Productivity is one of BlackBerry 7’s strengths, as it should be. RIM went ahead and made the Document to Go’s premium version free on all phones running BlackBerry 7. The feature gives users the ability to view, edit, and compose files in Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Such a move makes sense considering BlackBerry’s enterprise-friendly aura.
The BlackBerry Balance feature has also been added to the new OS, which helps to organize personal and business information separately when connected to a corporation’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server. Security has not been ignored either. With BlackBerry Protect, a user can now remotely locate a lost or stolen phone to lock it, wipe the data, or change the ringer volume. BlackBerry Balance and Protect are both free.
While BlackBerry 7 does include improvements such as a digital compass, 720p HD video recording, and OpenGL ES 2.0 graphics support for 3D games, these additions only serve to help it catch up to its competitors. Without a doubt, it’s a positive thing, but one has to wonder why RIM is so lethargic. The company does deserve praise, however, for its inclusion of Near Field Communication (NFC) and augmented reality in BlackBerry 7.
NFC gives you the power to exchange information, such as a phone number or photo with another NFC-compatible phone. It even allows you to make payments using your phone. While the implementation of such a feature is great with the new OS, RIM is only making it available on the BlackBerry Bold 9900. It’s still a step in the right direction at least.
Augmented reality makes an appearance in BlackBerry 7 via Wikitude, a browser that connects the real world with the virtual world through Flickr photos, Tweets, and Wikipedia data. If you are looking for a comparison, think of Google Goggles. This free download allows you to see nearby BBM friends by using your phone’s digital compass. You can point the phone’s camera at a specific location, see if any BBM friends are close by, and chat with them.
The browser in BlackBerry 7 has received some attention from RIM, as the company added support for HTML5. That’s a nice touch for video fans, but there is no support for Flash Player 10. BlackBerry 6 was the setting of the introduction of a WebKit browser, which was definitely a welcome addition to the OS. When you paired the WebKit status with things such as tabbed browsing, pinch-to-zoom multi-touch support, and more, you could see that RIM was on the right track. This time around, the WebKit browser has been improved even more, especially in terms of speed. RIM claims that pages load 40 percent faster in BlackBerry 7 than its OS predecessor, and the difference shows, especially on pages loaded with media.
Universal search is one area where BlackBerry 7 is quite impressive. The feature was introduced in BlackBerry 6, which put the platform on par with its competitors. With Universal Search, you can scour your contacts, apps, and any other parts of your phone to find what you’re looking for. You even have the option to adjust settings to certain categories to make the search much quicker. Add in a voice command option new to BlackBerry 7, and you have a feature that can come in handy on a frequent basis.
When it comes to the home screen and apps drawer in BlackBerry 7 OS, the improvements are somewhat of a mixed bag. Yes, the overall design of the home screen and apps is user-friendly and practical, but the look still leaves something to be desired. In short, it still has a BlackBerry feel. Of course, that is to be expected since you are using a BlackBerry after all, but when Android and iOS offer more modern aesthetics, you would think that RIM would finally get the hint. You do get larger font that’s sharper, and the icons do give off a more vibrant and colorful aura, but the end result is still too similar to BlackBerry 6.
The applications drawer slides vertically, which is a plus. The drawer is easy to customize so you can view apps in a way that meets your needs. You can adjust the slider to view one or two rows of apps at a time, view all of your apps, or simply view none at all. The option also exists to slide apps in a horizontal matter if you wish. Adding an app to your Favorites is as simple as touching and holding its icon to reveal a menu filled with options. App filtering is solid as well, with categories for frequent apps, favorite apps, downloads, and media.
Although BlackBerry 7 may not be the innovative release that many had hoped for, it is solid overall. RIM equipped it with several features that at least helped the OS catch up to its competitors, as well as some extras in the form of augmented reality, NFC, and the Balance and Protect features. One area where it does seem to be lacking is in appearance, so hopefully that will receive more attention the next time around. Another thing to shoot for is legacy support, which is missing here. In other words, if you own an older BlackBerry, even if it’s running on BlackBerry 6, you will not be able to upgrade to the latest version.
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