SAN JOSE, Calif.--With BlackBerry OS 10, RIM is redesigning seemingly every aspect of its former operating system, from the browser to the lock screen. "Peeking" is one design theme. Here, sliding up a thumb or finger from the bottom of the phone slowly dissolves the lock screen, giving you a full or partial view of what's underneath. You can commit and unlock it all the way, or lower the veil once more.
I know you've heard it all before: a home screen experience characterized by thumbnail views of programs that update with recent activity. RIM seems to have followed in Microsoft's "live tile" footsteps here with "active frames," but there is at least one difference. The large frames correspond to open apps that you can invoke or minimize with a tap.
The Web browser is based on HTML5 standards, which RIM says will let Web surfers do cool things, like open the camera app within a site, without leaving the browser. For pages heavy with ads and other distractions, enabling reader mode with a few gestures will give you a clearer view of your story (pictured.)
RIM kept the idea of its universal message box for notifications and events, and turned it into an omnipresent element that's just under the surface. Peel back the page you're on, or more accurately, slide it back, and you'll be able to quickly check for new notifications. Calendar events, social networking updates, calls, texts, and e-mails all count.
RIM has really embraced the idea of layers in the design philosophy often referred to as "flow." You can use gestures to further reveal the newly dubbed BlackBerry Hub, a sort of catch-all navigation for accounts and settings. Currently in the beta product, there are two methods for peeling back the layers. You can simply peek back by moving a finger on the screen, or view a deeper layer by swiping a different "root back" arrow on a different part of the screen.
Further challenging you to stay focused on the new OS is what RIM calls a "cross cut menu," which you call up by pressing and holding something, say a contact entry in your address book. Here, you can forward or reply to the e-mail, organize it, and so on.
For a long time, BlackBerry Messenger, an app that lets you communicate nearly instantly and for free with other BlackBerry users, was unique to RIM (Apple followed suit with iMessage). In OS 10, the communications staple is decorated with the new smart keyboard and an emoticons keyboard that pops up and disappears when you're done.
RIM's first reveal of the camera wowed me with its neat timeshift trick, which virtually rewinds photos to let you pick an expression you prefer most. "Rewinding" in this case lets you pick from several snapshots taken in burst mode. It's smart, but once you make your pick, there's no going back.
RIM added this feature just for its corporate users: Enter the company name of a contact into your address book and you'll be able to keep tabs on the latest news about him or her. According to RIM, business professionals asked for this feature to stay up-to-date on clients and partners before meetings. It's powered by a database RIM acquired with a third-party company.