BlackBerry: Rising Up? (And My Smartphone History)

Well, I know that this sounds like a fanboy article, but the truth is... I'm looking for a topic to write, since I've become quite bored on my limited holiday. There are tons of tasks I wanted to do during the holiday, but just like most teenagers in my country, I've been procrastinating until the last few days of my precious holiday. I just want to share some of my stories. If you think this is a fanboy article, you're welcome to leave. But before that, please note that I'm sick of hearing fanatics defending their favorite brands. It's just a company, geez. If they make good products, good for you. If they don't, then don't waste your time defending it or aimlessly point out other products' faults. Companies and competitions are there for our benefits. Imagine if there were just one company that produced all the smartphones in the world. There would be no innovations, would there be?

Anyway, I've written this piece after having experienced (almost) all mobile OSes. Though I understand some technical stuffs, this article is based on my daily usage of those OSes. All kinds of illegal activities that include jailbreaking, unlocking, and rooting are not put into my consideration. Now that you know all of that, you're welcome to either leave, or hit the break to read more. If you choose the former, please note that I appreciate your visit here :)

My First Smartphone
Looking back, my first smartphone was an Android. It was the original Samsung Galaxy S. At the time, it was Android's best weapon against Apple's iPhone4. The original S was so powerful that some dubbed it as the 'iPhone Killer'. With features like 1GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, latest Android, and finally, superAMOLED screen, it was Samsung's first milestone to glory as we know now. Heck, at that time I thought that 4" screen was already too big. Talking about progress in tech...

Anyway, thanks to Google's endless efforts and hunger for innovation, Android has already reached the stage of near-maturity. It's now much less laggy than before, has much more apps, and with KitKat that offers enhancements and highly-efficient resource handling, it'll be a matter of time before Android handsets become as affordable as the feature phones. In my opinion, Android never had any falls in its life. It's constantly improving as it slowly erases the fragmentation problem, although fragmentation can only be minimized, not completely erased. Sure, it's not as secure as other mobile OSes, but Google is working very hard on improving Android's security despite its open-source nature. With those points put into consideration, I can only see Android's bright future from here.

This UI never changed until BB10
Moving on. The next mobile OS I was introduced to was the BlackBerry OS. At one point in our history, BlackBerry was literally the king of the smartphones. Sadly, they basked in their success so much that they let their guard down. Android and iOS were going strong, and BlackBerry OS had no choice but to surrender to these two ever-growing adversaries. Don't get me wrong, though... BlackBerry OS was possible one of the first mobile OS ever created (aside from Symbian and Pocket PC) and had a role in shaping today's modern OSes. However, the guys at the company simply couldn't innovate fast enough.

BBOS 7. There's not much difference, is there?
BlackBerry OS' UI was constant for years (from OS 5.0 to OS7) and had little visual change except a set of new icons and fonts. Keeping the same UI for years while competitors are pushing for new designs is truly bad for business. I don't say that we must copy, I'm saying that we must be vigilant in seeing the trends. For a consumer like me, if a company steals a feature from another company and makes it better and more practical, I'm fine with it. Getting back onto the track, the OS was also plagued with lags, despite the fact that the OS and hardware are developed by the same company. Raising the hardware specs certainly didn't help. I was surprised when I found out that my 9900, which had a 1.2GHz processor and 768MB RAM, had lags. Damn, even my Original S didn't lag that bad. Too bad that Dakota 9900 was a sexy-looking phone. If its OS had been more practical and its camera had had auto-focus, it would have sold like hotcakes.

The third OS I know was iOS. iOS debuted with the original iPhone in 2007. At the time, Steve Jobs implied that it was the mobile version of MacOS, which later was re-branded simply as 'iOS'. Its interface was clean and dead-simple, although finding settings for specific applications might be complicated at first. Performance-wise, it is highly resource-efficient. Who at first noticed that behind all those console-class graphics game, is a dual-core processor. I can't talk much about the 64-bit architecture since I haven't got much information of its use yet. Design-wise, iOS' interface has been stagnant, until iOS7, though its main UI hasn't changed. The fact that people haven't got bored by iOS is perhaps influenced by its practical UI that utilizes the full-touchscreen design very well. I don't know, but I think iOS has influenced the interface of today's modern OSes' full-touchscreen menu grid. I didn't say copy, because anyone hasn't invented a better looking menu grid. Anyway, iOS is Android's closest, and perhaps strongest, competitor. Just like Android, iOS has never been through a bad time. Sure, some people got bored by its UI and its premium price sometimes puts people off, but its strong ecosystem and media offering help it stand on its feet.

iOS6 and iOS7. iOS UI is consistent from the first generation but compared to BlackBerry's UI, iOS UI is more exciting for some reasons. Perhaps because of the nice graphics and animations? Or because it just works?

Windows Phone UI is what inspired the controversial
Start Menu of Windows 8. Though functional, clean,
colorful, and dead simple, some people just find it boring.
The next OS I know was Windows Phone. Now, I don't really know about Windows Phone since I've only used it for a brief time. Even that brief time was using a low end phone, the Nokia Lumia 510. All I can say about the OS is that its sleek, and very, very resource efficient. The 510 doesn't have a powerhouse processor, nor great amount of RAM and yet, it's very smooth and I didn't experience any lags at all. Loading applications are slow, yes, but that's caused by the weak processor. If I took out heavy apps from the phone, it would be very smooth. In the other hand, its UI is very simple; so simple that it occasionally turns off people. Even the update from WP7 to WP8 brought little to no UI tweak. Moving on, Windows Phone never took the first place. Microsoft's strict limitation towards the OS and hardware, unfortunately, has turned off potential customers and not less important, manufacturers. Heck, Windows Phone 7 doesn't even support USSD code. I was so pissed knowing this late, since most telco operator here relies on USSD for checking balances, registering data plans, etc. (Fortunately, Windows Phone 8 doesn't seem to repeat the same mistake). Its app catalog is also a few years behind iOS or Android although it continues growing. As a result, though outsells iOS and Android in certain countries, it never achieved stellar sales record or stirred up tech world. Don't get me wrong, Windows Phone could be a threat to both iOS and Android. That would only happen if Microsoft decided to give it more attention. Nokia is Microsoft's greatest partner for marketing Windows Phone (until Nokia is fully Microsoft's, at least...). Nokia's legendary build and hardware quality, combined with Microsoft's expertise and seniority in the software field, is more than enough to build one deadly smartphone.

