With the BlackBerry Q10 comes a new maintenance release for BlackBerry OS 10.1 that will shortly also be coming to the BlackBerry Z10. We will have more info on when it will come to the Z10 at BlackBerry World next month since it will coincide with BES 10.1. With OS 10.1 BlackBerry has addressed many of the items that cropped up in the first release along with adding some beautiful improvements. For example, the camera is now capable of HDR pictures.
Since OS 10.1 really build on OS 10 I will not rehash all of the previous features covered in our review of BlackBerry 10. If you are not familiar with BlackBerry 10 I recommend reading that review first. With that said let us dig right into what BlackBerry has improved in BlackBerry OS 10.1 since our last review. Also don’t forget to check out our review of the BlackBerry Q10!
Honey we shrunk the homescreen
With the launch of the Q10 BlackBerry had to find a way to make a portrait homescreen fit in a square. To do this they have added a smaller sized active frame on the homescreen and app grid to allow for more content on the screen. This means a reduced size for the toolbar, removing unnecessary text, and adding some cool tooltips. The app homescreen now shows four icons across and three down instead of four. BlackBerry has also done away with the search button in the bottom middle of the homescreen. It was also nice to see that BlackBerry has revamped the tutorial you get when you first start up a BlackBerry 10 device. It now also explains to you dynamically how the homescreen and gestures work. Hopefully they have more planned in that vein to get users up to speed.
Introducing “instant Action”
BlackBerry has taken universal search to a new level with Instant Action. Now if you type anything from the homescreen it will automatically start searching. If you type something like BBM Luis it will automatically open up a BBM message to Luis. This works for phone calls, email, and more. You can also just start typing numbers for it to search your contacts for the number.
It even works for LinkedIn. It will be interesting if devs can tie into this with an API.
Dark theme for the BlackBerry Q10
The BlackBerry Q10 with its SuperAMOLED screen benefits from a new dark theme in BlackBerry OS 10.1. Due to the OLED technology it take less battery to show black than white. This is because black on OLED is just that part of the screen being off. With the Z10 LED screen it makes no difference so there is no dark theme. Hopefully BlackBerry gives us the option for it in the future since it looks pretty slick. Most of the native apps also received an overhauled “dark” version as you can see in BBM above.
Prediction typing for BlackBerry Keyboard devices
Devices with physical keyboards like the BlackBerry Q10 also get some predictive sentence completion and auto correction. You have to turn it on since it is off by default but it works nicely. and just shows up above the keyboard.
The optimized BlackBerry Hub
BlackBerry gave the hub an overhaul in BlackBerry OS 10.1. The hub now has more consistent text sizes and the menus are smaller to better take advantage of screen real estate. I really like how BlackBerry has added the keyboard shortcuts to menu items to teach newcomers. They also added some cool features like the ability to open up an email that has an attached email. They also added pin to pin messaging and the ability to select which email you want to use in the compose screen.
Last but not least I love how they made the bottom action bar hide when you scroll down and show up again when you scroll up. This gives you more screen real estate. Now if only they would also make the big blue “BlackBerry Hub” bar hide.
Mark Prior Read & Delete Prior Now Work in Searches
I specifically asked for this feature multiple times. I find myself regularly searching for emails and deleting or marking all of them read. Thankfully this is easy to do on BlackBerry OS 10.1 by just performing the search and then holding down the date.
Better text selection
BlackBerry had some nice touches with text selection in BlackBerry 10 and they have improved it further in 10.1. First of all they have improved the bubble that pops up when you select text. You can now also touch two points in the screen to select text between them. It is also now easier to drag the selection brackets or move the cursor around by tapping each side of it.
Packing some High Dynamic Range in the Camera
High Dynamic Range or HDR is a mode for the camera that allows it to take pictures that have better clarity. It offers greater detail in the lightest and darkest areas of a picture that are usually washed out in other cameras. It does this by taking three pictures and melding them together.
BlackBerry also added better red eye and golden eye removal in the picture editor. The camera itself also focuses much faster and startup is zippy.
Some small improvements in the Phone and instant search
BlackBerry added the ability to cut, copy, and paste phone numbers in the dialer screen. They also added the functionality to search by both email and number in the contacts for the phone. Sadly it does not do the same while you are typing numbers in the dialer. They also added the ability to search for a number using instant search.
I also like how the SMS sending option in the phone dialer can be done by just holding down a contact. The phone app in general is also much faster.
BlackBerry Remember Adds HTML Support for Evernote
BlackBerry Remember is an awesome feature especially with its Evernote integration. BlackBerry allowed you to view HTML Evernote entries in BlackBerry OS 10 but if you edited them you lost the HTML. Now with OS 10.1 you retain the HTML and even can put in your own HTML using the editor.
Calculator gets and overhaul
The calculator in BlackBerry 10 got an overhaul removing the animations and making it easier to switch between the regular, scientific, tip, and metric calculators.
Improved notifications including email specific notifications for messages
One of the things that has frustrated new BlackBerry 10 users was the inability to set different notifications per email address on their Z10. That has been fixed with OS 10.1 with the ability to set a different notification per email account. On top of that you can now set a specific number of vibrations per contact and per account. Last but not least you can control contact specific notifications using the volume key. There is also a button now to easily turn off all notifications for an account or an application.
BlackBerry also made a new menu popup when you use the quick menu button to switch profiles. It now has the option to switch between Normal and Silent or Normal and Vibrate.
BlackBerry now also lets you choose if you want the volume buttons to only control media volume or allow you to control notification volume when you are not in a media app. That is mostly for Android and iOS users who are used to such functionality instead of profiles. The volume buttons now also have more settings between highest and lowest.
BlackBerry Link Allows Access To Your Computer Files from BlackBerry 10
BlackBerry already allowed you to access and sync your files from your BlackBerry Z10 to your computer over Wi-Fi using BlackBerry Link. Now BlackBerry has completed the circle by allowing you to access your files from your computer from your BlackBerry OS 10.1 device through Link. I had issues getting this to work remotely but it worked nicely over WiFi. They just show up as extra devices in the file manager.
BBM Gets its Select All feature back for Broadcast Messages
I personally hate this feature but it is much requested. Users can now select all of their contacts when they want to send out broadcast messages. BlackBerry could really help me out if they gave me the option to make Broadcast Messages silent.
Emergency notification system & AT&T Address Book Sync
I found that the BlackBerry Q10 I received had the Emergency Broadcast System returning with carriers able to send out localized alerts over SMS. I did not have a chance to see it in action but the settings seem to imply it. I also found that my device worked beautifully with AT&T’s address book sync as another account.
Restore Data from BlackBerry Protect or Android/iOS
BlackBerry introduced a feature allowing you to select a previous BlackBerry Protect backup to restore on your BlackBerry OS 10.1 device. They also supposedly created apps for iOS and Android to help with the device porting but I have not found them yet…
The browser on OS 10.1 also got a nice overhaul and supports keyboard shortcuts. Nothing crazy but it does work faster. It also does a better job of hiding the top url bar for more screen real estate.
The calendar for the Z10 now supports both portrait and landscape mode in all views (day/week/month)
While that is a pretty extensive list it is nowhere near the full picture. Definitely let us know in the comments if we missed anything or you want us to explain further. I am really digging BlackBerry 10.1 and hope it officially hits the BlackBerry Z10 shortly! You may have noticed an interesting icon in the screenshot at the top of this post… More on that later!