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BlackBerry Bold OS 5 Beta Review June 25, 2009

Posted by Chris in Blackberry, Smartphone.
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So I took the plunge and installed a leaked beta version of OS 5.0 for BlackBerry. The current release version of the BlackBerry OS is at version 4.6. The new OS has a number of interesting new features and should be a worthy upgrade when it is ready.

IMPORTANT NOTE: THIS BLACKBERRY OS VERSION HAS NOT BEEN RELEASED AND IS NOT OFFICIALLY SUPPORTED. WHILE THE LEAKED VERSION TESTED DOES WORK, THERE ARE A NUMBER OF ISSUES WITH THE SOFTWARE. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO INSTALL THIS SOFTWARE ON YOUR BLACKBERRY UNLESS YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. DOWNGRADING FROM OS 5.0 BACK TO THE OFFICIALLY RELEASED 4.6 MAY NOT BE A STRAIGHTFORWARD PROCESS.

Having said the above, look and feel of the Bold has remained the same for the most part. There were a number of changes made on the built-in applications which I will outline below.

  1. Contacts – The only major change in the Contacts app is the presence of a dedicated search field at the top of the screen. In OS 4.6, the search field is located as the first row of the contact list. The problem with the older version is that scrolling down the contact list would then hide the search field. In order to search, you would have to scroll back to the top of the contact list to get back to the search field. OS 5.0 fixes this.
  2. Calendar – Generally the same except that the New Appointment field was reorganized a little bit. A new feature is the View Availability feature which allows users of BES to determine Free/Busy information of attendees, thereby avoiding conflicting meetings to be set. I also like the conference calling feature where the user would setup conference dial up numbers in the options and, upon checking the Conference Call check box, would then automatically dial the dial-in and conference room codes. Note, though, that the Conference Call feature is already present in 4.6.
  3. Browser – The browser seemed to load pages much faster than OS 4.6. Having said this, though, I had a problem with my browser where the whole app would freeze for about 20 seconds before the first page is loaded. This is likely a bug in the software which is understandable, since it is still in Beta. However, once the app becomes responsive again, the page loading is pretty quick.
  4. Media – A number of changes were done in the Media app. First, in the music player, the album art (which was in the middle of the screen in OS 4.6) is now off to the left side of the screen, while the right side shows track information. Meanwhile, for pictures, it seems that loading of the picture thumbnails seemed a bit quicker, which is good since the previous version was really slow.
  5. Profiles – Quite a number of changes were done on this app. First, in the profile drop down menu, there is an option at the bottom to Edit Profiles. In OS 5.0, another two generic options were included: Set Ring Tones/Alerts, and Set Contact Alerts. Upon going into the Set Ring Tone/Alerts page, it seems that the entire page layout has been changed whereby similar settings were grouped as opposed to the previous laundry list of alert triggers. Furthermore, there is more detail on how vibration mode is managed, which is pretty good.
  6. BB Messenger – The look of the contact list was changed slightly, and now features two lines per contact in the new OS. this makes the Messenger app look more like other IM apps.
  7. Playlists – There is a new Playlists application, although the version of the OS I used still uses a generic app icon. Opening the Playlists app brings up the playlists in the music player, thereby allowing quicker access to play a track.
  8. Files – There is a new Files app that allows searching and selection of a file in the memory card or in internal memory. It works just like a regular file explorer. Interesting though is that it seems possible to open a directory of files from a network location. I would think that this would be most useful for BES and MDS users such that shared folders on the network can be accessed from the BlackBerry. I havent tried this, though.
  9. Options – Most of the options pages were changed as well such that a number of dropdown windows were used to select options. Nothing major here, just a cleanup of the screens.

In summary, there are a number of interesting changes coming up in OS 5.0. Quite a number of the original BlackBerry apps have remained unchanged over the years, since the 7230s, as I remember. Over time, a number of media and other apps were included as new models were introduced, and as a result, a number of differences in look and feel started to emerge between the old apps and the newer ones. OS 5.0 tries to unify the look of the apps.

In terms of productivity features, the View Availability feature is very new, and is an excellent enhancement for productivity conscious users. Facebook is not supported in OS 5.0 and has yet to be fixed.

I probably wouldnt recommend the upgrade yet for regular users as the OS is still in beta. It is not quite clear when the new OS version will be released. In the meantime, enjoy OS 4.6 and look out for a few new things coming soon in OS 5.0.

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