Research In Motion continues to work to build excitement for BlackBerry 6, the newest version of its operating system, slated to debut in the third quarter. Slicker than its predecessor, BlackBerry 6 is part of RIM's plan to more effectively compete against the Apple iPhone and the growing number of high-powered smartphones running Google's Android OS.
RIM Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis introduced BlackBerry 6 at the phone maker's annual Wireless Enterprise Symposium April 27. Most recently, RIM's official blog, Inside BlackBerry, posted a Q&A with Joey Benedek, director of the RIM User Experience group. Benedek shared his favorite BlackBerry 6 features, offered a few explanations about decisions that were made and went into some detail about what BlackBerry fans can expect.
In regard to the BlackBerry 6 home screen, Benedek said he and his team wanted a design update that felt "fresh, but familiar, much like a home renovation that 'feels' like home, but is actually new." This resulted in "cleaner and sleeker" visuals and more fluid transitions "between and within the applications."
The biggest change to the home screen, however, is that "there are now five separate views that a user can easily switch between using the Navigation Bar, depending on their preference and the type of information they're looking for," Benedek explained.
Those views are Frequent, for users' most-used apps; Favorites, for favorite applications and shortcuts to Contacts or Web pages; Media, for media content; Downloads, a landing place for downloaded applications; and All, the big vertical list of applications that users are currently accustomed to on a BlackBerry home screen.
Benedek said ideas for changes came from "focus groups, usability testing ... customer feedback" and other sources. For example, the UX team realized that "it wasn't always intuitive where to find newly downloaded applications," which led to the Downloads view. Another new feature-a Universal Search application that can find any kind of content on the device, or expand a search to the Web as well-resulted from diaries that the team had users keep over the span of a few weeks about the searches they performed.
Other new bits of helpfulness regarding the way users search for information are two "'quick access areas' that are built into the home screen," the post said. The first offers one-click access to Connections, Alarm and Options-features that users "frequently want to adjust or change."
The other area is more socially focused. It's "designed to enable you to view your most recent messages (such as e-mail, text [and] BlackBerry Messenger), phone calls, upcoming appointments, [and] Facebook and Twitter notifications simply by tapping the Notification Bar in the middle of the top of the Home Screen," Benedek said. "If you click on the Notification Bar, it drops down to show who the notifications are from, along with the first few words from the title. This feature makes it much easier to prioritize which notifications you want to respond to first."
His favorite new thing about the BlackBerry 6 home screen?
Benedek found it hard to choose between the Notification dropdown-"It's great for multitasking"-and "swiping between application panes (I like watching the animation-it's fun!)"