We have seen a lot of BlackBerry 6 in action and it looks like a lot of visual improvements for the end user. But what about developers? Will OS 6 bring anything new to help them create rich and compelling apps? The answer is “yes”. OS 6 comes with some awesome new APIs for developers to leverage to make great apps for BlackBerry. Lets take a look at what OS 6 will allow you to do.
The graphics in OS 6 are going to be a leap beyond OS 5. There are animation APIs in OS 6 that allow you to animate nearly everything and it’s all optimized natively. OS 6 comes with OpenGL ES 1.1 3D graphics for all devices with supporting hardware (CDMA). OpenGL ES 1.1 builds on the existing 1.0 support and allows for multitextures, automatic mipmap generation, improved rending and more. OS 6 will also come with OpenVG 1.1, which is the 2D equivalent of OpenGL.
There is far more device integration in BlackBerry 6 which comes in the form of a unified search framework. A new unified search application allows for searches on-device as well as web content. With more app integration, you can register as a content provider or extended search provider. This means that OS 6 will provide the ability to search in-app as well as as access other third party data. BlackBerry Maps will also be redesigned and work with OS 6 to provide developers an easy to use in-app mapping solution.
One of the more popular apps for BlackBerry is ShortCutMe. The app allows you to create shortcuts on the homescreen for a file, URL etc. BlackBerry 6 will make this app obsolete by providing this functionality natively. OS 6 will also provide developers with a convenience key API that will allow you to use a “press and hold” or “multiple presses” feature in your applications. There are also APIs for auto-sizing, auto-centering and font support which will make rendering of content for various screen sizes much easier.
With OS 6, developers will have access to new PIM APIs such as the ability to create an on-device contacts database. Your app will also be able to easily update calendar events, without the need for user acceptance. Users will be able to take advantage of some new PIM features as well such as contact lookup and new address book fields (mobile2 and fax2).
There are barcode enhancements in OS 6 such as the ability to embed the camera viewfinder with support for scanning barcodes. BlackBerry 6 supports a variety of new formats listed in ZXing 1.4 such as 1D (UPC, ITF-14) and 2D (Data Matrix, QR Code). The camera in OS 6 will also have granular control of auto-focus while the viewfinder is enabled. Auto-focus no longer requires that the user take a picture to enable.
There are a variety of location services that come with BlackBerry 6. A new cellsite geo-location API will be made available to developers, allowing them to turn on location services on the device and take advantage of crowd sourced data for cell tower positions. User confirmation is required and can be used simultaneously with GPS. These new cellsite-geo location APIs leverage existing LBS APIs. Developers will also be able to leverage a geo-coding engine that provides postal/ZIP codes based on latitude and longitude. If your app has any travel features, you will now be able to leverage a highly accurate crowd sourced ETA from the user’s current location to their destination.
As mentioned at the last Developer Conference, developers will be able to take advantage of RIM’s new advertising service SDK. This SDK will allow you to create free applications that use mobile advertising to recoup development costs. RIM’s new ad service connects to several leading advertising networks and was said to be available in the first half of 2010 (probably past by now).
In the 2nd half of 2010, we’re expecting to see a payment service SDK which will allow for payment transactions within applications. This payment service SDK is an end-to-end trusted and streamlined purchasing experience.
Even More APIs
It’s rumored that the new APIs available to developers with OS 6 is numbered in the thousands. Among them are:
Device capability API - This API allows developers to query the BlackBerry and get a list of hardware and software capabilities. This will allow your app to know if the hardware has a virtual keyboard, trackpad, camera etc. Overall, this is a great way to handle device fragmentation.
Web communication - Developers will have access to various web-service based technologies such as SOAP, REST, ATOM and RSS.
Web communication parsing – OS 6 will have parsers that help process web services messages such as JSON, XML and RSS.
SQLite Upgrade – Along with 6, we’ll see an updated SQL engine to version 3.6.21. New features in this update include support for foreign key constraints.