Top 10 BlackBerry OS 6 Features

Research In Motion (RIM) hopes to launch a broadside at Apple's iPhone and Android mobile devices when it releases Blackberry OS 6 -- or simply BlackBerry 6, as the company is calling it now -- in the next few months. RIM is banking on its new consumer-oriented smartphone operating system to reignite interest in its BlackBerry devices and stem BlackBerrry's declining market share.

BlackBerry 6 is not due out until sometime around September -- probably on the Blackberry 9800 -- with the first BlackBerry 6 CDMA phones not expected until the new year. But RIM has released some information about the new smartphone operating system already, and what we've seen certainly looks like it can give Apple's iOS and Android a run for its money.

Here are the top 10 features we are excited about in the new BlackBerry OS:

1. Multitouch all over

If there's one thing that smartphone buyers expect today it's the multi-touch, pinch-to-zoom, kinetic scrolling and rubber-banding features that the iPhone introduced to the market three years ago. The good news is that RIM has finally caught up, and BlackBerry 6 features this type of multi-touch input all over the phone -- from the home screen to the Web browser and from images to emails.

2. Jazzy new home screen

Let's face it: compared to the iOS-based iPhone or handsets running the mobile Linux Android OS, the BlackBerry's current home screen looks dull and uninspiring. BlackBerry 6 introduces a bright new home screen with a modern look, complete with customizable icons (a la Android) and side scrolling menus with text that disappears off the edges of the screen, a feature which appears to get its inspiration from Microsoft's upcoming Windows Phone 7 OS. You can also pin your most used contacts to the home screen -- another Windows Phone 7-like feature.

3. Pop-up commands

One of the things that made the iPhone so successful is its clean user interface and single hardware button: most tasks can be achieved with a few taps on the screen. BlackBerry 6 introduces this to the BlackBerry with context-aware pop-up commands. Touch and hold your finger on the name in the "from" field of an email, for example, and a pop-up window appears with a range of relevant options. These options include emailing, calling or texting the sender, viewing their contact details, or showing their email address. Much quicker and more intuitive than pressing a menu button and selecting an option, this makes the most of a touchscreen and saves time as well.

4. A decent browser -- at last

Android and iPhone have long had superior mobile browsers, but with BlackBerry 6 comes a great-looking mobile browser based on the same WebKit, open-source browser engine that Safari and Chrome use. The new browser takes full advantage of BlackBerry 6's multi-touch and pinch-to-zoom features, and also introduces tabbed browsing and a sensible and easily accessible favorites feature.

5. Much improved media player

The new media player that comes with BlackBerry 6 tips its hat to the iPhone "Music" app to which it has more than a passing resemblance. It features a very passable version of Apple's coverflow (with auto-album art discovery,) enabling you to flick though album art to select the music you want, as well as the iPhone's familiar list-type views. You can also stream videos from Internet sites including YouTube.

6. Better media management

If you've been driven mad by the way your Blackberry handles pictures, you'll be very pleased with the new "Pictures" section in BlackBerry 6. Tap on a folder and a screenful of thumbnails will appear straight away -- you can tap on one to view it, pinch to enlarge, or swipe to the next page of thumbnails. A tap and hold on a picture displays a pop-up window with choices such as "Set as Wallpaper" or "Set as Caller ID" along with an icon for a fuller menu providing more options, such as the ability to email the selected photo. You can also group pictures by event or date, and display them in a slide show. Video handling has been improved with the addition of thumbnails for this media type, as well as an integrated YouTube uploader and the ability to display videos at a range of different sizes.

7. Beefed up messaging

RIM has earned its huge market share largely on the back of the strong messaging capabilities of its BlackBerrys, so you'll be relieved to know that not too much has been changed. A few things have been added, however, including integration with RSS feeds, and clearer icons so that it is obvious at a glance if the message is an email, IM and so on.

8. Universal search

Akin to Apple's Spotlight search, this allows you to scour the whole device as you type, rather than having to search from within each application separately. It also searches Internet video sites such as YouTube. The universal search may not seem exciting if it's an application you are familiar with from the iPhone, but it's still one that's incredibly useful.

9. Social feed

One of the new features most obviously designed to appeal to younger buyers and consumers in general, the Social Feed is much like a Windows Phone 7 hub: it's a place where all your social networking contacts come together. From the Social Feed you can see all your messages from Twitter, Facebook and even MySpace, as well as instant messages from all the popular networks including AIM, Windows Live Messenger, Google Talk and BlackBerry Messenger. You can also post to as many of your social networks as you like simultaneously.

10. Much better graphics

BlackBerry 6 offers much more powerful graphics features, which means developers can make better looking mobile apps. For example, there are animation APIs built in to the operating system making it possible for developers to animate just about anything. While new APIs don't benefit users directly, they make it more likely that the platform will end up with more and better mobile apps in RIMs BlackBerry App World -- and that's got to be good news for BlackBerry users.

TAGS:

Blackberry, RIM, BlackBerry OS, mobile os, BlackBerry 6

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