While Blackberry 10 devices have well-documented problems in catching on with consumers, Blackberry has been doing an good job updating their modern OS ever since its January 2013 launch. So far, we’ve seen 5 updates in total ranging from maintenance releases to addition of major features that have completely changed what Blackberry 10 is now compared to what it was at launch.
With the very recently released 10.2.1 update, the focus is making Blackberry 10 better in what it already is rather than adding brand new features to the mix. It’s a release very much focused on customer feedback. As a Z10 user, the update is pretty significant one for me and here is a list of my five favourite improvements:
1) The ability to install Android apps directly through APK’s
The most significant yet least marketed new feature in 10.2.1 is the ability to install Android apps directly to the device. Though side-loading Android apps to a Blackberry 10 phone was always possible, it was a painstaking process involving converting APK’s to BAR files, the use of a computer and the phone’s debug mode- clearly not newcomer-friendly.
Now, it’s just a matter of downloading the APK file of the Android app directly on your phone and tapping it to have it installed. Better yet, you can install a third party app store like Amazon or Snap and use endless Android apps through it. It’s a game changer that could seriously help close the app gap for the Blackberry 10 platform, and one that I hope both Blackberry and developers make use of in the months to come.
2) New call screen and Reply Now options
While I was a huge fan of the slick and modern call screen on Blackberry 10, the biggest thing I noticed was that any non BB10 user I handed my phone to, was completely clueless on how to answer a call. This obviously concerned Blackberry, and we now have a new call screen that takes a little time getting used to but is much more user-friendly and relies on familiar colors and cues that simplify the experience. The new update also adds Reply Now options that can send an automated (custom or preset) message through BBM or SMS to your contact if you’re unable to answer call.
3) SMS and Email Groups
An oft requested feature was the ability to create SMS and email groups within the phone and it’s finally possible with Blackberry 10.2.1. You can now create custom groups of frequent contacts (Work colleagues, family member etc.) that you can easily select and message in one click rather than having to select them over and over. It’s a neat addition based on the theme of productivity that Blackberry 10 thrives on.
4) Battery and Device Monitor
One glaring omission from Blackberry 10 was a device monitor that could be used to track your memory usage and see which apps are the most resource intensive. This becomes especially important with the Z10, which doesn’t exactly boast the best battery life. Now I’m able to track exactly what’s eating my battery at any minute and kill any app that is taking using more resources such as battery, CPU, memory or storage. It also led me to discoveries that I didn’t expect- apparently, Twitter is more resource intensive than you might expect!
5) Little improvements to the overall OS
As I said before, the focus of 10.2.1 was to add the little things that users requested, especially tweaks that people loved about their legacy Blackberry phones that never made it to Blackberry 10. Speed dialing on the keyboard devices is very much like the legacy OS now while quick settings save you time. Little things like FM Radio and Torch are now built-in, picture passwords make securing your phone less of a chore and the Blackberry Hub gets more refined with filters. Other addition include Wi-Fi Direct, Miracast and an offline browser reading mode.
After using 10.2.1 for a couple of days, I can safely say that Blackberry 10 now feels like a matured product that is nearly perfected in what it sets out to do. All the kinks have been ironed and it boasts an impressive feature set aimed at productivity and communication. While there’s always room for improvement, and I’m sure we will see some major new features in 10.3, Blackberry 10 currently stands as a highly polished operating system. Just waiting for more people to discover it.