged as high importance show up in the Priority Hub, but you can also manually designate contacts and conversations to show up. If there are messages being marked as priority that aren’t, you can also unflag them to set future filtering. This is a solid way to quickly see what’s important without having to dig through a long list of unread messages.
Attachment view is an updated section of the Hub which lets you view all of the files sent your way recently, filtered and organized by sender, date, file name, or type. View can be toggled to a large finger-friendly tile view or a more compact list view. There’s a search bar here too in order to find exactly what you’re looking for and download it without having to crack open any individual messages. If you sling a lot of documents back and forth over e-mail, you’re bound to end up using the attachment view a bunch.
Instant previews and replies are an awesome addition to BlackBerry 10. These toast notifications pop up at the top of the screen as banners no matter which app you have open. You can either tap the banner to launch into the notification, or the little X to dismiss. These can be toggled on a per-app basis, including e-mail accounts, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Of course, you don’t necessarily want a banner for every new e-mail, so the option is there for only priority contacts and messages to pop up. SMS and BBM notifications are a little more awesome in that they also have a reply button, so you can shoot back messages without having to launch into the respective app.
The native calendar app has a new option for upcoming meetings. When your appointment reminder pops up, you’ll have the option to send out an I Will be Late message to all meeting attendees - just tap the icon, move the slider depending on how late you’re going to be, and hit send. Everyone will get an e-mail letting them know what’s up. I’d really like to have the option to send location at the same time so folks can see exactly how far away you are from getting to the meeting location, but maybe in the next patch. Aside from that, the calendar also lets you subscribe to web iCal calendars now, and the UI for creating new meetings has been simplified dramatically. That new UI include a great new time picker which shows a short view of your schedule’s timeline.
Sometimes you have to ignore a call from a friend, but that’s no reason to leave them high and dry. The new Reply Now feature lets you send an automated SMS or BBM message when you decline or ignore a call from them. There are three messages already filled out for you to use, but you can change them to whatever you like. I’ll be honest - I haven’t been able to get this to work so far, but the feature’s apparently in there, tucked away in the settings.
Copy and paste was a little bit of a hassle on BlackBerry 10.1, but they’ve significantly improved it. Now instead of having to double-tap selected text and chose your action from a side menu, buttons now appear in-line with text so you’ve got cut, copy, and paste actions ready to go immediately. If you're wondering what they each do, you can always hold down a press on the button to get a label to pop up, just like other menu items throughout BB10. This paradigm extends beyond that too - you can also share selected text to any app that plugs into the system-wide menu, and in the browser, you can launch directly into web searches for a selected term thanks to a dedicated in-line icon. Tack this on top of the refined cursor selector in 10.1, and handling text in any way has become a lot easier.
So long as we’re talking about text, the typing experience on BlackBerry 10.2 has added fresh audio feedback. Though this amounts to little more than a couple of new sound effects when you use shift, symbols, or backspace (which has a new animation for the swipe gesture, by the way), it adds a significant amount of confidence when typing on a touchscreen.
Evernote was baked directly into the native Remember app since launch, but a new stand-alone Evernote app has been preloaded with BlackBerry 10.2. It includes a lot of important features for those that rely on the web notetaking service regularly. For example, there’s rich text editing, complete with interactive checkboxes now. There’s also tag support, so you don’t have to rely exclusively on notebooks to organize your notes. (Oh, speaking of Remember, you can now include due dates to items, which will show up on the calendar.)
Adaptive Sharing is an update on the native sharing menu so that it doesn’t just show a list of outgoing sources to use. BlackBerry 10.2 monitors your sharing habits and suggests the most common destinations (either which channels or which contacts) you share to most regularly at the top. This can save two or three taps, and is super-handy for getting files and articles out to people you share to all the time.
BlackBerry is describing Natural Sound as a higher-quality audio experience that will blow HD voice calls and even voice over LTE out of the water by including an extremely broad range of the audio spectrum. Of course, these high-quality calls are only available through BBM calls for now. Though this is facilitated on the BlackBerry Z30 by way of additional microphones and speakers, many of these audio improvements will find their way to older devices by way of the update to 10.2, as additional codecs help the hardware handle audio a little bit better.
BlackBerry 10.2 includes Miracast support, which allows wirelessly shunting the image on your device to another, bigger screen. This is done over Wi-Fi Direct, which basically connects two devices by one starting up its own little hotspot and the other connecting to it. Wi-Fi Direct support has a wide range of uses, including file transfers and syncing. Though mirroring is going to be the main use case, Wi-Fi Direct shows up in the Share menu alongside Bluetooth and everything else. It’s worth noting that the BlackBerry Z10 won’t be getting Miracast or Wi-Fi Direct support. Combined with DLNA support, BB10 now has a strong arsenal of wireless media sharing capabilities.
