Hands-on with BlackBerry 10 running on Dev Alpha B Hardware!

CrackBerry's BlackBerry 10 OS preview shows off revamped Flow UI, BlackBerry Hub, Active Frames, BlackBerry Messenger and more!
Hands-On With the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha B!
By Kevin Michaluk on 25 Sep 2012 12:01 pm EDT
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CrackBerry had the opportunity yesterday to get an early hands-on preview of the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha B device that will be given to developers in attendance at BlackBerry Jam Americas.

Beyond the hardware, we also got another great look at the upcoming BlackBerry 10 operating system in action, which this time we can both talk about and actually show you. And in true CrackBerry style, we're not just bringing you one hands-on video of BlackBerry 10 in action, but two.

While BlackBerry 10 has been kept very well under wraps to date, the videos and photos below provide a much better feel for what we can expect of BlackBerry 10 when it hits the market early next year.  

Hands-On with BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha B Videos

In this video, yours truly takes the helm of the device, walking through this BlackBerry 10 preview on the Dev Alpha B.

And in this video, Research In Motion's Michael Clewley takes us through the BlackBerry 10 experience on the Dev Alpha B.

And one more. In this video you can check out the Time Shift camera app feature of BlackBerry 10 in action for real!

BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha B Hardware

Dev Alpha B
left: Dev Alpha B; right: Dev Alpha 

If you're wondering why a Dev Alpha B? it's because RIM ran out of Dev Alpha devices, of which 5,000 were originally made. Both devices deliver the same experience to developers, though there are some differences. 

Visually, the external casing of the Dev Alpha B is slightly chunkier with squared-off corners, and features a removable battery door. There's also a raised lip at the bottom of the front of the phone (which we found can make the swipe up action a little trickier than on the Dev Alpha).

Dev Alpha B
left: Dev Alpha B; right: Dev Alpha 

We were told the hardware internals and specs of the Dev Alpha are very representative of what the first BlackBerry 10 full touchscreen device will hit the market with. Under that battery door is a 1800mAh LS-1 battery, so as previously rumored you can safely bet that's the battery we'll see in the first BlackBerry 10 full touchscreen phone.

Dev Alpha B Battery
Removable battery door (note the NFC antenna), 1800mAh LS1 battery 

And while the original Dev Alpha shipped with the PlayBook OS running on it, the Dev Alpha B will be running a stripped-down version of BlackBerry 10. The flow UI will be there, as will be some of the core apps, including BlackBerry Messenger and the web browser. Developers with the original Dev Alpha will be able to download the same OS build that's on the Dev Alpha B. 

BlackBerry 10 Changes, Highlights and Impressions

BlackBerry 10 Lock Screen
The BlackBerry 10 Lock screen is fun to play with :)

The version of the BlackBerry 10 OS that is featured in this post is more feature complete than the version developers will receive on their Dev Alpha hardware. And yes, what we're looking at here more closely approximates what the we experienced when we went hands-on with the real BlackBerry 10 phones that will be hitting the market next year. So when we wrote about the 10 Things We're Looking Forward To in BlackBerry 10 so far, you can now see exactly what we're talking about.

There are a lot of little details here that we can micro-analyze, so for now we'll focus on the big changes and features that were highlighted to us during our briefing.

HomeScreen / Flow UI Tweaks

Lock Screen - Turning the device on, you can now see the useful and fun lock screen experience we spoke of in our earlier hands-on preview. Dragging your finger from the bottom up unlocks the display, and as you move your finger you can literally see through to the OS. The OS will open back to wherever you left off. Quick access to the camera is available through the lock screen, and there's also a preview of message notifications and upcoming appointments. One cool feature that we discovered that's not shown in this video is that you can also swipe down from the top on the lock screen. This will bring you to Bedside mode - it's literally like closing the curtains "good night!" on your phone. 

