The new BlackBerry 7 devices are out in the wild and being tested and there are reviews starting to pop up today as RIM’s review embargo is lifted. What really makes these devices is a combination of hardware and software and while the hardware review will be up shortly, here is a glimpse at some features that you’ll appreciate from the software side of things. There were a few features that we’ve left out of this Top 10 list because they were hardware dependent. Features such as HD video recording are really awesome, but it may be more hardware than software at work.
Here are some fun features of BlackBerry 7 in no particular order:
One thing we liked about BlackBerry 6 was the introduction of panels, but there was a lot of redundancy. For example, many of your Favorite apps would also appear in your Frequent apps. In BlackBerry 7, you can customize which panels are visible.
To use custom panels, go to:
Homescreen > Options > Manage Panels
Add to Existing Contacts
One of the more frustrating elements of adding contacts with your BlackBerry is there was no “add to existing contacts” field and you would have to either create a new contact or navigate to the contact and copy and paste. Now the feature is baked right in.
Custom Search Engines
It’s great to see that custom search engines are built into BlackBerry 7. One of the downsides is that it isn’t all that easy to add custom search engines and it would be nice if it were as easy as Firefox. We’ll have a tutorial coming on how to add a variety of search engines for those not sure how to enter the search fields properly.
The device switch options located in the Setup app, has some really helpful features for backing up and restoring your device. The app allows you to backup and restore using the SD Card which helps if you’re not big on using data. Another great backup tool is BlackBerry Protect which is preloaded on the device (more on that later).
To access the Device Switch app, head to:
Setup > Device Switch
Voice Activated Universal Search
Voice activated universal search is a fun feature if you’re on the move and don’t feel like looking down at your device and tapping away. Now, it can also be a pretty embarrassing feature if you’re searching for something you don’t want others listening to. This feature is also available in the Google Mobile app but now you also get the added benefits of searching your device.
To use the Voice Activated Universal Search app:
Tap Search then tap the mic icon
Liquid graphics is a somewhat vague term but it’s pretty clear that RIM needed something to describe the fact that the latest devices use a combination of increased processor power and OpenGL 2 to create a fluid and lightning fast homescreen. This is also the reason that BlackBerry 7 isn’t backwards compatible – because the BlackBerry 6 devices didn’t have the OpenGL 2 support. When you pick up a BlackBerry 7 device, you can really feel the difference.
HTML 5 Video Support
HTML 5 is fast becoming a great new standard for the web and many sites are specifically adopting HTML 5 video. Popular video sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion and others have either already implemented HTML 5 video or have a beta player available to the public. We’ve taken the browser to some great HTML 5 video sites including the above at videojs.com and the browser performed tremendously.
BlackBerry ID Integration
One of the more frustrating elements of BlackBerry 6 was having to constantly re-enter your BBID. Now, the BBID is baked into the BlackBerry experience and apps can access it. We’ve also experienced App World has had a huge improvement with this new feature as you don’t have to constantly enter your BBID each time you download an app.
Great Suite of Preloaded Apps
BlackBerry 7 comes with a host of awesome apps that make the overall BlackBerry experience more enjoyable. These apps include:
Social Feeds 2.0
BlackBerry Messenger 6
Docs to Go Premium
BlackBerry Balance (for BES users)
Browser Speed Improved by 40%
Last and CERTAINLY not least is the fact that the Browser in BlackBerry 7 is now 40% faster than it was in BlackBerry 6 and 100% faster than it was in OS 5 (official percentages from RIM). The new browser may not be faster than the iPhone 4’s, but it certainly is fast enough to make browsing a pleasant experience. Remember on OS 5 devices when you didn’t even bother using the browser? Those days are completely gone.