USB host introduces a whole new range of accessories to BlackBerry 10, though even out of the box there are a lot of useful things you can do with it. With the help of a micro USB to USB adapter, you can plug flash drives into your BlackBerry, for example. Thumb drives are common enough when slinging files around an office, but USB host works fine for mouse and keyboard too. Bluetooth support for the two interfaces has been around for awhile, but my Z30 recognized the wireless USB receiver for my Microsoft mouse and keyboard without any hassle. Now, this feature won't be getting rolled out to previous devices, but we can count on it being in new BlackBerry devices from here on in.
BlackBerry 10.2 includes a new runtime for Android 4.2.2 apps. Though there aren’t any major feature additions here, it does enable hardware acceleration, which significantly improves the performance of Android ports. I’ve had a few hiccups when sideloading, though. For one, it’s tough getting rid of the back navigation bar now, since swiping from the top summons the Android menu, not the BlackBerry 10 one. Also, some sideloads which worked fine on the unlocked runtime I’ve got running on my Z10 won’t play nice on the stock runtime with Android 10.2 - namely Temple Run 2 and Candy Crush Saga. Adam and James say they’ve been sideloading fine though, so your mileage may vary.
Headless apps are another way of referring to background apps - software that runs in the background without you having to purposefully turn it on. Technically, these won’t be available until 10.2.1, but they’re worth highlighting here. Third-party developers will be able to plug right into the Hub so their background notifications will bubble up - but this is something we’ve already seen here and there with select partners. This is a big step in the OS maturing, and once developers start getting involved in the Hub and running in the background, I think we’re going to see some awesome stuff in BlackBerry World.
Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy is included in BlackBerry 10.2, which opens a whole host of new connections. Consistent, low-demand connections are a big part of this iteration of Bluetooth, and as we’ve seen in some Jam Asia demos, this is perfect for biometric devices like heart rate monitors. One nice inclusion on the Bluetooth front is automotive integration, which optimizes audio settings and set-up for your particular make of car, shows the vehicle logo when the device is locked and car is in motion, and provides a dedicated BlackBerry World section for apps approved by the auto maker. Part of that integration includes the rSAP profile, which allows other devices (like cars) to use your SIM credentials to connect to the cellular network.
Though the Z10 and Z30 use the same camera module, you 10.2 does introduce grid line options, so you can line up your shots with the rule of thirds and keep your pictures level. We were also told that the autofocus logic was changed so that the shot would happen only once a focus lock was made. In the old version, it opted for a faster shot-to-shot time, which would inevitably lead to fuzzier pictures. A particularly nice addition is that now when you peek at the thumbnail of the picture you just took by dragging the image, there are options right away to share or delete - no needing to launch into the pictures app, or even tap anything. Just drag and release. There’s also apparently new face detection in there so you can set the focus on one or multiple faces that are in the frame, but I haven’t been able to get it to work just yet. For those working in video, Story Maker now includes a Share button in the menu, and you can shut down the app more quickly, without having to wait for your final creation to be processed - it’ll handle that in the background, and leave a notification in the Hub when it's done. Oh, and the camera shutter is muted if your profile is set to silent now. There's also a new focus lock which is enabled when you long-press the focus point; this makes sure the camera isn't constantly auto-focusing before your shot in order to save time, but you'll also have to make sure the target stays within focus yourself.
The native NFC tag app has been expanded a whole bunch in 10.2. In addition to the old triggers you could write to a tag, like opening a web page, sending a text message, or starting a phone call, now you’ve got several new categories: Smart Triggers, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Contact, Event, and Geo Location. Smart Triggers is the really fun one. You can toggle network options, change notification modes, switch alarms, launch apps, or even change your wallpaper. This is pretty awesome overall, and might actually get me using NFC tags more often around the house.
There are a few small tweaks to browser in BlackBerry 10.2. One that I found out by sheer fluke the other night was by holding down the back button, you actually get a condensed view of your web history, so you can quickly hop back to a page that was a couple of visits ago. Reader mode also has the option to invert colors, which is great. I always found I read better with light text on a dark background anyway.
BlackBerry 10.2 now lets you dig into a Device Monitor utility to see which apps are eating up CPU cycles and memory.
10.2 now lets you set more than one alarm! Simple, but a deal-breaker for many. Just tap the big plus icon in the top-right of the clock app.
A new checkbox that pops up when adding multiple people to a new SMS that enables group conversations. A pop up warns you that the messages will count as MMS and you'll be billed accordingly.
Specific apps let you switch between dark and light UI themes, including calendar and contacts.
Within phone options for devices with a hardware keyboard (like the Q10 and Q5), you can assign keys to speed dial. It doesn't work quite like it used to, in that you have to launch the phone app before holding down the key you assign to a contact, but it's still fairly convenient if you're running low on space with the software-based quick dial shortcuts.
These are the most features we’ve been able to identify, but there are no doubt many of smaller changes that have flown under the radar. Have any of you guys spotted some particularly welcome updates in 10.2 so far?