updated 11:45 am EDT, Tue April 20, 2010
BlackBerry OS 6 to be more visual, touch aware
A new leak this morning has provided what should be the first known screens and features of BlackBerry OS 6.0. The entire OS is finally touch-aware and supports multi-touch with pinch-to-zoom and other gestures throughout, including the browser and photo viewer. It now has momentum-based scrolling and a tap-to-hold context menu instead of having to revert to the hardware BlackBerry button.
The home screen now draws slight cues from iPhone, according to BGR. While the familiar buttons have carried over from phones like the Storm2, users can now switch between multiple pages of app icons, such as their favorites.
RIM's music and photo apps are also more like Apple's; the audio player has a Cover Flow-like navigator, while the photo viewer provides a rapid-loading set of thumbnails and a tap-to-hide control layer.
The web browser is potentially the largest change and now uses the WebKit engine shown earlier this year, which makes it much more accurate and faster. Tabbed browsing has been added and behaves somewhat similarly to Opera Mini by providing visual thumbnails without hiding the existing page.
Overall, the OS is poised to have a cleaner and more visual interface that has a "web 2.0" look, particularly in areas like the BlackBerry's e-mail client.
Although only just now being seen, 6.0 may actually launch quickly as an AT&T contact expects it no later than June or July. An unveiling could come as soon as April 27th at RIM's Wireless Enterprise Symposium, but whether or not it's attached to a new phone is less certain. Some rumors have put the Talladega, possibly known as the BlackBerry 9900, on a similar schedule. The AT&T nature of the source makes it unlikely that a variant of the usually CDMA-focused Storm would come first.
The changes may prove essential to RIM, which has historically had trouble promoting touchscreen interfaces for its smartphones. As of today, BlackBerry OS 5 is still dominated by text menus and lacks most of the features associated with modern touch platforms like Android, iPhone or webOS.