BlackBerry 10. We're EXCITED about it for a LOT of reasons. We have already gone over in detail ten things we're looking forward to in BlackBerry 10 (so far). Beyond new devices, BlackBerry 10 is a new platform and there is much to be gained. But what about things we are losing?
To be certain, there are things we will be giving up as BlackBerry Smartphones make the leap up from the legacy BlackBerry OS to the QNX-based BlackBerry 10 platform. Some of these things will be a loss welcomed by all. Bye bye spinning clock! Farewell battery pulls!
At the same time, based on what we have seen of BlackBerry 10 preview software and devices so far (the Dev Alpha A and B and unofficial leaked images that have surfaced of the L and N series), it appears we'll also be losing a handful of things that many of us have come to love on our current BlackBerry Smartphones.
10 Things We Will Lose in BlackBerry 10 (maybe, sorta...things change)
Keep in mind as you read this that items on the list *could* change. It's based on observations to date leading up to the launch of the first BB10 phones in 2013. BlackBerry 10 is a new platform that RIM will continue to build on for the next ten years. That's a long time. Which means anything can change. A few of the things we'll lose are certain. Others we put question marks around. As the story becomes clear, we'll be sure to come back and keep things updated.
1. The Trackpad
From the old school trackwheel to the infamous trackball and onto the silky smooth optical trackpad, there has always been a stationary navigation input on BlackBerry phones. However, with BlackBerry 10 it's all about swiping and tapping on the touchscreen display, even on the physical keyboard model.
This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone at this point. We've been predicting the demise of the trackpad on BlackBerry phones since the BlackBerry PlayBook was first unveiled. Given that the PlayBook OS never made use of a menu key, back button or navigation input other than the touchscreen, it only made sense that this completely touchscreen user interface would evolve to remain fully touchscreen on the phone too.
On current BlackBerry 7 Smartphones, the centrally-mounted trackpad allows the phone to be used easily with one hand. Moving your thumb just a half-inch in any direction of the trackpad gives you full control of the operating system. With a full touchscreen interface, your thumb/fingers will have to cover more distance on BlackBerry 10. That said, RIM also values the ability to use a phone easily with one hand, and it's clear that the BlackBerry 10 experience is being designed and optimized around that notion.
Is losing the trackpad a big loss? I don't believe so. In fact, I think maintaining the trackpad on BlackBerry 10 would only confuse the user experience. Think about the peek and flow gestures that are so fundamental to the BlackBerry 10 experience. It seems like making these gestures work off a trackpad would be extremely tricky, given their nature. Would you want to be able to swipe up on the trackpad to peek in to the BlackBerry Hub too? Or just off the display? How about glancing back within apps to the different layers within the app? Via the trackpad too? Or just the display?
Trackpad navigation suited the BlackBerry OS because navigation was mapped out in more of a straight path. Moving the trackpad or cursor from top to bottom or bottom to top on the display could jump around to basically every selectable option on the display. But with BlackBerry 10 it would become very tricky, especially given the gestures for peek and flow. And if you can't use the trackpad all the time, then that becomes confusing to the user too.
Bottom line, on BlackBerry 10 I think having the trackpad would only complicate navigation around the OS and even with apps. Yes, many of us will miss the trackpad and I think it's fine to still "want the trackpad"... but if you really think about how BlackBerry 10 works, it becomes apparent pretty quick that the experience would start to break down in a lot of areas if RIM tried to implement a trackpad into the device.
2. Call / End Call / Menu Key / Back Button
Along with the track button being removed on BlackBerry 10, so are the buttons that flanked it on both sides.
To me, losing the dedicated call and end call buttons is not that big of a deal. As we have witnessed on the preview builds of BlackBerry 10, the call button is baked into the OS at the bottom left corner of the display on the home screen. It's still highly accessible, which is what matters most. Even within an app, it's so easy to swipe up to return to the homescreen and access the call button, that losing the dedicated button should not be a concern. As for the end call button, you only really need it there when you're ending a call - it would just be taking up precious real estate if it was always there. On the legacy BlackBerry OS the end call button served double duty as a way to get back to the homescreen. That's not needed in BlackBerry 10.
