Research in Motion (RIM) is gearing up for its massive BlackBerry 10 (BB 10) launch in January next year, and it's pitching its reasons for you to jump on the BlackBerry bandwagon this week at BlackBerry Jam Asia in Bangkok, Thailand.
The message from the bevy of RIM execs that we've heard from at the event has been pretty uniformed: the stakes are high, the company admits certain failings in recent history, but the new platform is worth the attention of smartphone buyers and developers alike.
Here are its top reasons for why you should consider a BlackBerry 10 phone next year:
The Hub and Flow
If you've followed our coverage of BlackBerry 10 OS before, you'll be familiar with the new BlackBerry Hub and the concept of Flow in its new system. The Hub collects all of your messages and notifications in one place. It takes the idea of a notifications curtain, like in Android, and adds deeper interactivity with each item. It's not just for email and SMS either, any developer can post notifications there from an application.
The Flow, in words of the Dude Lebowski, is the rug that "really ties the room together". It refers to the way you multitask between apps, the way you can send tweets and Facebook updates without leaving the Hub, the way you can peek under an active app to check the process of another app "below" it.
During the Jam Asia keynote, we saw an extension of this inter-connectivity better the apps in BlackBerry 10. The contacts app automatically populates with LinkedIn data associated with that person, so that, rather than having to launch the LinkedIn app, you can view a person's career progression from within the Address Book. You can also connect with people on services like BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) in the same pane.
Keyboards: virtual and physical
We've also looked at the new predictive virtual keyboard that RIM has designed for BB 10, which RIM believes will convert lovers of its physical keyboards in previous handsets, like the Bold.
"[The virtual keyboard] is by far the best, there's no question about that," said Urpo Karjalainen, RIM's senior vice president and regional marketing director for Asia-Pacific. "Writing without typing clearly differentiates [BlackBerry 10 OS]."
Writing without typing refers to the swiping gesture RIM has built into its keyboard software, where it predicts the next word you'll use, and you swipe up from the keyboard to insert the word when it is correct. Like other similar virtual keyboards, for example SwiftKey, the software learns the words that each users goes to most, and improves the accuracy of predictions over time.
Though the next generation of QWERTY keyboard handsets for BlackBerry is still under wraps, there has been some discussion about what we can expect, including that the same predictive smarts are to be incorporated somehow. We also know that this device will have a square display, 720x720 pixels.
It looks good
Several times during our first day at Jam Asia, a RIM exec spoke about how great the system looks and how fast it is to use. The on-stage demos really helped to sell this point, with third-party native BlackBerry 10 apps loading quickly on the Dev Alpha device and pulling in data pretty seamlessly, despite heavy congestion on the shared Wi-Fi networks in the auditorium.
RIM calls its design metaphor "Cascades", which is the layering of panels of information within an app. Context menus slide over the main app interfaces, and the Hub is always operational below active apps.
Like Apple and iOS, RIM has obviously worked hard to build as complete a library of assets for developers, so that the easiest apps to make will all have the same uniformed look and will take advantage of all the gesture controls.
If you've used an older BlackBerry before, you'll know that the browser has been pretty well overlooked in the past. RIM said that these days are over, and they are spruiking a new and much improved Webkit browser with strong HTML5 compliance.
If you want to know more about this browser, check outon why RIM thinks its mobile browser is better than your desktop browser.
What could prove to be the most integral part of convincing new and old customers back into the BlackBerry fold is app support on the device. RIM is approaching this in two ways. To its customers, the message is that it intends to have the most apps on any first-generation platform. This is a pretty big qualifier, but still, RIM is confident that it should be able to offer 30,000+ apps on launch day.
Just as important is its message to developers. RIM has been hosting Jam sessions around the world this year to speak directly to developers and to let them know that the platform is easy to write for, and that there is the potential to make money. In fact, if an app earns more than US$1000, but less than US$10,000, RIM will pay the developer the difference at the end of the first 12-months after the launch of BlackBerry OS 10.
So what do you make of this? Are these reasons enough to dump your current smartphone platform and grab a BlackBerry?
Joseph Hanlon travelled to BlackBerry Jam Asia as a guest of Research in Motion.