BB10, the next generation BlackBerry platform, is just around the corner. We've spoken to manufacturer RIM to get the inside scoop on why it's time to get excited...

bb10 teaser

BB10 is coming very soon. The next-generation BlackBerry 10 platform and phones from RIM are set to take centre stage at the official launch on January 30th, but what should you expect? And how has manufacturer RIM ensured that BB10 can hit the ground running? We’ve secured an exclusive talk with Bob El-Hawary, Senior Director of Channel Accounts at RIM to learn more, and to prise some new information out ahead of launch…

From the ground up

BB10 is a giant leap for BlackBerry, bringing it in line with a vision for the next generation that RIM’s been working to for some time. That, essentially, means a full redesign from the ground up, with a slew of new features designed to outfox its rivals.

“We started by talking to customers, partners, operators and enterprises across the world about how they wanted to use their smartphones,” Bob tells us. “Since then, we’ve continually sought feedback on the platform to make sure it delivers an exciting, new mobile computing experience.” The range of feedback is pretty extensive – RIM’s not been precious, and that’s important when it comes to making sure everyone’s happy.

But if there’s one point of contention from what the world’s already seen of BB10, it’s the thing that made BlackBerry’s so famous in the first place…

That keyboard

RIM has built and maintained its loyal fan base off the back of a handful of key features, but surely the most famous is the physical keyboard, which has allowed customers to rattle off emails, texts and BBM messages like lightning bolts ever since its inception in 1999. Since the first glimpse of the BB10 Dev Alpha build, though, a touchscreen keyboard has been front and centre. Will there be headaches?

“The predictive text function takes [the keyboard] to another level.”

“BlackBerry is seen as the gold standard for a physical QWERTY keyboard,” says Bob, “so it is very important to us and our customers that the touchscreen experience is also second to none.” To achieve that, BB10 has implemented a myriad of intuitive keyboard features that make the touchscreen stand out. And Bob’s pretty confident on that:

“The predictive text function takes [the keyboard] to another level. It will learn and adapt with the user, quickly picking up on the customer’s preferred language, grammar and input style to make typing as quick, accurate and easy as possible. We haven’t forgotten the little things that have defined the BlackBerry QWERTY experience, such as automatically correcting missed spaces or the visual separators between keys.”

It’s the way that the keyboard proffers text predictions that’s cool here. They pop up above the next letter your eye naturally moves towards to complete the word, allowing you to swipe up to confirm. Can’t picture it? Check out the 30 second mark in the BB10 announcement video:

Of course, if you’d rather go back to pen and paper than leave your BlackBerry’s physical QWERTY keyboard, we’ve got some good news: Bob tells us that RIM “will also be bringing out a BlackBerry 10 device with a physical keyboard as well.”

BlackBerry Hub

BB10 needs more than a fancy keyboard to pass muster, though. Thankfully there’ll be plenty of tricks to shout about on the January 30th launch event, but Bob’s favourite? BlackBerry Hub.

BlackBerry Hub is where all of your communications live, and it’s always accessible with nothing but a little swipe, known as Peek. “I find it makes my life so much easier to manage,” says Bob, “as it allows me to read and respond across multiple communication platforms from one place, be that email, BBM, Facebook, Twitter etc..” Calendar events, texts and everything else all live in the Hub too, making it a one-stop shop for organising your day.

The always-available part is what’s piqued people’s interest, though, as it’s a different way of looking at both email and a notification centre in one. “The Peek feature means I can glance into the Hub from anywhere on the device at the swipe of a thumb without having to leave the app I’m in or the video I’m watching,” Bob explains. “…Unless it’s an email from my boss.”

Battery power

Having all your alerts firing in and ready to read at less than a finger-flick’s notice is a top idea, but is it likely to kill off the battery? Worry not: RIM’s put its best minds together to make sure that you won’t be left needing power when you need it most.

As Bob puts it, “BlackBerry users are real doers.” He knows that means that a BB fan’s “demands on battery probably outpace those of others.” He adds that this is something RIM is “well aware of and have planned for in the development of our new suite of devices.”

The result? RIM making a promise that the new breed of BlackBerry phones running BB10 will represent “the leading edge of battery power.” That’s helped by removable batteries on all devices, which’ll let power users swap in spares if worse comes to worst.

A new world record?

And that battery oomph is just as well, as BB10 looks set to launch with a smorgasbord of apps that’ll keep our fingers and phones busy. In fact, RIM’s been pushing BB10 so hard with developers that Bob’s confirmed to us that it’s hit a record: over the course of 36 hours last weekend, over 15,000 apps were ported to BlackBerry 10.

“We’ve been accepting BlackBerry 10 apps since October 12th,” he explains, “and with more apps coming in every day as we close in on launch, we’re confident that we’ll launch with tens of thousands of apps, a record for the launch of any new mobile platform.”

“We’re confident that we’ll launch with tens of thousands of apps.”

The reason for this is because of pretty unprecedented developer support, which has helped enthuse the app-making community. As Bob reveals, “those 15,000 apps were submitted over the 36 hours of the online ‘Port-A-Thon’ run by our developer relations team last weekend.”

That event is just part of a series of developer relations events which Bob describes as “the most comprehensive developer engagement program the mobile industry has ever seen.” To date, the BlackBerry Jam series has consisted of more than 55 developer events in 37 countries – and with 11,000 developers – since May 2012.

And according to Bob and the team at RIM, the dev-friendly campaign’s still working overtime. “Following our record breaking weekend, we are holding a final Port-A-Thon on January 18th. The work doesn’t stop there though. Hot on the heels of the global launch event on January 30th, we have the BlackBerry Jam Europe event in Amsterdam on February 5th-6th.”

Good news, as apps are the cornerstone of any mobile platform – the more the merrier when it comes to launching a new platform. With such strong developer support already in full swing, BB10 looks in good shape.

“2013 is a big year for us,” Bob says, rounding off our chat. “What we’re most excited about is bringing BlackBerry 10 devices to new and existing customers.” That works out nicely, because we’re pretty excited about getting our hands on them.

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