Blackberry CEO John Chen has put on a brave front about turning around the company’s fortunes – but whether BB can indeed survive in the handset business remains open to speculation. For starters, Blackberry needs to implement quite a few improvements in its loss-making BB 10 platform, to regain some of its popularity.
Sadly, hardly anyone takes a Blackberry phone seriously these days. In fact, a Blackberry-owner often has to hear taunts from friends and colleagues, about how (s)he should upgrade to a ‘real smartphone’ soon. The sagging fortunes of BB were expected to receive a big boost with the arrival of the Blackberry 10 mobile OS, on the Z10 handset. In hindsight, coming up with a shoddy touch-based iPhone-lookalike was not a smart move on the company’s part at all. The first quarterly sales figures of Blackberry’s new and ultra-hyped flagship device were way short of projections, and losses mounted to almost $85 million. While the 10.1 and 10.2 updates have been relatively better, they are still not a patch on the latest iOS and Android platforms. Here are some key improvements in Blackberry 10 that we would love to see:
- Better camera options – At a time when smartphones regularly double up as cameras, the imaging features present on BB 10 are distinctly ho-hum. Developers should definitely consider including a panorama mode and better resolution adjustment options in the camera settings – in the devices that would follow the disastrous Z10. People who love to snap about with their phones would appreciate the presence of a HDR (high-definition) camera mode as well.
- More efficient voice control – Google Now is not perfect, Siri has plenty of shortcomings – but they at least make using Android devices and iPhones rather easy. Blackberry 10 does not yet have any decent ‘answer’ (no pun intended) to its competitors’ voice applications. And while the Blackberry app developers are working on this, how about a wearable BB 10-powered device too? Users might be intrigued!
- Better data usage – According to mobile app developers as well as general handset-users, the push-mail notification feature of Blackberry phones has always been one of the latter’s high points. It would be great if there was an upgrade to BB10, letting people customize the intervals at which email checks should be done, and monitor/manage the amount of data/bandwidth used up in the process. That, in turn, might add a bit to the battery life of the phones too.
- Presence of a podcast app – Listening to music on the move is a lousy experience on a Blackberry phone. The difference seems all the more stark, if you consider the seamless iTunes music that you can enjoy on iOS devices – thanks to the latest technologies in iPhone application development. Blackberry 10 (or its rumored successor, BES 12) should have a podcast app (native), which would be able to link directly with the built-in music player in devices. The Blackberry Radio features could also do with a makeover (particularly on GSM phones).
- Skype on Blackberry – Having Blackberry Messenger and installing WhatsApp can no longer serve as substitutes for a dedicated Skype app. There are more than 300 million Skype users worldwide, and both iTunes and Google Play Store has the mobile app version of this voice and video-calling software. Just like Facebook and Twitter, Blackberry officials should seriously start thinking about pre-installing Skype in all their forthcoming BB 10 phones.
- Why has Blackberry Protect become rather useless? – Yet another standout Blackberry feature, which the company somehow managed to mess up on the new platform. The data backup options present on Protect in BB 10 are not even close to being as holistic as they were in the initial version of the feature. There have been complaints from certain users about Blackberry Protect on their handsets not functioning properly either. With an improvement in this regard, people would be able to switch to new BB devices, without losing any of the important data stored on their older phones.
- Faster display change options – You rotate the screen of a supposedly ‘cutting-edge’ Blackberry touch-based phone, and it takes its own sweet time to alter the display from portrait to landscape (or the other way round). This, understandably, makes both gaming as well as reading long documents bit of a hassle on such a handset. Handsets powered by the new mobile OS platform would become much more user-friendly, if the rotation speed was higher (take a cue from iPhone 5 for this!). Using Blackberry apps will become much more easy too.
- Number of compatible apps – The sheer paucity of mobile applications in Blackberry App World (in comparison to Play Store and iTunes) have pegged back the RIM company for years now. Given how apps for practically every purpose can be downloaded on iPhones and Android phones, it’s not surprising that few people felt the need to actually switch to a Blackberry 10 device. If the later upgraded versions of the OS is compatible with more, varied, pre-tested apps, enhanced popularity would almost be a given!
- Availability of APKs in App World – It’s would be too naive to imagine that professionals from mobile app development companies would become interested in creating BB apps overnight. The process would take time – and during this span, Blackberry can try to make Android apps available on its native store. On the Blackberry 10 platform at present, all Android application packages (APKs) have to be converted into BAR format, before they can be installed (from Google Play Store). Getting into some sort of agreement with Android and having these apps uploaded in Blackberry App World shouldn’t be much of a problem.
- Support for OpenVPN – Blackberry has always positioned itself as a mobile platform that attaches prime importance to the users’ data security. The Virtual Private Network (VPN) features on BB 10, however, come across as distinctly half-baked. There is no support for OpenVPN, something that many mobile users rely on – while conducting confidential transactions/data exchanges over their phones. IPSEC/L2TP is not supported either. Blackberry is already facing a lot of troubles over its sub-par features – it does not want its one standout point (security) getting muddled too.
- Better folder management – Blackberry 10 is simply crying out for more space in its folders. It appears strange that while iPhones and Android devices (the latter, with third-party launchers) offer unlimited folder space, only 16 applications (!) can be stored in a folder of a Blackberry phone. There are no options to create additional folders/pages within a folder either. There will always be people who love having a host of apps on their phone – and for them, Blackberry Z10, is far from an ideal device. An upgrade is required, urgently!
- Improvements in Blackberry Maps – Opinions are divided as to which one among Apple Maps and Blackberry Maps is worse. While becoming as accurate and user-friendly as Google Maps seems to be a pipe dream at the moment – app developers can certainly make the maps on Blackberry 10 phones more granular, with built-in walking instructions. A three-dimensional (3D) viewing option would be nice too. Users would love to be able to see the locational details of nearby businesses on the phone maps as well.
The option of getting a preview of all notifications (also known as ‘toast notifications’) is a nice touch on Blackberry 10 – but the lack of any customization feature on it sticks out like a sore thumb. The interface and task manager on the platform also appear static and rather cluttered – and the designers would do well to follow a Playbook-like style in future OS versions. BB 10 is not essentially a ‘bad’ mobile platform – but it has considerable rooms for improvement!