Hands-On: BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha
Updated: changed the intro text.
Research In Motion had a few of its developer alpha units on hand for us to look at. Here is a first look at what BlackBerry 10 might eventually evolve to become.
If Research In Motion made anything clear about the "BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha" devices that were on-hand at BlackBerry World 2012, it is that they represent neither final hardware nor final software. They are strictly a bare-bones set of hardware that is meant for developers to use for building and testing applications. The hardware isn't even close to being a production design, and the software isn't ready, either. In fact, the software isn't even BlackBerry 10, it is PlayBook OS 2.0 that's been crammed onto a smartphone form factor.
That said, we were able to spend a few moments with the device. Here's what we saw.
The developer devices are huge chunky things that have a bare minimum of ports and controls. The hardware isn't important at all here, because it isn't even remotely similar so anything that will ship with BB10 on board. The one spec that perhaps matters is the screen, which was 4.2 inches. This could be indicative of the size of the screen that eventually makes its to the first BB10 devices.
BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha
Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.
The user interface was clearly not meant for such a small screen. The settings menus and tools were far too small to be useful. The overall user interface is essentially identical to PlayBook OS 2.0. It has a main home screen, and apps float around as cards that can be shifted around. The only two apps actually installed on the Dev Alpha were the browser and the camera. Both were crashtastic in the time we spent with the device. The camera interface was very simple, with only the bare minimum of controls for changing the exposure, flash, and so on. No advanced controls (scenes, modes, resolution, etc.) were available at all.
The browser was also bare bones. It had visual bookmarks, but it was hardly functional. Pages were slow to load over the wifi network on hand, and the controls to use the browser were not intuitive at all.
At the moment, that's about all we can say about the Dev Alpha. So, what is this device and why is RIM handing it out to developers? RIM has said all along that apps that are developed for PlayBook OS 2.0 will run in BlackBerry 10. The Dev Alpha device is simply a tool the developers can use to get a more realistic idea of how their apps will work on a smartphone running BlackBerry 10. RIM reiterated that BB10 isn't due until later in the year, but that the company will deliver it on time (for what it's worth).
The videos and images that RIM showed during the keynote are far more indicative about what we'll see with BlackBerry 10 when it finally launches.
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