Horizontal Scrolling in App Drawer - On previous looks at the BlackBerry 10 home screen, the main app drawer of application shortcuts scrolled vertically. This has been changed to horizontal panes, which we think is smart. You can also jump panes and rapid scroll through panes. So if you have 5 panes of apps, you can literally go straight from the first one to the fifth one in a tap. 

Active Frames - When apps are open but minimized, they appear on a dedicated pane on the home screen, where up to the most recent eight running apps are displayed. These are now referred to as Active Frames. Not widgets. Not live tiles. Active frames! Active frames show useful information as decided by the developer. Essentially when an app is a built, the developer can choose what information they want displayed to show in the active frame. And it can be dynamic. For example, with BBM, the Active Frame will update to show you your most recent incoming message. 

BlackBerry Hub - BlackBerry Hub is the new name for the unified inbox on BlackBerry 10, which is a fitting name given that it's so much more than an email inbox. The gesture to jump into the BlackBerry Hub has changed too since what was previewed in May at BlackBerry World. Previously, the gesture was to move from the bottom right corner of the phone and push your way into the inbox. Now you swipe up from the bottom of the phone and then move your thumb to the right. It's a little tricky to explain in words, so be sure to watch the videos. We think it's a brilliant change though. It's more a natural movement for the thumb, and there's this subconscious feeling that the the BlackBerry Hub is ALWAYS there underneath whatever it is you're doing. You can always just pull back the app you're in and it's there.

BlackBerry 10 Hub
The BlackBerry 10 Hub is much more than a unified inbox

As for the BlackBerry Hub, it really is much more than unified inbox. BBM, SMS, Facebook, Twitter, Linked in all integrate into it. From the main messages area you an even swipe down to reveal upcoming calendar appointments (awesome feature!). At the launch of the BlackBerry 10 developers will be able to tie into the Hub for delivering notifications, and soon after will be able to tie right into the native Hub.

Quick Settings / Menus - Swiping down from the top of the phone of the screen reveals a quick settings menu. As for menus, with no physical "menu button" on BlackBerry 10 phones, the menu button is represented throughout the operating system via a graphic with three little dots. Core app functionality will mainly be displayed at eye level, but additional features and options are accessible via this menu overflow button. When tapped, the menu slides in and can we swiped away. It's a really clean implementation.

One-Handed UI touches - A great example of the one-handed friendliness of BlackBerry 10 can be found in the web browser. Instead of putting the url bar at the top of the display, where it's out of easy reach of your thumb, it's been moved to the bottom of the browser. Simple. Brilliant. As you use the operating system, you really get that sense that for being a big touchscreen phone, they're doing everything they can to make it feel small, in the sense that everything of importance is accessible from your thumb.

BlackBerry App World Now Features Videos, TV Shows and Music!

BlackBerry 10 App World
Movies, TV Shows and Music can be purchased within App World

One of the features we were most excited to see unveiled was an updated BlackBerry App World, which now features the ability to directly purchase Music, Movies and TV shows. That's right, BlackBerry has a full content ecosystem that makes sense! This has been one of our wishes for a long time now - to be able to make content purchases beyond apps and games using your BlackBerry ID.

BlackBerry 10 App World
Content payment via BlackBerry ID includes paypal, credit card and carrier billing

This means video and music purchases can be made via paypal, credit card and even by carrier billing. This also means only needing to manage one account - none of this separate accounts and apps for the 7 Digital Music Store and Rovi Video Store. Finally! 

BlackBerry Messenger Amplified!

BlackBerry Messenger on BlackBerry 10
BlackBerry Messenger gets a BIG overhaul for BlackBerry 10

With ~50 million BlackBerry Messenger users worldwide on current BlackBerry 7 and older Smartphones, it only makes sense that BBM would get a major overhaul for BlackBerry 10 (have to get the BBM-addicted user base out there to upgrade to BB10 phones asap!).  

We're loving what we see here, including the treatment to BBM Groups, which does a much better job at surfacing a lot of the functionality that is currently buried beneath the menu button on BBM. Pictures, Lists and Events are brought to the display layer and take advantage of the active frame functionality found on the BlackBerry 10 homescreen. For example, if a new picture is posted to a BBM group, the newest picture will display on the Active Frame within the Picture's active frame on the Group's homepage. 

