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BlackBerry 6: first photos of the OS refresh

BlackBerry has announced a refresh of its operating system. Here's a tour of what's in store.

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Joseph Hanlon

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Research in Motion kicked off its annual Wireless Enterprise Symposium (WES) with an announcement we had been hoping would be a part of this year's show. Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis used his time on stage to showcase the upcoming BlackBerry 6 (BB6) operating system refresh due in Q3 of this year.

To highlight some of the key improvements, RIM put together a funky video with the new system dancing on-screen to the music of BlackBerry tragic the Black Eyed Peas, which you can see on YouTube in all its bass-thumping glory. We managed to grab some pics to take a closer look at what to expect from the system overhaul.

Click through to see BlackBerry 6. We suggest humming the Black Eyed Peas I got a feeling to get the full effect of the presentation.

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Fresh but familiar

This was the buzz-phrase of the presentation, and as you can see from the main menu display, RIM has succeeded in recreating the look and feel of version 5, but with some new-look graphics and icons.

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Phone home

The home screen has be redesigned around collecting app shortcuts together, using a folder-like metaphor under the headings: All, Favourites, Media and Downloads.

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Universal search

Being able to search the content on your handset is excellent, being able to extend that search to the web is a fantastic improvement.

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Kitted out browsing

RIM's recent acquisition of browser technology company Torch Mobile is finally delivering what we have all been waiting for: a WebKit browser for BlackBerry. This should provide a faster, better web experience all round.

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The old switcheroo

One of the most obvious improvements in the new WebKit browser is a visual tab switcher for browsing on several sites simultaneously.

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Context menu

A rich, context-sensitive menu is one of the features that has always set BlackBerry smartphones apart from the competition. RIM is improving this part of its OS with a sprinkle of visual flair, spicing up the currently black-and-white text-only menu.

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A different view

This pic shows how the context menu will change depending on which app you're working in.

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Required reading

One exciting advancement on the app front in BB6 is a new combined reader, mixing together your various social-networking feeds with any RSS feeds you choose to check out each day. We can't tell from the video if this will support Google Reader feeds, but if it does, we'll be calling this feature a big win.

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Choose your communication

Alongside the combined reader will be the ability to combine different modes of communication for each contact and a simple drop-down menu to choose how you're to communicate with them.

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Tweet this

It looks like a simplified, one-touch Twitter post tool might be on the cards too.

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Flowing covers

Do you like the way the iPhone displays cover art? BB6 will bring the sexy back to your playlists.

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Do you tube?

Universal search as seen through the eyes of a music lover. Add your favourite artist's name and search the web for content not on your handset.

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Wall flowers

What is it with sample images and flowers? The touch-friendly BB6 image gallery.

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Combined comms

A slick new way to see the most recent entries in your call logs, messages and calendar.

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