In May of this year RIM released a version of BlackBerry 10 to developers, providing those who attended its BlackBerry World event a “Dev Alpha” device with the OS preloaded on it, so developers would have something to help create and test apps for the new platform.
After BlackBerry World, RIM hit the road for a series of events called “BlackBerry Jam” where it passed out additional Dev Alpha devices to developers around the world.
Four months later, the company has now passed out 5,000 devices throughout all of its tours, and is closer to its final release of BB10. The first consumer devices as scheduled to arrive in early 2013.
Starting Tuesday at its BlackBerry Jam event in San Jose, RIM will be passing out a whole new Dev Alpha device to developers: Dev Alpha 2.
The devices are only available to developers who come to BlackBerry Jam events — there are five more after the one being held now — and while RIM will be offering the software update for developers who have the original Dev Alpha devices, it won’t be replacing any of the original devices with new ones.
Still not what we’re going to see on hardware-front with BlackBerry 10, the second-generation DevAlpha unit is a little closer to what we can expect on the software front, so close in fact that RIM is promising developers that the APIs they see today won’t change between now and release time.
“With BB10 we’re at the start of a new era of mobile computing,” RIm CEO Thorsten Heins said during a keynote at BlackBerry Jam Tuesday morning. “BB10 introduces a shift to true mobile computing, and that is why we’ve built a whole new platform, a new architecture, from the ground up.”
The company claims to still have “a few surprises” up its sleeve when it comes to BlackBerry 10, but it’s also taken the wraps off of a few more of the features we’ll see in the operating system. Among them:
The home screen for BB10 has been updated, allowing for a simple swipe up from the lock screen on the device to bring up the home page in something RIM is calling “BlackBerry Flow.” Once the home page is up, users can swipe through pages of apps — tap on a particular page from the scroll button at the bottom of the page to bring it up, or swipe across the screen to instantly bring up their inbox. You can “Peek” at notification you have at any time, by pulling up from the bottom of the screen.
Your inbox within BlackBerry 10 is more than just an inbox — so much so that RIM is giving it a new name: BlackBerry Hub. Within the hub you’ll be able to see emails, but also messages from BlackBerry Messenger, text messages, and updates from social media. All of the direct messages you see on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter will show up within BlackBerry Hub, as well as all the @replies you receive on Twitter and friend requests from Facebook.
BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) is updated in BlackBerry 10 with a more conversational look and support for emoticons. BBM also has multi-language text predictions, so you can seamlessly switch between different languages and still see predictive words.
Taking a page from Windows Phone, RIM is adding “Active Frames” to BB10. Much like the “Live Tiles” found in Windows Phone, the frames update with information you can see at a glance from your home screen. For instance, the weather icon will scrolls through the current temperature as well as a seven-day forecast and the calendar app shows your next event for the day.
RIM is taking the look and feel of its home screen and bringing it into groups. Active frames also make an appearance in groups, allowing you to see chats pertaining to a particular group, people who are a part of the group, and photos that have been uploaded. For instance, pictures change as they are uploaded to the group, so if someone uploads a new one then that image will change on the group’s page. Tapping on an individual person in a group will bring up a contact page for that person
RIM has also added a little more functionality to its camera app. Now you can access photos you’ve taken with the camera still up by swiping up from a thumbnail on the bottom left of the screen. That adds to the camera functionality RIM already showed off in May, specifically a feature that allows you to scroll forward and back in time after snapping a shot to capture the perfect moment in time. The feature also works for individual faces in a photo, so if one of your friends closes their eyes in a group shot, you can adjust just his or her face in your final photo.
BlackBerry 10 is still slated to be released in the first quarter of 2013. You can check out some shots of the second DevAlpha device in the gallery above.
What do you think of BlackBerry 10 so far? What features do you hope make it into the final product? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.