Is there any life left in Blackberry yet? Before you scoff at the idea, do check out the features that the soon-to-release Blackberry 10.3 platform would boast of. Blackberry Passport and similar high-end devices might just serve as a fresh lease of life for the ailing company.
Okay, so iPhone 6 has released – and Apple fans are counting down the days to September 19, when the shipments would start. While the fight between the latest iOS platform (iOS 8) and Android promises to be absorbing, hardly anyone is giving Blackberry a semblance of a chance to re-emerge as a strong competitor. The Canadian smartphone company – for long a market leader – has events lined up later this month, at London, Toronto and Dubai (to be held simultaneously), where the Blackberry Passport device would be officially unveiled. The new BB mobile platform, Blackberry 10.3, would make its debut on the relatively well-hyped device. From the developers’ previews that have been available since May this year, the following features of Blackberry 10.3 have stood out:
- Better email service – The push mail notification has been the strongest suite of Blackberry over the years, and the company would give the BB Hub a further lift. On 10.3-powered devices, users would be able to download all email attachments faster, and at one go. This would surely be helpful if time is a factor, and internet connectivity is not strong or stable enough.
- More space for Blackberry apps – Blackberry App World comes a cropper in comparison to Apple iTunes or Google Play Store – but at least the developers have realized the importance of convenience in app-usage. On Blackberry Q5 and Q10, the home screen would have extra space for additional columns of apps. According to reports and leaked images from mobile app development forums, the Blackberry Z-series phones would also have extra space for rows of applications. Of course, the overall app availability also needs to increase. Is John Chen listening?
- Taking still photos while recording videos – For those who feel that Blackberry has become a veritable dinosaur – well, here’s an indication that it is trying to keep up with the times. Blackberry 10.3 would have the unique ‘Flip To Wake’ option, which would allow people to take still snaps while filming real-time videos. Finally, the company is starting to take cues from the Android platform!
- Quick Settings and Running Apps Grid – The jury is still out on whether Blackberry’s decision to move to touchscreen handsets (after all, it made QWERTY keypads popular) was ill-advised or not. However, the company is pulling out all stops to make the touch features smarter and more efficient than ever before. A 2-finger swipe movement would be all that’s required for a ‘Quick Settings’ menu to be displayed. In addition, the ‘Running Apps Grid’ feature would let users view their phone wallpapers (by keeping the screen empty), after the last app has been closed.
- Weekly Agenda on Calendar – That’s right, the Blackberry Calendar is also set for an overhaul. On Blackberry Passport and other devices running on BB 10.3, there would be a ‘Weekly Agenda’ feature, via which users can set up reminders for their activities/assignments. Notifications will be generated automatically, and would be turned off on their own (the ‘Meeting Mode’). Even if you forget about an important meeting, your Blackberry handset won’t!
- More and more folders on home screen – Yet another factor that would bolster the popularity of Blackberry apps (hopefully). On the new platform, there would be no limits on the number of folders that can be created and stored on the home screen. If multiple folders have to be merged into a single one, the drag-and-drop functionality can be used. Rather disappointingly though, the platform won’t support folders within folders.
- Enhanced IMAP support – Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) is another feature that would be made more robust and useful on Blackberry 10.3. Thanks to the remote IMAP feature, people would be able to access emails and attachments that were stored in earlier BB devices. In other words, the risk of losing critical emails (or the need for taking frequent backups) would be minimized. A mighty useful addition for corporate users.
- The new-look icons – Well, the preview SDK does not include them, but Blackberry loyalists are hoping that the company indeed brings ‘new-look’ icons on the 10.3 platform. Reports from the official Blackberry blog suggest that the focus would be on making the icons appear neater, more streamlined, and less cluttered. The box that surrounds icons on present Blackberry 10 devices would disappear. Considering that this feature had come in for quite a bit of criticism, it seems the right way to go.
- Equalizer for music-based applications – With Apple having acquired Beats, no sound equalizer is going to rival that of the new line of iPhones anytime soon. Even so, it would be interesting to find out exactly what sort of equalizer RIM is bringing on the soon-to-release Blackberry 10.3 handsets. One thing is clear from this new addition though – Blackberry is definitely opening up to innovation. They should have probably done so earlier.
- Signature Action feature – This one has got mobile app developers really interested. On the default action bar on the phone screens, the most common action would be highlighted – with other ‘actions’ being present on either side. This, in turn, is likely to make customized mobile app development for Blackberry 10.3 devices just a tad easier. For every app, the signature action would remain static.
- The Hub Reset option – For the more busy (and the more forgetful!) Blackberry user, this would be a handy functionality. If the Blackberry Hub is left inactive for thirty minutes, all the active contents/emails would be auto-saved, and the Hub would automatically close. This would: a) lower battery drainage, and b) do away with risks of mobile data loss. Toggling between multiple screens would also become quicker and more simple.
- Reordering the Settings menu – iOS 8 is more customizable than its predecessors, and the same is the case with Blackberry 10.3. The most noteworthy feature in this regard is the Phone Settings menu, which would have personalization options. You can reorder the menu items according to your precise requirements and convenience. The device would ‘remember’ your preferences, and the default Settings display would be changed accordingly.
- New camera UI – The camera features of Blackberry devices are modest at best, in comparison with the new line of iPhones and Android handsets. The competition is likely to get a whole lot closer, with RIM bringing a revamped user-interface for the built-in camera on BB 10.3 devices. While transferring pictures from the file manager, the ‘Album View’ option would now be available. With unique camera-switching features also reportedly present, Blackberry phones can finally start doubling up as decent-quality cameras.
- Blackberry Remember gets a lift – The much-maligned Blackberry 10 platform had few high points, with the Remember app being one of them. BB 10.3 would build on this feature, by making it more user-friendly. The default display on the app would depend on the requirements of users, and there would be a tab to separate the saved notes and tasks. Blackberry fanboys/girls would be delighted with how the company is falling back on what made it popular in the first place – the capacity of phones to keep tasks/actions organized.
Although there would be no apps or widgets to conserve battery, Blackberry 10.3 would come with an embedded tracker for monitoring mobile data usage. Among the other changes in the email client, the options of filing/saving Sent Mails in folders and erasing original texts before composing a reply are good additions. With a current worldwide market share of less than 1%, Blackberry is down in the dumps now – and the new platform is not going to make BB a worthy challenger to iPhone 6 or Galaxy Note 4 overnight. However, if it is a hit, Blackberry might be set on a road to recovery.