The first decade of mobile business communication was in the hand of one and only device, the Blackberry. If you were carrying a Blackberry you were a top executive of a company who is travelling around the world very frequently. It’s added Blackberry services together with the secure messaging protocol; it was the best device a businessman could have. The only close competitor that they had was the windows mobile devices but the game has changed drastically since then. With the introduction of iPhone and the ever expanding universe of android devices, it is either live or die situation for Research in Motion (RIM).
RIM, the makers of the Blackberry devices launched its latest operating system recently together with its flagship device, the Blackberry Torch. RIM is expecting the revamped operating system to help Blackberry devices to break free from the issues its previous operating system has. The main issue with the Blackberry devices has being its browsing experience. The new WebKit-based browser is expected to improve the user experience in leaps and bounds. RIM has also reduced the number of menus inside menus together with a powerful search tool. It is also comprised of a social networking tool (surprise, surprise) which enables you to aggregate RSS feeds from any social networking site.
At the first glance, you see that the menu has gone through a cleanup and is more smoothened out in its icons and text. The menu looks bit more elegant and sleek compared to OS 5. The list of menu is a window that slides up from the bottom with a default of four apps in a row which can be changed according to user’s preference. The apps are separated by type such as media or frequent apps so you can just flip left and right to browse through them. Almost everything in the menu is clickable. You can change your sound profile, check messages, network connections and apps. But still moving from place to place can be confusing as you don’t end up where you started if you go back. For who are familiar with Blackberry, there seems to be less clutter in OS 6. The operating system is fairly fast compared to the Storm and other Blackberry devices but if you are running it on a fairly slow CPU it doesn’t help too much to convince us on the operating system. Even if it is not running anything which is CPU intensive it stalls wondering the limits of the operating system.
The best feature that RIM managed sneak is the universal search. This feature allows you to search any item within the device whether it is a text, song or an app. You can set preferences to choose what to search and not to search. This one of the best features that I liked and it is kind of like spotlight in Mac or Google desktop but much faster. Blackberry email and messaging services is the primary strength that RIM has. If you plug into the RIM services the user experience is brilliant. If you are using Gmail as your primary email, you just need to log into Gmail and it will sync in the contacts, the calendar and the spam filters. Searching within the emails is much better with real time filtering.
The new app – social feeds allow the users to combine all your Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging such as AIM, Yahoo and Gtalk and RSS feeds into one place. But this is where it gets ugly. The idea of one place to have them all is brilliant but when you want to view them you actually need to go to the respective app which kind of sucks. So it is kind of a half-baked cake with a nice coating.
The Blackberry browser was the biggest pain for the users. So this browser is not a new version of the old but a completely new one altogether. The pages are coming up reasonably better and the experience is far better. But how does it fair with the other top end smart phones. Not so well. RIM browser is still noticeably slower than browsers in the iPhone, HTC EVO or Palm Pre for that matter.
The media section is much improved. But still it has problems when transferring media files to the phone. I believe they did not really do well with certain media files. The coolest thing in this section is that it allows the user to sync the media wirelessly between the PC and the phone using Blackberry desktop. Although it says on the web that this feature is inconsistent, this is kind of neat.
If you are an app person who wants to get your favorite apps in your new Blackberry, you are in for a shock. OS 6 is not backward compatible which is kind of shocking but I would allow sometime until they sort this one out. If you are a gamer the experience is heartbreaking when compared to the iPhone, Palm Pre and Android the game is experience is nowhere near.
So would OS 6 take RIM to the next generation of mobile phone fist fight? At this stage it is kind of iffy. I should say that it has improved a lot but I’m not sure if has changed enough to stay in the competition. With controversial but successful iPhone 4G release and with Android devices coming out faster than mushrooms this maybe the last straw RIM gets to be in the game. With trouble they are having in the Middle East and India, a mediocre OS would not do any good.