The last few weeks have been full of rumours and whisperings about BlackBerry’s new OS, BlackBerry 10. It looks to be quite a turnaround for RIM, who are perhaps becoming aware that their previous BlackBerry operating systems have been looking outdated and frumpy compared to Android for quite some time now. From the keyboard to the home screen, the whole BlackBerry ‘thing’ is being recreated for a new generation of smartphones – can these save RIM, a company whose market share of smartphones has dropped by two-thirds in the last year?
It features some interesting changes in comparison to the last version. BlackBerry 10 is clearly designed for handsets with touch-screens, allowing users to swipe through various displays and menus, as one might in Android. The home screen features tiles, a little like the Windows Phone display, that could easily be mistaken for widgets. In fact, they’re not – they’re open applications minimised onto the home screen, which means that they change to reflect your activities, just as an actual open app will do. Resembling Windows Phone’s metro interface, which has proved hugely popular since release, BlackBerry 10’s new home screen looks set for success.
Whether BlackBerry are waving goodbye to their old physical QWERTY keyboard style or simply reducing the amount of their handsets packing them is another question. The new BlackBerry 10 features an on-screen keyboard like you’ll see with Android and iOS, called the Octopus Keyboard. It looks similar to Swiftkey, which isn’t anything major for other operating systems, but compared to BlackBerry’s old ways, it’s a big step forward. It’ll also feature the same word-prediction technology that jail-breaking iOS users have, where swiping up will bring up a list of suggested words based on the letters already pressed.
There’s still much to be revealed about BlackBerry 10, but one thing that seems for certain is that it’s a big change from previous versions. RIM have probably been geared into making these changes as a result of the news that their total market share has plummeted to just 3% this April, compared to around 9% at the same time last year. A lot of people think RIM is on its last legs, at least in the smartphone industry, following a year of poor sales and low levels of support within the community.
Whether these changes will serve to give BlackBerry the revamp in brand image that it clearly needs, we’ve yet to see. It could actually simply damage the loyal user base that the OS already has – though at this point in the game, any change is likely to be change for the better. To compare the smartphone industry to Darwin’s principle of survival of the fittest, RIM’s latest sales figures appear to have made the threat: Evolve or die. Hopefully, BlackBerry 10 is the evolution this company so sorely needs.