A few thoughts about BlackBerry 10

I’ve been using BB10 for some days now. I like the OS, and I can see myself using it as my main phone, but as everything, it has its drawbacks.

I won’t mention bugs or application quality in appworld as this is off topic on this blog. I have several things to comment on about the UI however.

Menus all over the place.

There can exist up to 4 menus in each app without a distinct difference from each other.

Top menu, left menu, right menu and titlebar menu. This is outright confusing.

Weird navigation

Origin is a very important aspect when you have card multitasking and Nokia did that right with both the N9 and N900. The applications spawned new windows just when that was right. On BlackBerry new application windows are almost never spawned, so you could well be in a Compose SMS window at the same time in the phone application, the hub, or the contacts application. Combined with the fact that there are covers that hide the state of the running apps, it’s becoming difficult to detect where you were before, say, switching to the browser to copy something over. In the following screenshot I’m composing messages in the hub, phone, and contacts app.

And this is how it looks like 3 seconds later. Impossible to distinguish when the cards are covered.

Going Back

Going back to an app’s previous page is done with the back button, just like on harmattan. Wrong! When the keyboard is up, there is no back button. You have two choices. Either swipe from out of the screen with two fingers upwards to hide the keyboard (completely undiscoverable and counter intuitive compared to harmattan’s swipe the keyboard down as you swipe up to collapse something down), or swipe back from everywhere, sailfish like. The second gesture is good enough, but has been shot in the foot: firstly it’s not present everywhere and second, you don’t notice it exists because you see the back button at first. Then when the back button disappears behind the keyboard, you just feel lost.

Edit: There’s a third method. Tap somewhere neutral to hide the keyboard and then press back. That’s more obvious, I admit.

Unnatural gestures

Some gestures feel unnatural. Mostly the gesture which brings up the multitasking view when you are on the hub and the hub peek gesture. Believe it or not, this screenshot is done by swiping from the bottom of the screen.

Even if you do that, the natural response seeing the pane appearing from the right is to move your finger left or right, which doesn’t move that pane. Lifting the finger while seeing the above brings up the card view, despite the center of mass of the pane being outside the screen. (In general, when lifting the finger from the screen, if the finger is not moving, the elements fall back to equilibrium, that is, if more than half the pane is visible it completes it’s move and comes to view, otherwise it rolls back and hides.) This animation violates that rule.

Another such example is the Hub Peek gesture. Instead of the natural swipe from the left to reveal what is behind, you have to swipe from the bottom of the device, and you are shown this

Which provides no clue that when you start moving your finger to the right, after some weird friction you will be presented with this


4 thoughts on “A few thoughts about BlackBerry 10

  1. Excellent write-up once again…
    I hope Jolla & other parties interested in Sailfish have their Z10’s now (& dev phones for even longer), & are looking at where they can borrow some ideas, & improve on any UX mistakes!

  2. I (also N9 user) agree that there is space for improvements but regarding the menus I find it logically structured from what I can see.

    Left menu: Filters my view by categories
    Toolbar options: Default options
    Right menu: Additional options
    Top menu: Application settings

    I think with this I can pretty much survive on BB10 (as long as application developers follow this of course)

    Maybe they should show an arrow to the right when you peek for events? But in generally I believe they will fix most of the issues addressed and for the rest – I don’t understand all this complaining about difficult gestures. I’m an expert user and learning a mobile OS requires a bit of learning but not too much. I prefer swipe designs and options…so either we have a lot of extra buttons or some gestures we need to learn.

    But let see – I haven’t touched a BB10 so far :-)

  3. How does this stack up against webOS? Have you ever used its wonderful cards-based interface? The gestures there seem quite logical, especially for back/forward ones on the phones & swiping up & away to kill an app. I also like that one can group cards into hands to better organise what can become an unwieldy mess if one had, for instance, a few web pages, a message window, the music player, the calendar, & maps open.

    • Unfortunately, not only I haven’t used a webOS device, I haven’t even seen one. I think it might be time to order a used one to check out…