We're making a list, Checking it twice, Gonna find out if BlackBerry 10 is Naughty or Nice (we hope nice!)...
The CrackBerry team has put together a killer set of marching orders for RIM to follow if they want BlackBerry 10 to succeed. None of this is rocket science. Some items are missing features. Some are user experience problems.
Fixing these issues should be RIM's top priority on the software side. We'll hold them accountable in a future update to this post. These problems are ALL solvable.
Make BlackBerry 10 something truly amazing. We think that if RIM nails all these issues, the BB10 platform will be unbelievably awesome. It's already pretty awesome with best-in-class multitasking and a pretty good start to the messaging experience (despite launch delays). But we're excited to see so much more!
PlayBook 2.0 is our best representation of what BlackBerry 10 will look like right now. Obviously there will be differences. But a lot of the core apps and OS features should be similar. We also saw those leaked BB10 screen caps back in February, which give some hints to changes we may see at the UI level.
So, RIM - this is what we expect from you. Nothing less. Thanks to Kevin, Adam, Bla1ze and Simon for their incredible input in helping me put this together. And we *know* there is more. So read through CrackBerry community, and add to the To Do list in the comments. You know the RIM team will be reading this one.
Messaging must be perfect.
The app should just be there. Always. The messages app on PlayBook 2.0 is good. But it's far from rock solid. It checks mails in the background automatically, even if the app is closed. But the app should never need to be loaded by the users. This is BlackBerry. Messaging is uber-important.
It can't crash. We've noticed that the message app crashes frequently. Usually this happens when the app is in the background rather than when it's active. But it does crash. And that simply can't happen when BB10 launches.
Make attachments dead-easy. Opening attachments is still a horrible experience. Here is the process for a PDF attachment within an email: Click on message (normal); Click on "1 attachment" to reveal filename; Select file; Wait for it to download; Notice green checkmark, indicating the download is finished; Click again, this time prompting you to name the file. There's no information explaining to the user that this process is to save the file on the device.; Once it is saved, it finally opens inside the Adobe Acrobat Reader app.
Opening a picture is even worse. Click to download. Click to save. Wonderful. Let's just give the user absolutely no indication that the file is now saved, and let's NOT automatically open the picture in the picture viewer. Just make the user figure it out and go through a whole bunch of unnecessary gestures. Really, RIM?
What happened to the RIM that prided themselves on having invented the track wheel and made everything super simple to do with a minimum of clicking and scrolling?
Let us compose tweets and status updates right from the messages app. While we're talking about messaging, RIM should take their unified inbox to the next level. Allow us to compose tweets and Facebook status messages from the app. Right now we're restricted to messages on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. What about messages for public consumption?
Apps need to respond faster
This is a problem that permeates through the entire OS 2.0 experience right now. It can quickly take a thrilling experience and turn it into one that is frustrating.
Sluggish loading and response times need to be improved. The messages app can feel sluggish to respond to touches when emails are coming in. I've often tried to open a message, only to have the touch ignored for a couple of seconds while more emails are coming in. Then, when the OS finally executes on my touch, the message I tried to open has moved down the list. The wrong message opens.
The podcast app is another one that feels very sluggish. It should not take more than 15 seconds to open the app and be able to start using it. "Using it" means that the app responds to touches and gestures. It's obvious that the coding could be improved. App World sometimes causes the same strange lags. They need to disappear.
Speaking of the Podcast app, the directory is quite small compared to iTunes. It's simple to submit to, yet many top podcasters don't know you have your own directory. Why, RIM, are you not tasking somebody with the job of importing every single RSS feed for the most popular iTunes podcasts? Grab the feed and stick it in your directory. If there are legal issues, then manually go out and contact these top podcasters. Make it mind-numbingly simple for them to click a button and approve the submission of their top podcast to your directory!
Virtual keyboard often slow. Typing on the virtual keyboard can also slow to a grinding halt at times. It happens often. I'll be typing and the responsiveness of the keyboard goes from normal to awful. I'll be typing, but the letters just aren't showing up at the same pace. I've never run into this problem on an iPad.
Fix the boot time
My two PlayBooks are both running OS 2.0 and they take about 2 minutes and 30 seconds to boot. I'm being kind and rounding down a tad. My first generation iPad takes 30 seconds to boot.
RIM needs to pay attention to details like this. I should not feel like rebooting the device is a hassle that I'd rather not do. I shouldn't look for opportunities to reboot while I'm doing something else, like making a cup of coffee.
Apple gets this. I have a 6 year old Black Macbook running Tiger. I can reboot it in 30 seconds flat ... and it has a hard drive rather than solid state memory!
There is simply no excuse for PlayBook to require nearly 3 minutes to boot up.
Communicate with users in a language we understand
I discovered another careless lack of attention to detail last week. This one shows me that the engineers are not thinking like end users. This needs to change.Last week, in App World, an update dropped for Modern Combat 2. Great game! I clicked the "Install Error:  There was a problem during installation. Please try again."
It turns out that this error was being caused by a lack of free storage space on my device. Too many kids movies.
BlackBerry's own support forum is of little help here. You'd think the error code was due to a corrupt app or an improperly signed app.
Thank goodness for CrackBerry Forums. A quick search on Google just brought me back here to figure out that the REAL problem was not enough memory (and be sure to download the new FREE CrackBerry Forums app to your BlackBerry phone if you haven't yet.
Standby battery drain is way too quick
We don't have a series of scientific measurements here, but the CrackBerry team agrees that the PlayBook's battery life is way too short. Personally, I like to go back and forth a lot between my iPad and my PlayBook. It helps me notice differences. Very often, if I go to use my PlayBook after not touching it for a couple of days, it is dead. Bla1ze has the exact same problem, judging from the colorful email he sent me when I was soliciting feedback for this article. Kevin says the WiFi File sharing is the culprit, since the PlayBook is "listening" in case you drag and drop any files from your computer onto the PlayBook wirelessly. BlackBerry OS 7.1 has introduced Battery Saving Mode on the phones - maybe a power consumption profile needs to be put in the user's hands on BlackBerry 10.
