After losing ground to rivals such as Apple, Google and Samsung, will Blackberry's new handsets and operating system prove the company's saviour? Bernardo Carvalho and Marcelo Eduardo from interactive agency Huge give their first impressions of Blackberry 10...
Bernardo Carvalho, director, product design
BlackBerry 10 the mother of all defensive moves. All the reviewers point out that the device is actually really well made, the OS is full-featured and the user interface is snappy, but the fact is that BlackBerry is playing catch-up and probably didn't have the time (the device is a year late) or resources to move beyond the benchmark. Apparently it has an innovative on-screen keyboard with great text entry assistance (David Pogue raved about it) but nothing else seems to differentiate it.
Changing the company's name is a great branding move. They're paving the cowpaths and going by the name people aready calls them, reminiscent of Apple's change from Apple Computer to Apple Inc.
BlackBerry still has some great service assets that it could potentially leverage. First there's BBM which is quite popular in some markets, but it's being attacked by WhatsApp and the like. Second there's the whole security and device management layer which is quite complete (there's a reason Obama uses a BlackBerry), but consumers couldn't care less about it.
Overall, the launch of this device is great news, not only for BlackBerry, but for the market as a whole. Diversity is a good thing. We have had an iOS/Android consolidation trend in the past few years that is being challenged by Windows Phone and BlackBerry (and soon by some of the larger Asian players) and that is good for the smartphone market. The last thing that we need are incumbents.
Will it succeed? I don't know and anyone who says otherwise is lying.
Marcelo Eduardo, director, product design
RIM, now BlackBerry, took a different approach to the one Microsoft took when updating their platform for the current mobile scenario. Instead of going in a complete different direction, they've gone with a design familiar to the Android or iOS user.
We haven't played with an actual device, but there are two clear points we can take from the videos and walk-throughs available:
1. BlackBerry is still keeping an eye on the business user. This can be deduced by the thought put into creating a fast 'flow' for use of the device. The downside to this approach is that it relies heavily on gestures, which can be a little bit too much for the casual consumer.
2. They really went out there and took the best of everything done so far by other players in the market, then added their own ideas to the mix.
It's clear the interface was designed with the user in mind. It seems that the team behind the user interface really looked at the iOS and Android users' pain points and created solutions or shortcuts to alleviate these problems. Simple things such as clicking an indicator to jump straight to the menu (without having to swipe multiple pages of icons as in IOS or
Android) or even the simple multi-tasking panel, a feature of the Nokia N9's MeeGo-based platform, are good examples of those solutions.
What we like:
1. It's a big departure from the old BlackBerry software.
2. It feels like a complete solution (not a first draft lacking several important features like iOS1 or Windows Phone 7).
3. The Time Shift camera feature.
4. The separate modes for work and personal use.
5. That BlackBerry Link syncs to Mac and PC.
What we don't like so far:
1. It still feels like a business tool.
2. The visual feels aged and dull.
3. There might be too many gestures for the everyday user to remember.
For designers of apps, the system shouldn't represent too much of a challenge. It features a pretty simple and straightforward user interface with several components to help create basic apps very fast.
We feel that the phone overall, while displaying several great ideas and an excellent departure from the old BlackBerry system, still feels like it's stuck in the past. This may be a result of the futuristic touch Android's Jelly Bean has to it, or just because the dialog boxed in BlackBerry feels too similar to boring web forms. This will not doom the devices, but it definitely won't help when users have been exposed to more advanced devices.