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BlackBerry 10 features: the best bits

BlackBerry 10 is launching today. It’s BlackBerry’s last chance to wrestle back the crowds of phone fans from the clutches of Android and iOS. But does it have a chance? Only time will tell, but these top features make RIM’s latest software worth a look either way.

Swipe-Based Interface
The first part of getting your head around a new operating system is finding out how its core components hang together – how to get from A to B. BlackBerry 10 relies heavily on swipe gestures, flicking from left to right to get where you’re going.

RIM’s previous BlackBerry OS version relied more on vertical scrolling and a traditional home screen/app drawer split. The new use of gestural navigation is intended to make BlackBerry 10 “Flow”. That’s their word, not ours.

Lock screen – Notifications and Camera Shortcut

Having a good lock screen is one of the best ways to make a phone work efficiently. BlackBerry 10 weaves notifications from social networks like BB Messenger and Facebook into the lock screen, as well a heads-up about any new emails or SMSs. Down towards the bottom-right of the screen, you’ll also find a shortcut that takes you directly to the camera app for quick-fire papping.

Active Frames Multi-Tasking
BlackBerry 10 pioneers its very own multi-tasking system, which is based on Active Frames. These are little windows that show any apps running as little letterbox previews, optimised to show information within this little box. Any apps can be displayed as Active Frames, not just those made by RIM.

BlackBerry Messenger
One of the top draws of BlackBerry is BB Messenger, especially for younger phone fiends. RIM has renovated the simple-looking social network for BlackBerry 10, giving it a much richer-looking UI. Video chatting has also been implemented, giving BB Messenger similar communication potential to the iPhone’s combo of iMessage and FaceTime, but with the addition of Messenger’s groups.

BlackBerry Hub

BlackBerry 10 wants to get connected with every part of your digital life, and a core part of that is BlackBerry Hub. This is the area in the system where all your social feeds are aggregated, including Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger. It also holds your emails and text messages, making it the part of BlackBerry 10 you’ll probably spend the most time in.

For more, read our BlackBerry 10 preview >

Work and Personal, Dual Personalities
The BlackBerry system has traditionally been a big hit with business users, and RIM does not want to lose any more of that audience to Android and iPhone. It has introduced a dual-zones feature in BlackBerry 10 that should reel a few back in. You can set two completely different areas in your BlackBerry 10 phone, one for work, and another for when you’re off the clock. Different apps, different email accounts will help you stop work from overtaking your life.

New Keyboard
Sometimes the smallest changes make the biggest difference. One of BlackBerry 10’s most dynamic features is its keyboard. It looks pretty normal from first glance, but its approach to predictive typing is a lot snazzier than most. As you type away, the words it thinks you’re trying to tap out appear over the next letter in the word, where you’re naturally headed. Tap on this word and it’ll auto-complete. Sadly, there’ no provision for Swype-style typing, where you drag a path over the letters in a word rather than tapping  on each one.

Redesigned App World
RIM has given BlackBerry World a complete overhaul alongside BlackBerry 10. All the content the BlackBerry ecosystem offers, including movies, TV, music and apps, will sit in the Blackberry World hub. This move is entirely in line with Apple’s iTunes and Google Play, encouraging users to get everything they need content-wise from the one place.

Time Shift Camera Feature
Here’s one that even the Samsung Galaxy S4 might be jealous of. Time Shift is an extra bit in the BlackBerry 10 camera app that lets you select from a series of multiple exposures taken each time you take a snap, with the option of switch people’s faces. The idea is that if your subject has their eyes closed, you can just pick another photo to save. Genius, no?

What’s your favourite BlackBerry 10 feature? And would you ever be tempted to invest in a BlackBerry X10 or Z10?

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