BlackBerry 10 hands on: Virtual keyboard and radical new UI

BlackBerry 10 hands on: Virtual keyboard and radical new UI

Summary: RIM's dramatically overhauled BlackBerry OS is betting on a new virtual keyboard with nifty word recognition to help it make a splash when it arrives later this year. But does it deliver on its promise?


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  • BlackBerry 10 intro

    Research In Motion (RIM) has been slow to revamp its BlackBerry handsets to measure up to the competition and keep up with developers' needs. However, the new BlackBerry 10 operating system is just around the corner; has the company done enough of an overhaul to revive consumer interest in its smartphones?

    The new platform harmonises RIM's operating system strategy for its smartphones and tablets, allowing both to run on the same software — the same approach taken by Google with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich).

    To get an idea of what can be expected from BlackBerry 10 when it arrives later this year, ZDNet UK got some hands-on time with a dev handset running the software.


    The demo session used a pre-beta build of the software. It focused on three key areas of the OS: the new virtual keyboard, the completely revamped notification system, and the new home-screen UI.

    Image credit: Ben Woods/ZDNet

  • BlackBerry 10 virtual keyboard

    A keyboard with smarts

    One new feature that could bring BlackBerry 10 handsets up to speed with smartphone rivals is a new virtual keyboard with a nifty word-prediction system that gets smarter the more you use it.

    In order to make the system more accurate, it scans emails and messages to learn the way in which you talk and to see which words are most often used. Start typing, and the keyboard will pop up predictions for the current and next words. If the suggested word is correct, you simply swipe up across the keyboard.

    Using the system felt very natural and quick in testing. As it promises to provide more accurate predictions over time, it's a very worthwhile addition to the platform.

    Vivek Bhardwaj, head of RIM's software portfolio team, assured ZDNet UK that all fluency data crunching is done on the device and is based on pattern recognition, rather than sending data off to remote servers for analysis, thereby avoiding obvious privacy concerns.

    RIM reportedly doesn't plan to include a hardware keyboard in the first device running BlackBerry 10, expected later this year. Despite this, it is keeping true to QWERTY-loving fans and has promised to eventually deliver the OS on devices that do include physical keyboards.

    Image credit: Ben Woods/ZDNet

  • BlackBerry 10 keyboard delete

    Swiping down on the keypad at any time brings up numbers and symbols, and swiping up again returns you to the letters. Swiping left at any point deletes the word on screen (pictured).

    If typing on a touchscreen usually poses a challenge because you don't hit the letters square on, then RIM has accounted for that. Over time, it recognises where an individual user tends to hit each key — slightly to the left or right, for example — and adjusts to ensure that the intended keystroke is entered, via an unseen virtual keyboard behind the one on screen. This "almost second keyboard" will make mis-hit keys a thing of the past, Bhardwaj said.

    Image credit: Ben Woods/ZDNet

Topics: Mobility, Smartphones

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

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  • The virtual keyboard and radical new UI are not the important facets here - it's the new development tools that will empower developers to rapidly release quality applications. Everything seems hardware accelerated and buttery smooth. Here is an example: