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  • 05Aug

    BlackBerry OS 6 Revealed

    From CNET

    The RIM BlackBerry Torch will be the first device to run BlackBerry OS 6, but you won’t necessarily have to get a new smartphone to enjoy the revamped operating system.

    RIM said that BlackBerry OS 6 will be available for a select number of older models in the coming months, including the BlackBerry Bold 9700 and the BlackBerry Bold 9650 (as well as new and upcoming devices like RIM BlackBerry Pearl 3G), so if you own one of these phones, you’ll be able to experience some of the new OS features as broken down here by CNET’s Jessica Dolcourt.

    Below, you’ll find some of our hands-on impressions of the BlackBerry OS 6 as taken from our full review of the BlackBerry Torch. Though the Torch might not be the smartphone for you, you can at least get a sense of what the new OS has to offer in case you’re looking to update your Bold or buy a BlackBerry in the future.

    User interface
    When revamping the platform, RIM wanted something both fresh and familiar and that comes through as soon as you hit the home screen. The interface looks like a BlackBerry but acts differently.

    The top of the screen features Quick Access area where you can see the date, time, signal strength, battery life, and where you can manage your wireless connections. Below that is a new notification bar that includes one-touch access to change your phone’s profile and to conduct searches. It will also alert you to new messages, missed calls, upcoming appointments, and so forth. Tapping on the bar will expand the tray where you can view more details and go directly to the appropriate app.

    Most of the action, however, takes place at the bottom of the screen, where you’ll find a new navigation bar. It makes good use of the touch screen as you can swipe from left to right and vice versa to access apps and content based on five categories: All, Favorites, Media, Downloads, and Frequent. In addition to swiping sideways, you can tap on a category to expand it and see the full list of associated apps.

    The categories themselves are fairly self-explanatory, but we should note that Favorites isn’t restricted to apps. You can also add contacts and Web sites by going to an individual address book entry or Web site, pressing the menu key, and then selecting Add to Home Screen and selecting Mark as Favorite (should be checked off by default). Meanwhile, the process for adding favorite apps simply requires you do a long-press and then select Mark as Favorite from the contextual menu.

    Overall, this system does a good job of making it easier to access and manage apps, and improves the user experience on the whole. With the contextual menus and improvements to the Web browser and multimedia features (more on this below), we got a sense that RIM really took advantage of touch-screen capabilities this time around, whereas the Storm models felt a little half-baked.

    Universal search
    RIM makes good on the “universal” part, as the search function scans nearly the entire contents of your phone, including contacts, messages, calendar, music, and pictures. In addition, you can extend your search to Google, YouTube, BlackBerry App World, and third-party apps, so you’re getting a very robust search experience here. It was rare that we weren’t able to find what we were looking for using universal search on the Torch.

    Messaging and social networking
    Text and multimedia messages are now combined into a single in-box and supports threaded chat view, inline addressing and group chat. You can also instantly connect with friends through the widely popular BlackBerry Messenger.

    Nowadays, e-mail isn’t enough. People also want access to their social networks, and RIM now offers a Social Feeds app, which aggregates updates from these sites, as well as instant-messaging clients, into one spot. You can pick and choose which sites you want pulled into the feed, and also adjust notification and display settings. It’s very much in the light of HTC’s Friend Stream and Motoblur’s Happenings widget, but Social Feeds isn’t a widget per se, so it doesn’t feel like the information is in your face all the time. In addition, the app also acts as an RSS feed aggregator.

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