We were also told that BlackBerry ID now plays a roll in BlackBerry Messenger. So instead of having to setup your BBM list separately (backed up from email address or SD card), it'll all be managed by your BBID. So once you login to your device with BBID, your BBM contacts will all be there.  

Still So Much More To Come...

If you're reading this and haven't checked out the videos yet, go and watch them now! If a picture is worth a thousand words, these videos are worth a million. There's a lot of little details in there that give a great idea of how the BlackBerry 10 experience is all pulling together.

What's really exciting is that while we are getting a chance to see a lot here, there is still so much more for us to see as BlackBerry 10 gets ready to hit the market. And it can't come soon enough! 

Reader comments

Hands-on with BlackBerry 10 running on Dev Alpha B Hardware!

283 Comments

I must say that this sneak peak and demos have given me further enthusiasm for BB10. But, unfortunately I do have some concerns: 1) 1800 mAh battery seems a bit small. Would prefer 2100+ for long power usage. 2) With the emphasis on multi-tasking, I feel 2gb would provide a better experience then 1gb. 3) A potential 6 month wait prior to release is a killer and could make BB10 DOA!

Ive been sticking to my Blackberry, even though all my iphone friends tell me BB is dead and there isnt any hope gohead and switch to the iphone.. IM GLAD ive waited!.. cant wait for this phone!

I left Blackberry years ago, currently using SGS3, I love the direction BlackBerry is going. This is very promising and cool. They also have added wireless charging from the looks of the inside of the battery door. Great job Kevin, keep it coming BlackBerry.
PS - BlackBerry must make sure that the hardware is up to date with great specs.

That battery door most likely reflects NFC, not wireless charging. BUt if it does have wireless charging, that would be awesome.

Sad to only see a 1800 mAh in this device. Given how big it is and how large the back panel is, PLUS the fact that there is no physical keyboard, you would have thought they would put a bigger battery inside, even if it is removable. A device like this, with "true" multitasking and LTE is probably going to rape batteries. Needed at least 2,000 mAh or bigger.

All day phones are a must now....

Agreed. This is the trend the industry should be headed in (following the Droid RAZR MAXX). We must use our purchasing power to push them down this path.

Its true, wish they had a better battery. But guys remember QNX optimizes battery life while mutli-tasking also. The new BB10 frameworks comes with battery saver features like theme changer. Also snapdragon pro processor is the best for battery life saver on the market.

I think its gonna be pretty good for battery life, I have downloaded bb10 new update on my dev alpha and charged last night. Took it off the charger at 10am and its currently 1 am of the next day and its in the red now. I was playing games on the bus and all day and was talking on bbm and whatsapp(android) in wifi.

Even though i didn't have 3G lte on, which would have dropped battery life by 10% compared to wifi, since this battery is 1400ma im guessing even with 1800ma in the new phone and on 3G the phone will last a long time.

Nice! Building a new OS is not a easy task. And doing it well and not being afraid of jumping out of the box certainly got my admiration. Looking forward to BB10! Now i just hope my phone provider will carry it!!

I don't know. It's kind of boring. I don't know if I'm excited about this.

This is the phone that they promised to come out this year to compete with the iPhone 5.
If they came out with this product like they promised earlier this year, it would have been a yawner

Again, all this looks great, but I have most (or most of what I need) on my iPhone. They need to start showing these advancements on a physical keyboard device, so the rest of us who prefer the physical keyboard, can plan ahead. And.....do NOT lose the trackpad!! I would hope that cool flow would work with a trackpad too.

Guys, guys, guys... All of this BB10 porn!!

Do you realize how hard it is to see you puting your hands all over that "Perfect 10", yet fully knowing that I need to abstain for several months before I get my turn?

Man, talk about textual frustration!!

Have RIM mentioned anything if this phone will resolve the long start-up / re-boot time? Definitely need that improved!

