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CNET Editor

Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon

Loud and Clear

Must-have features for BlackBerry 10

The BlackBerry London could be the first phone to run BB10.
(Credit: Crackberry)

Research In Motion (RIM), it seems, has one shot left. After several years of smartphone releases that simply haven't been able to compete with the success of smartphones from Apple, Samsung and HTC, the hopes of this once-great company now hinge on what Americans might call a "Hail Mary" pass.

RIM is on the verge of publicly revealing its new BlackBerry 10 (BB10), the next big leap forward for its software ecosystem. BB10 will be a completely different operating system from the software found on the latest BlackBerrys, based on the same QNX architecture that the PlayBook tablet OS is constructed on.

The QNX architecture is a solid base, but it isn't a guarantee of success. Let's not beat around the bush. The way RIM handled the launch of the PlayBook and its tablet OS was shambolic. In my opinion, the PlayBook is among the best tablets with regards to hardware and design, but its software was released half-baked without email, contacts or a calendar (among many other important features), and it remained that way for 18 months.

This makes it extremely difficult to convince people of something I really believe in; that RIM's mobile operating system, based on QNX, has the potential to be the best of the best. To out-iPhone the iPhone, to out-geek Android and to out-smoke Windows Phone. With the recent release of the PlayBook OS 2, RIM righted many of these wrongs, plus it added Android app support, but there is still room for improvement.

I don't want this going pear-shaped again. So, RIM, if you'll pardon my forwardness, here is a list of must-have features that BB10 needs to make the impact you need it to.

Lightning-fast browsing

Zippy, slick web browsing is something that the iPhone and the best Android handsets have in common, but it's one area of the PlayBook's operation that I think could use a great deal of attention. There are parts of the PlayBook browsing experience that are great; it supports Flash content, for example, and it handles tabbed browsing well, but it still feels sluggish, and RIM cannot afford to keep it this way.

Wi-Fi hotspot

Some may say that the ability to share your phone's 3G data over Wi-Fi is "nice to have", and not "must-have". I disagree. Wi-Fi hotspot is a feature I use all the time on Android phones, and it's one of the features I miss most when using a Windows Phone. Current-gen BlackBerrys running OS 7.1 have this feature, but the PlayBook does not. Hopefully, RIM will decide that it's worth the effort.

Dock support

This is one area where Apple continues to be leagues ahead of the competition, but RIM is in a unique position to capitalise on this. Creating a standing docking connection for its phones, and enticing third-party manufacturers to create unique accessories would go a long way to helping BlackBerry return to the popular consciousness. Apple currently enjoys large sections of electronics stores dedicated to Apple-only accessories, which in turn act like huge advertising hubs for the Apple brand.

Nail Android app cross-over

Creating an easy way for Android app developers to port over apps to the PlayBook OS was a masterstroke in RIM's otherwise disappointing tablet release. But anyone who has used this feature will tell you that there is still room for improvement. For example, the apps currently play in a separate Android App Player, which really disjoints the user experience. RIM should do more to make these apps feel at home on the new BB10 system.


This goes without saying, but RIM needs one seriously sexy smartphone to win back the hearts and minds of the once-loyal BlackBerry fans. It may sound like blasphemy, but BlackBerry can't sacrifice screen real estate to accommodate a keyboard. In my opinion, a slider with a keyboard under a 4-inch touchscreen would work well, allowing RIM to play to its heritage while offering the large-screen experience that people are demanding in competitors' devices.

That "one more thing"

Even if RIM includes all of these elements, and even more that we've overlooked, it is still going to be an uphill battle convincing tech-savvy users on iOS and Android to convert to its new ecosystem. RIM needs that "one more thing" famously included at the end of an Apple keynote; something to set it apart from the pack, something that no one else is doing. It won't be enough to replicate what's offered by its competitors; it has to go beyond them, or risk extinction.

Add Your Comment 9

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1aleagle posted a comment   
United States

It should be better over existing smartphones on the market. If it can't achieve this,
then it's over. On top of what have been suggested, what I want are the ff:
1) a dual SIM card, one for a business number the other for personal.This
should also be capable of having 2 service providers, other brands carry this feature in other countries.
2) a front video camera
3) a powerful battery
4) how about a solar powered charging capability.


JasonM2 posted a comment   

I'm curious, does anybody know if BB10 will be compatible with any existing Blackberry handsets, namely the 9900 Bold?


C.d.N posted a comment   

ZGC ^ LIKES * !!! ... . . .


99 posted a comment   

Give me a battery that is 2k mah and physical keyboard on a 4" screen and they can have my money.


RickD1 posted a comment   

RIM needs to do everything mentioned in this article. The "one more thing" is RIM's Secure system, which is still the best. I use the encryption feature myself. It could also be the data compression, which no other OS does. That can be important to someone on a limited data plan.


tofo17 posted a comment   

I agree with much of what you say.

The PlayBook was a shambolic release, and it wasn't until OS 2 that it got the key PIM apps, but for accuracy that was not "18 months later" as you say. The PlayBook was only released one year ago this week.

Additionally, Wi-Fi hotspot doesn't make much sense on a Wi-Fi only device. We should see 4G/LTE devices very soon (in weeks) and I agree that these should include Wi-Fi hotspot, particulalry as the phones do now on OS 7.1 as you say.

Browsing has gotten faster again with the latest OS update (2.0.1) released last week but there is always rooms for improvement. The HTML5 support is the best of any tablet.

The one more thing on the PlayBook unfortunately is only relevant if you have a BlackBerry phone, but using the Remote Control from your BB phone to your PB when it is hooked up via HDMI to your TV is pretty cool.

Hopefully we'll see more of BB10 at BlackBerry World next week .


PeterM7 posted a comment   

It would need more than a miraculous 'one more thing', in my opinion. I run a Bold 9900 for work and my private phone is a 4S. They are poles apart in every sense - I hate the tiny buttons on the BB keypad, the touch screen ALWAYS catches my fingers and launches the app bottom right when I try to hang up a call, the interface is so un-user friendly that I just dont use it, moving around its functions and apps is painful - the list just goes on. I've already requested to hand it back - the only bonus was BBM, and for that I'll try to push everyone onto WhatsApp.

Conversely the 4S is a dream. Everything works, again. No brainer really..


MarvinE posted a reply   

Try comparing your 4s (Apple's flagship and only phone) to a "comparable" RIM product. You're comparing Apples to oranges (no pun intended). PPL always consider the Bold and Curve to be Blackberry to Apple compatible. Try comparing RIM's touch screen phones to the 4s and you'll be surprised. With the exception of Siri (which is awesome BTW) and you get most of the same features. Marketing is Apple's strength, that is why they lead the market.


DhirenK posted a comment   
United Kingdom

The 'one more thing' I might add is very competent software when connecting to computers. Personally I've never own a blackberry so I don't have much experience about them. There UI has always drawn me to them in terms of appearance. It seems to be a trait the company is naturally good at. Truth is that I struggled to use the joystick to navigate the OS. It just never really was fast enough or easy enough to get where I wanted to go. The menus confused me, nothing was where I expected it to be. What Apple does well is when you connect the iPhone to the PC or Mac, baring the starting time for iTunes to load up its fantastic as a hub for you're phone. Samsung KIES was truly awful. iTunes is a complete package, media player, podcast manager etc. In my eyes people prefer the whole all in one package. Blackberry need to work hard and dig deep to replicate that experience.

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