Finding the Sweet Spot with BlackBerry 10 Apps

With the arrival of BlackBerry 10 comes an exciting opportunity for app makers. We examine some exciting functionality you can tap with a BlackBerry app.

BlackBerry once ruled the smartphone wars. No longer. They are currently the fourth largest smartphone ecosystem – trailing Android with 48% of the global install base and iPhone with 19%. Even the deprecated Symbian still has a 15% market share. BlackBerry lags with 8%. With the launch of it’s new BlackBerry 10 operating system, BlackBerry hopes to reverse its declining fortunes and re-emerge as a viable contender in the smartphone wars. The investment BlackBerry is making into latest operating system and the surprisingly positive March sales numbers prove that there is plenty of opportunity for app development on the BlackBerry platform.

Reviews of the new BlackBerry 10 OS have been generally positive, and as we reported in Idea to Appster last month, BlackBerry developers historically tend to do better financially than iOS and Android developers. We also noted some encouraging signs:

BlackBerry 10 is a solid OS and the devices should rival iPhone, Windows Phone and high-end Android smartphones. In addition, BlackBerry is very publicly courting developers and developer support and is moving aggressively to make the app and media store, BlackBerry World, a legitimate success.

BlackBerry users have long been among the most loyal – and deep-pocketed – of any of the smartphone ecosystems. BlackBerry has long offered carrier billing services. Carriers are hoping for a viable alternative to Android and iPhone dominance and could deliver greater than expected marketing for the platform. Moreover, the company itself is doing what it can to encourage and support developers, even offering an emulation engine to allow developers to port their Android apps to BlackBerry. These are all a potential boon to app developers.

Should you be ready to take the plunge and build an app for BB10, take note of some of the platform’s more interesting features:

Gestures & Multitasking

While supporting a full touch interface, there are some noticeable differences between BlackBerry 10 and Android/iOS. BB10 makes deep use of gestures. The four main gestures for navigation include, per Wikipedia:

  1. Quick swiping up from the bottom edge of the bezel will result in users returning to the home screen. From there, users can view and close active applications.
  2. Users can also swipe from the top edge, to bring down a quick setting shade on the home screen, or an option shade on other supported apps.
  3. Also, while using any application, the upside down J-hook (starting from the bottom of the bezel and moving upward and right) allows users to peek at any notifications or messages on the BlackBerry Hub.
  4. Finally, swiping left to right (or vice versa) scroll through the available screens.
  5. BB 10 also supports multitasking with gesture integration. 
BlackBerry 10 supports all the usual smartphone gestures, plus some new touches meant to ease multi-tasking and productivity.

BlackBerry 10 supports all the usual smartphone gestures, plus some new touches meant to ease multi-tasking and productivity.

Notifications

BlackBerry Hub serves as the notification center, with the user’s social and email accounts all integrated into one app. These include email, Twitter, Facebook, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), and LinkedIn. Other notifications including missed calls, voicemail, and system updates also appear on the hub. The hub is accessible from any app or the lock screen.

The BlackBerry 10 Hub provides a single swipe view of all a user's notifications and alerts across their connected networks.

The BlackBerry 10 Hub provides a single swipe view of all a user’s notifications and alerts across their connected networks.

Home & Work

One of the most innovative features may be the new “BlackBerry Balance”, which enables users to keep both personal data and work data separated – sort of like a ‘virtual machine’ setting.

Users switch between personal and work settings by swiping down on the apps page. According to the company, all of the user’s data is secured via 256-bit AES encryption, and any files created will stay within the profile partition. Unlike Android and iOS, the multiple personas supported by BlackBerry positions avoids the need for corporate IT departments from having to deploy 3rd party apps, like Good for Enterprise, to encrypt and protect mail messages.

The Corporate IT Wet Dream: BlackBerry Balance gives users the ability to securely manage work and personal data on a single device.

The Corporate IT Wet Dream: BlackBerry Balance gives users the ability to securely manage work and personal data on a single device.

BlackBerry is trying to do what they can to encourage and aid developers with a compelling platform that attempts to resolve many of the issues faced by Android and iOS users today. The rest is up to you.

About Brian Hall

Brian S Hall writes about technology, immortality and food for ReadWrite, Techpinions, Unwired View and other publications. His thoughts on the 'smartphone wars' and how these are rapidly de-constructing markets, industries, business models and relationships around the world can be found on his personal site at www.brianshall.com