Just rebooted my S3 (for fun, not cause you have to like my Bold). 13 seconds was all it took. I agree, RIM MUST fix that.

May be I missed it with all the posts about Blackberry Jam Americas, but can anyone share the size and weight of the Dev Alpha B hardware and may be post comparison photos with iphone5 and galaxy s3?

If RIM wants this to work, they're going to have to make a big effort on advertising and getting people working in the carrier's stores wanting to sell them. I have a friend who told someone to walk into an AT&T store and ask for a BlackBerry- they ended up walking out with an Android. 2 days later after being frustrated with the Android and taking it back, they walked out with an iPhone. They really have to step it up a level or two if they want to make this work!
I can't wait for this any longer. Give me a keyboard BB10 phone now!

Too little too late. RIM sat on it's haunches far too long. I see NOTHING revolutionary and barely evolutionary here. I'll love you always BlackBerry, but you'll have to pry my Galaxy S3 from my cold dead hand.

We'll build an app for that. I started working in iOS and realized it was too crowded and then I joined this company for Android development. We thought it was great more open then Apple but still pretty one language Java.

We just downloaded the tools for BB10 and from a developer standpoint let me tell you - iOS can only be done in C++, Android can only be done in Java, BB10 has Java, C++, QML, HTML5, and Adobe AIR. Plus the tools are freedom, it literally takes us half the time to build a blackberry app and takes 2 days max to bring an old android app to BB10.

Not only have I switched, our entire company has started development for BB10. BTW there are tons of developers working here. This is being mimicked by 100s of 1000s of developer companies I know. Trust me I have an S3 too, had an S2 before and the first Google phone, I was a big fan but Android is gonna have serious competition.

My friend put it in a good way "Apple and Android were like the cheerleaders in highschool, and Blackberry was like that fat chick who was your good friend but who you stopped talking to, then later found out she lost weight and became a sexy goddess."

#blackisback all I am saying is that its a good third option , choose what you like most but don't put Blackberry because of any preconceived notions. Look at the horizon not the shore behind you.

Anybody know if we'll be able to do themes on BB10? Also will BBM Music be available still? Lastly, I'd really like to see RIM make more cool accesories for BB10 phones and the PlayBook. For the PB, I'd like to see a dock with built in HDMI out, a full size SD card slot and full USB connections so we can connect external hard drives to it and other things. As for the phones, since everyone is using their phones as mp3 players when they go work out, they should make cool looking arm bands or carrying cases for those of us who are active. And let's not forget a dock to charge, sync and charge a spare battery for the phones as well.

I'm pretty sure this is why they started the "Built for BlackBerry" licensing. So hopefully, (if RIM doesn't build a million different models & sizes) third party companies will make cool accessories like stereo docking stations, camera attachments and cool looking arm bands.

It seems the majority of the complaints seem to be regarding how "complicated" using this phone seems to be. You guys need to write an article showing that it's literally 3 gestures that operate this phone. A video stressing those gestures only would seriously go a long way getting the word out that IT IS very simple to operate.

EDIT:

And that it's ripoff from the Nokina N9 (Meego).

Dev Alpha B --- IS NOT Sexy, NOT very appealing
i am talking about the hardware, the phone itself

1. the screen itself reflects the direct light, which can make it hard to use outside
2. the rim around the screen makes the phone looks like from 10 years ago

one piece of non-reflective glass would make the look whole lot better

at this point the new Nokia 920 , iPhone 5 or HTC 8X are sexier and appealing

i hope the later BB 10 phones would be more interesting

FYI ... I did talk to some guys from Skype who were at the Blackberry America's Jam event at the party at the San Jose Tech Museum.

I would say after talking to them and swapping business cards and talking shop that things are looking good for Skype on BB 10.

Talked to some Cisco guys as well for the WebEX and that is what would really be so nice to have as the current WebEx on BB OS 7 just doesn't work.

I just bought the Blackberry Bold 9900 and love it, but I already cannot wait for the Blackberry 10. I am a crackberry addict. =]

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