As for losing the dedicated menu button and back buttons, similar to the trackpad we have seen some concern about this from the CrackBerry community. It's understandable. Having the menu and back buttons located next to the trackpad helps maintain that speed and one-handed ease of use on current BlackBerry Smartphones. You really do have full control over the phone within an inch. But as I demonstrated with a video of BlackBerry Messenger running on a preview build of BlackBerry 10, the in-app experience is so buttery smooth and fast, that I don't think these buttons will be missed. The ability to swipe back within an app and swipe or tap into menus is very fast (and fun!). Watch below to see what I mean...
3. Convenience Keys
BlackBerry Smartphones historically had two programmable convenience keys, one on each side of the phone. Then the one on the left was removed on more recent models, leaving only the one on the right (exception - they did add a dedicated BBM key back onto a couple of models).
With BlackBerry 10 phones, it appears we're now down to zero convenience keys. Removing the buttons does simplify the experience a bit, and most likely helps keep the costs of the hardware down - one less thing to engineer and a couple less parts to buy. But power users like having shortcuts, and the convenience keys were just that - convenient.
4. Dedicated Camera Shutter Button
* UPDATE: Well look at that. Just learned something new. As pointed out in the comments, on the Dev Alpha B you can actually push down on the Volume Up key to snap a photo. Just tested that and it worked. So we might be losing the convenience key to tap down on here, but looks like we'll have a different button we can use. I'll take it! *
As an extension of losing the right side convenience key, we also will lose the dedicated camera shutter button. Within the camera app, pushing down on the right side convenience key snapped photo. I'll miss this. Especially when holding the photo in landscape orientation, there's just something gratifying about pushing down on a physical button to take a photo.
5. Charging Contacts
Not every model of BlackBerry to date has had charging contacts, but it's something many of us are used to having and expect to have on a flagship BlackBerry. The main purpose of the charging contacts is for the device to easily sit in a charging pod (especially important for a portrait orientation phone, when the USB was high up on the left side of the device). The charging pod has always been an additional accessory, which means a lot of BlackBerry users to date have never even used the charging contacts, instead charging via the USB port.
I'm sure with BlackBerry 10 we'll still see charging stands available for devices, they'll just work via USB instead. On the full touchscreen device, it's easy enough to use the usb as the connector to the charging stand. Just lie the phone horizontal into the charging stand, and it's all good. RIM took this approach way back with the BlackBerry Storm and it's always worked. It will be interesting to see how charging stands pan out with physical keyboard BB10 devices. If they put the USB port at the bottom of the phone, then it can easily connect to a charging stand. However, if they were to put the USB up on the left side of the phone, then with no charging contacts things could get a little weird.
6. Third Party Themes
Though many theme developers and BlackBerry owners have been hoping third party themes would come to BlackBerry 10, it has been officially announced they will not be supported. At least for the foreseeable future (anything can change, right?).
For people who have never changed up their theme from the default one, this probably isn't a big deal. For people who like to personalize their phone and love changing up themes, it is.
In the past with the legacy BlackBerry OS, theme developers could really do a lot with Theme Builder, altering pretty much the entire user experience of the device. Beyond just changing up icons and color schemes, we saw a lot of creativity in the actual UI.
I'm a huge fan of personalization. Changing up wallpapers is a start, but I'd love to see theming options come to BlackBerry 10. Even limited ones, for example the ability to change up the default icons to new ones. We've already seen differing opinions on the native icons on BlackBerry 10. That's where the need to theme comes in. You can make everybody happy.
7. Keyboard Shortcuts?
This one is a bit of a question mark. On the legacy BlackBerry OS, there are TONS of keyboard shortcuts, but we have yet to see them transition over to the QNX-based OS. Will they come? We're not sure. With full touchscreen devices, there isn't much point to having them, even though you can slide up the keyboard from basically anywhere on the OS (it's just quicker to tap into whatever you want to do).
