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Sneak Peek of BlackBerry OS 10.1

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This week, BlackBerry released a beta version of the BlackBerry 10.1 operating system for BlackBerry 10 devices.  The new update, while for developers, offers quite a few new features, tweaks, and enhancements to the operating system. To be specific, I’m talking about the 10.1.0.1485 Beta, which doesn’t have a calculator app, pictures app, music player, clock, Storymaker, Remember, Newstand, the compass, and many other consumer features.  After all, this is for developers to test their apps. This means that many consumer settings and applications, while not on this beta version of 10.1, will come when the full update launches.  The update also includes many, many insignificant changes that are hard to spot and aren’t very important despite being new additions.  As usual, N4BB has gone through the OS (which is also available for the Dev C and Q10) and spotted all the differences between the versions for you to get you excited for the coming weeks!

NOTE: In many comparison screenshots, the order is: first is OS 10.1, second is OS 10.0.

For our operating systems, here are the version numbers.

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Text

I’ll begin with one of the most important updates to BlackBerry 10.  I am happy to say that text selection is no longer painful.  The selection circle that existed on 10.0.x.x has been revamped and improved in appearance and usability.  The circle now has two small handle designs on the bottom sides which, at least to me, that you can grab them there.

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This new cursor generates a halo when pressed, as shown.

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You can also move the cursor left and right by tapping on the left or right sides of the circle, moving it in that direction by one character.  I tapped on the left side in this screenshot.

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This helps out enormously because your cursor isn’t hidden under your thumb like the poor previous implementation.  Something that you’ll definitely notice is that when you type, the suggested word on the spacebar is no longer blue, but green. Upon correction, the word gets highlighted in green for a split second.

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Hub

The menu of the Hub now includes PIN messaging, a feature that has existed on BlackBerry smartphones for as long as I can remember.  The PIN-to-PIN messaging is like a bare-bones BBM without all the fanciness and features.  Security and reliability included!

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As far as cosmetic updates, the hub menu now has smaller font. This smaller font is also carried over to the side menu of the contacts app.

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Speaking of the contacts app, pressing the “Add new contact” button doesn’t give a ridiculously long delay when opening anymore.  Great!

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Just below the main app grid, the small bar of buttons representing the different panes you can jump to is now opaque when pressed down.

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Note how the next image has a translucent bar on the bottom.

 

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Camera

The camera app adds a new “HDR”(High Dynamic Range) feature, which if you’re not too familiar with photography techniques, is simply a way of combining multiple versions of the same picture to make one better image.  Ever take a photo of a lamp in a dim room and all the detail of everything else just disappears into the darkness? Well, HDR works by varying the exposure of a series of pictures to more capture detail in the dark, medium and light parts of your photo to combine in a single photo.

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Here’s a quick example of an HDR photo (first one) versus a normal photo (second one), both taken with the Z10. Notice how the stem of the map is slightly more visible in the first image, the top of the lamp isn’t saturated white, and the text around the base of the bulb is actually now readable.  Not too bad.  It will definitely help out with those shots where you want to get as much detail in the shadows and highlights as possible on the Z10.

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You also have the option to take a normal image as well as the HDR one at the same time.

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Settings

The Blackberry 10 settings menu visuals have been tweaked a little in many places. Some items have been altered, such as “Notifications”.  ”System Volume” section is now called “Main Volume”, which include an extra setting to adjust notification volume when media isn’t playing.

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There are also changes to the headers as shown below.

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The “Software Updates” menu has had some incredibly minor changes to the font sizes.

Calendar

Not much changed here.  All I could spot was the calendar “Add” button for adding a new appointment or event has been changed to a simple “+” sign.

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Browser

In the browser, the description under “Private Browsing” has been shortened.

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In the “About” section, the title bar is gone and the text doesn’t scroll as smooth as it once did.

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Not sure if this has to do with the software itself, but there’s a difference that I see compared to another Z10 running 10.0.x.x.  The title bar that comes down on the screen with a downwards swipe from the top of the screen is a little narrower.

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Phone

The phone app now loads faster than it did before, loading up instantly as opposed to taking a second.  Which is awesome.  The “Call Audio” setting in the settings menu no longer has an obnoxiously large font size.

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Maps

The BlackBerry maps app has a few optimizations that improve the experience, bumping it up to version 10.1.0.745 from 10.0.0.628.  While searching for an item, it displays it on the map as soon as you select it. The navigation feature now lists where you start at.

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This is different from how you had to go through another “Place Details” screen with a mini-map. The GPS button with the blue dot is now larger, and is translucent.

The text in the map view is slightly smaller too.

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The “Night mode” settings text is now smaller.

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The same is true for most of the other maps options, more font size adjustments.  Under “Route options”, the controls have been changed to switches and you now have an option to choose your route such that it avoids traffic too.  Now that is something potentially pretty handy.

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BlackBerry World

BlackBerry World has been updated from 4.2.1.109 to 4.3.99.

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But numbers don’t mean anything unless we see the goods, right?  Well, I have good news.  BlackBerry World opens up fast as well, showing the storefront in much less time than version 4.2. There is a neat new loading animation too for screenshots when viewing an app.

Also, you will soon be able to redeem promotions codes on BlackBerry World!  This potentially means some upcoming sales and discounts on BlackBerry World only accessible with codes.  This is done through the swipe down menu in the BlackBerry World.

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In other add-ons, the parental controls password can now support a recovery question.

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In summary, lots of little changes.  Some added features, some tweaked visuals, and some code optimizations for speed. All around the 10.1 OS is looking to be pretty solid. Keep in mind this is not a release version, which may contain other changes and features.  Now that you’ve seen what BlackBerry has been working on (I’m sure its much more than what I’ve listed here), what do you think?  Let us know in the comments below!  (I’m sure I’ve missed a few changes as well!)