With a 43% market share, RIM’s BlackBerry OS is the most popular smartphone OS in America. They don’t get as much attention as Apple or Google, largely because the OS has been a bit stagnant in recent years, but its popularity is not waning. Boy Genius Report got their hands on a preview of the next version of the OS, 6.0, and some of the changes are important and welcome–but don’t expect BlackBerry to change its focus from enterprise.
The aesthetics of the BlackBerry OS aren’t too different in 6.0, and will be familiar to anyone who’s used a Storm, Bold, or Curve in the past two years or so. But there are some really nice motions toward the consumer market. The browser is, at long last, completely overhauled.
Like Google’s Android browser, Apple’s Mobile Safari, and Palm’s WebOS browser (not to mention Google’s Chrome browser on the PC), BlackBerry’s totally new browser is based on WebKit, an underlying software that provides accurate, versatile, and speedy mobile Internet. BlackBerry 6.0’s browser looks to feature tabbed browsing with a pull-down menu, similar to Opera Mini–in short, better than Mobile Safari or the Android browser. It’ll also have pinch-to-zoom multitouch, a nice addition.
BlackBerry’s media player has long been near-worthless, and 6.0 features a new attempt, complete with pretty decent-looking now playing screen and Cover Flow-type navigation.
But it’s the underlying changes that’ll make 6.0 feel new, especially the implementation of kinetic scrolling. That means the faster or harder you swipe a list, the faster it’ll scroll, and it’ll slow down in a similar “organic” way. RIM’s also including “rubber-banding,” also used by Apple, Microsoft, and Palm, so upon reaching the end of a list, it’ll seem to bounce back. They’re also adding features like a tap-to-hold context menu (like Android’s–will require a touchscreen, obviously), swipeable homescreen pages, and universal gestures like swiping and pinch-to-zoom.
According to Boy Genius, BlackBerry OS 6.0 should hit around June or July–it’s not clear exactly which devices would support it, though BlackBerry seems to be leaning toward touchscreens based on the new features. I’m not sure that the changes will entice new fans to BlackBerry, but those who already love it should be pretty pleased.