The latest OS I was introduced to was BlackBerry 10. As what I've stated in the few paragraphs above, BlackBerry (formerly RIM) has basked in its own success too much that it forgot innovation. As a result, BlackBerry stumbled into an era of near-bankruptcy. BlackBerry 10 was BlackBerry's last hope to get back in the smartphone business. My first BB10 handset was the Z10. Its price was dwindling very fast, and I bought it when it was priced at around 4 million Rupiah. I thought it was a good deal, so I went away and grabbed myself one. At first glance, the device was quite amazing. The screen quality was superb and its interface was... fresh. Its camera no longer sucked, and it's very capable in multitasking. My first question was whether the device was really made by BlackBerry. I asked that because the BlackBerry I knew wouldn't have such quality (sorry BlackBerry fans, I'm being honest here...)

BB10 in Q10. As strange as having a square screen on a phone, its new UI is surprisingly and pleasantly fresh and different. In case you are wondering, the actual resolution of Q10's screen is 720 x 720.
On a side note, I thought that I made a very risky decision for going to Z10. Why, because BlackBerry was literally on the sinking side. Its financial situation wasn't so good. However, after seeing various reviews about the Z10, I decided to give BlackBerry another chance, and boy... how I don't regret that decision. BlackBerry 10 was a fresh start for BlackBerry, and it brings innovations and fresh breeze for the mobile OS market. Its gesture-based operations was kind of annoying at first, but once you get used to it, you won't come back to wherever you came from. Even when rocking a Galaxy S4, I used its unlocking gesture (swipe up from the bottom of the screen). I was flustered when I found out that I'm rocking a non-BB10 phone. And yes, it doesn't have the drop-down notification center, but its Hub and Peek feature is more than enough. I find them very, very convenient. Though Apple said 'There's an App for That', I haven't found any app that creates a unified inbox in my iPad. There's no such app in Google Play, either. I salute those BB10 designers; they really deserve a medal. As for multitasking, BB10 is quite capable. 2GB of RAM is hardly wasted (most of the time I have 900MB++ of free RAM), and though limited, the Active Frame does a good job for refreshing in the background, and giving you updates. Plus, it's very resource-efficient. I haven't experienced any major lags yet with the dual-core processor. There were some slight delays, which is a huge improvement from the old OS. Moreover, the OS is slowly being updated and with the recent update to 10.2.1 which allows Android APK installation out of the box, the OS is better than ever.

Active Frames in BB10. The new OS showcases its multitasking capability here.
After Z10, came the Q10, which I am currently rocking. Compared to Z10, Q10 is a completely different device. Though have an awkwardly placed 1:1 screen, it's AMOLED and the Q10 has the physical keyboard BlackBerry has been renowned with. At first I missed Z10's large screen, but then I realize that I have a G2, an Android phone that is more than enough for me to enjoy multimedia content. Again, it's a personal preference. It's just awkward to watch YouTube video in 1:1 aspect. I now use my Q10 for everyday communication, since that's what BlackBerry is good at, and will always be, and my LG G2 for other things. Both are excellent device. By the way, don't get me started on switching to iPhone. As much as I want it, it's way too expensive. It's an investment, yes... but believe me, you really don't want to invest on gadgets in this economy.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, every OS has its time. At the moment, it's iOS and Android's time to shine while it's time for BBOS to die (not dead yet, because corporate users feel that BIS and BES, which work exclusively for legacy devices, are more secure, though this fact is denied by BlackBerry). Windows Phone, well... it's fairly stagnant, though have the potential to overtake the two current primadonas. BlackBerry is trying to return to the game, and with BlackBerry 10, it stands a chance to regain its glory once again. Unfortunately, they don't market their handsets aggressively enough... and for setting a premium price for a brand once known by my people for its lags and incapability, it will mostly turn into a boomerang for the company. As much as I want to believe in BlackBerry and the fact that I'm happy with my Q10, I still have my rationality. I can't just shell out 8 million for a device that will have its price lowered to 6-7 million in a few months. I'm sure that most will just pick an iPhone or a Samsung handset instead for that price range. If BlackBerry wants to raise its chances competing against the giants, they either have to justify that premium price, or sell their handsets at a more reasonable price, if they couldn't control their price in the market.

Well, so much for my fanboy-ish article, Folks. I'm just trying to justify the good and the bad of each popular mobile OS. Yes, I admit that I emphasized on BlackBerry, because I want people to know that they've changed. BlackBerry seems to have learned a thing or two from their mistakes, and they're trying to get back up. With their new management, I think that they might surprise us in the next few years. Sure, the OS is not perfect, and BB10 was too late to save the day, but I have high hopes that BlackBerry might rise again.

Okay, I guess that's all for today. I think this probably the longest article I've written so far in this blog. Anyway, I hope that you guys find this article useful. Either useful or not, I thank you guys for reading my 'complaints' and I really hope to see you again in the future. Finally, thanks for coming by and have a nice day! Oh, and by the way... Happy Lunar New Year for all the people celebrating it all over the world. May you become prosperous in this new year of the horse! :D


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