What you need to know about BlackBerry 10

Apple and Google have long since muscled aside Research in Motion at the top of the smartphone market, but the company has hopes of staying in the game—or at least not losing more ground to the likes of Microsoft and others—with its BlackBerry 10 platform. On Tuesday, Research in Motion gave developers a more in-depth look at its updated OS. BlackBerry 10 is scheduled to roll out early next year, but RIM used its conference to show off some of the features currently in development.

We can give you a taste of what RIM revealed at BlackBerry Jam and offer a better idea of what to expect from BB10 (with the caveat that a lot could change between now and the operating system’s release date).

Is this the first we’ve seen of BlackBerry 10?

No. RIM offered a sneak peek of the new platform back in May. Of course, back then, the company was planning on launching BlackBerry 10 smartphones by the end of 2012. Those plans have changed.

So when is BB10 coming out exactly?

In early 2013, a delay announced by RIM back in June. There’s no exact date for that 2013 release, but the good news is that CEO Thorsten Heins says the update is on track and “just a few short months away.”

So what’s different about BB10?

The QWERTY keyboard makes room for a touch interface with apps laid out in a grid in BlackBerry 10.

RIM’s new operating system completely eliminates the physical QWERTY keyboard that made BlackBerry famous. (Remember thumb cramps, anyone?) BB10 has a touch-screen keyboard with apps laid out in a grid, as is standard with smartphones these days. There’s also an updated browser that promises more HTML5 adeptness.

What about apps?

You can also jump back and forth between apps now—a feature which the company calls Flow—as you can in iOS. BB10 will feature an App World store with its own app ecosystem. Developers will be able to easily port their Android apps into the BB10 store, or so RIM has been telling app makers.

BlackBerry will also embrace social networking integration with Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and LinkedIn apps. A new Contacts app syncs with your social networks.

Will I have to buy a new BlackBerry to get BB10?

It’s still unclear which devices will support the new operating system. RIM unveiled a new BlackBerry 10-enabled device on Tuesday—the catchily-named BlackBerry Dev Alpha B—but that’s intended solely for developers. The Dev Alpha B device features a 1280 x 768 display on a 4.2-inch screen, for those looking for clues as to what a BB10-capable device might look like.

From what we’ve heard at BlackBerry Jam this week, users with older BlackBerry gadgets may not be able to upgrade their BB7 devices to BB10.

So what happens to my BlackBerry 7 phone?

RIM said it won’t stop supporting BlackBerry 7 and that the company still has a rather sizable team dedicated to maintaining that OS. Even when BB10 launches, BB7 devices will still be available.

BlackBerry 10 puts an App World store right on your device.

What carriers will have BB10?

Carrier testing begins next month. No word yet on which carriers will support BB10.

I use BlackBerry for business—what does BB10 have for me?

BlackBerry rose to smartphone dominance by catering to enterprise clients, a market the company continues to target with BB10. A feature called BlackBerry Balance, for example, keeps personal apps and data separate from work information. It’s a clear attempt to capitalize on the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend where people use their personal smartphone for work.

As we noted in our preview of BlackBerry 10, BlackBerry’s messaging system gets a major upgrade with a universal inbox called the BlackBerry Hub. In the hub, you have access to e-mails, texts, BBMs and social networking notifications in one centralized location.

The virtual keyboard supports auto-complete in multiple languages, which means you can type a sentence in English but include a Japanese word, and the auto-complete function will finish the word just as it would in English.

I’m not a businessperson—would I still want a BlackBerry with BB10?

The jury is still out, but RIM did unveil a few more fun features, like BlackBerry Games. Like iOS’s Game Center, the gaming service will have leader boards and a friends list, but is missing things like achievements or random matchmaking.

Overall, BlackBerry continues to be a business-centric smartphone, at least from what we’ve seen from BB10 so far.

Is that it?

That’s all RIM is talking about for now. But the company has promised “more surprises” between now and the launch of BlackBerry 10 early next year.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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