While on the topic of power, here's a minor issue that bugs me. When you power on the device it takes several seconds of waiting just to get any life out of that tiny red LED. I sit there wondering if I successfully pressed the button or not. I wonder if the battery is dead. Then, finally, the light comes on.
Way more notifications required
RIM needs to ensure that BB10 is best in class when it comes to the communication experience. This means way more options for customizing your notiications and profile settings. Right now the OS provides minimal capabilities. Power BlackBerry users think this sucks.
Bedside mode on BB7 is an amazing feature. Yet it does not exist on the PlayBook yet at all. It needs to be there when BB10 launches. People love it.
It really feels like RIM did not spend any time thinking about what the best features are of the existing handheld devices. They dropped the ball on so much of what makes the BlackBerry OS great.
BlackBerry ID needs to be integrated into everything
Customers shouldn't need separate login and payment accounts for the apps, music, movies and ebook apps that come preloaded native on the device. App World, Kobo, 7Digital... too many accounts for basic content! We heard you loud and clear, RIM. You do not want to build every consumer service yourself. Fine. But do a damn good job of integrating a third party service with your BBID system. Let owners pay via BBID, then cut your partners checks from there. This might not be the easiest thing for RIM to pitch to partners right now, but the option to do it all through BBID needs to be there for users.
Why should consumers have to deal with hassles that you can easily solve through better integration? Let's make it happen, RIM.
Create a BBEZ Migration Wizzard
Kevin came up with this awesome suggestion. RIM needs to make it stupidly easy to move from an old-world Java OS BlackBerry to BB10. They also need to make it equally dumb-ass-easy for iOS and Android users to switch to BlackBerry for the first time.
Branding this as BlackBerry Easy (BBEZ) wouldn't be a bad idea (not E Zed for all the Canadians reading). RIM should turn this into a crystal-clear guide for switching to BB10. Get rid of any barriers! I'm throwing in another vote for Kevin as CMO because of this idea. Totally kicks ass.
Walk your talk on super apps
RIM has been talking about its super app strategy for quite some time. You remember, right? The whole concept is that apps are embedded into the OS, so you can almost do anything from anywhere. But again, on the PlayBook's QNX OS so far, they've failed to deliver this experience.
Why can't we email a photo from within the photo viewer? Simon Sage points out that on a BlackBerry today, you can get a context menu with "send to" as an option. We can email our photos. We can send them to Facebook or Twitter. This is all completely missing from the PlayBook today.
How about highlighting zip codes in the browser and letting a user click+hold to reveal an option to show the zip code in Bing Maps? If you have other ideas on how RIM can bring super apps to BB10, let us know in the comments. We have seen via the new native messaging apps on PlayBook OS 2.0 that at least technically this integrated app experience is possible - it just feels now like there are a lot of native apps waiting for updates that take advantage.
Now, speaking of super apps, RIM needs to unleash an incredibly deep set of APIs on developers. The guys who want to get creative need deep hooks into the OS. You can only do so much with stand-alone apps. RIM invented this whole concept, so we absolutely expect the company to get this done. There are no excuses! Let's hope we're blown away at BlackBerry Jam next month where hopefully we'll see a lot more of the NDK come to life.
Big name apps need to be there at launch
Skype. Netflix. Instagram. Dropbox. Kindle. Evernote. These, and many other big names need to be in App World at launch. This has been so often repeated that we stuck it at the end. It's obvious. But it has to be on the list.
RIM is always saying that they can't control the timelines of third party developers for these big name apps. That's a cop out. RIM - you can't control them but you can influence. Take a page out of "The Ultimate Sales Machine" by Chet Holmes. Be Pigheaded, relentless and determined. Keep after them. Find a way to get these guys on board. Make. It. Happen. If BlackBerry 10 phones are sent out to tech reviewers for review, and the no-brainer must have apps are missing, that's going to be the first thing mentioned in the Cons list. An it's going to hurt potential sales. There's almost no point even putting BlackBerry 10 phones on the market until this app gap is adequately sealed shut. We don't need 500,000 apps at the launch of BlackBerry 10. But we need all the ones people expect to have. And the app on these needs to be first class. No second class app experiences from the big boys.
Marketing and Commercials that blow us away
Over the years we've seen a lot of critisicm from CrackBerry Nations against RIM's marketing. For the longest time, the critisicm was that there was a complete lack of it. Then as RIM ramped up BlackBerry commercials, the opinions have been mixed on a lot of it. The past is the past. What matters is that when the world stops to consider BlackBerry 10 phones, that the commercials make everybody -- even iPhone owners -- want to run out and buy it. Oh, and if you think you have a good idea for a BlackBerry commercial, why not show it to us by doing up a video for CrackBerry's BeBold Video Contest (you can win a trip to BlackBerry World!).
In the end it's all about focusing on the user experience
RIM needs to massively step up its attention to detail on software. It's time to refuse imperfection. It's time to get rid of anyone who doesn't 100% "get it" in the company. And promote the people who not only get it, but grab the bull by the horns and execute!
We're excited to see what you can do, RIM. The TAT team has shown so much potential and we don't see the fruits of their labor in the PlayBook OS yet. Make sure they have a heavy hand at influencing BB10.
Kick ass and take names. You've got the potential. You've squandered your former lead. Is it within you to recapture some of it? If so, you'll have to change the way you focus on quality and user experience. This list is how we'll be holding you accountable.