When you have a physical keyboard, however, it's really nice to be able to use keyboard shortcuts. Being able to map contacts to keyboard buttons and dial them up just by pressing is awesome. And tons of power users love to launch apps from the keyboard on the current OS. Beyond that on the current BBOS, there are lots of other keyboard commands that pull up different screens and functions. Not a lot of average users take advantage of those ones, but power users love them.
8. In / Out Holster Profile Settings?
* Update - Couple things here... A) When you go to the Device Password screen on the Dev Alpha, there is an option for "Lock Device Upon Holstering". Kinda makes us think there will definitely be a holster compatibility with BB10. Also, one of our CrackBerry peeps remembers hearing about being able to code for in / out settings. So take this point as meaning we don't see it on the Dev Alpha BB10 software today, but could easily be there for launch. We'll udpate this again when we have concrete word. *
You don't see a lot of people rocking their phone in a holster on their belt these days, so we wouldn't be surprised to see this legacy notifications profile go away in BlackBerry 10.
That said, there does appear to be a "sleeper magnet" on the Dev Alpha B. Running a magnet over the back of the device, there is a spot that flips the switch, so the display turns on and off when you move over it with a magnet. In the past, the purpose of this was to put the device into standby mode and trigger the in-holster notification profile. Having the sleeper functionality is handy - when you put the phone into a case that has a sleeper magnet, it ensures you'll never accidentally turn of the display. It's locked off until you pull it out of the case, at which time the display automatically is turned on.
For those who used a holster, the in-holster settings were super useful too. For example, when holstered you could have the phone ring louder and vibrate, but when out of the holster it wouldn't vibrate and ring quieter.
As of now on the preview build of BB10 on the Dev Alpha B, we're not seeing any in holster settings options. But we have noticed that more and more profile settings have been coming to the QNX-based OS, so we'll leave a question mark on this one for now.
9. Google Maps?
You can download Google Maps today for your BlackBerry Smartphone. With BlackBerry 10, Research In Motion has announced Tom Tom as their traffic and mapping partner. As of now, we don't really know if we'll see Google Maps become available as a third party application for BB10. A lot of people love Google Maps, myself included, so we'll keep our fingers crossed on this one.
10. Apps like QuickLaunch?
The legacy BlackBerry OS gave developers a lot of APIs, to the extent where developers could really alter and fix up the device. Over the years, third party developers were faster than RIM in a lot of cases at improving native OS features. Remember how HTML email viewing came to BlackBerry via a third party app long before it was ever built in? Another favorite among the CrackBerry community has always been QuickLaunch, which allows you to pull up a quick launch menu anywhere within the OS which allows you take action on almost anything.
RIM has already opened up a lot of APIs to developers and more are on the way, but it seems with the new QNX-based OS that developers won't be able to roll out some of these utility/function-based apps as they have in the past with the legacy BBOS. We'll have to see on this one though. Developers are a pretty crafty bunch and always seem to be able to find ways to do what they want.
But We Gain So Much More....
There you have it. Ten things we'll lose in BlackBerry 10. For some of you, none of the points listed will register as a loss. Others will feel strong about certain points. But no matter how you dice it, what we gain in BlackBerry 10 is so much more. Here's a quick list as a reminder...
- QNX-based OS - stable, multi-tasking power house
- LTE speed!
- Improved app and gaming experiences
- Improved web browser
- Enhanced media and consumption experiences
- More apps, better apps
- Modern app install process - fast installs, no rebooting
- Easy over the air OS updates
- Front-facing camera
- Video chat
- Support for way better specs - dual core, quad core and beyond.
- Dual persona baked in for enterprise - BlackBerry Balance
And we could go on and on and on. BlackBerry 10 is poised to keep the best of the BlackBerry experience while bringing to the table so much more.