The new BlackBerry 10 looks very good. It may be too late to save RIM, but it’s certainly not too little. It’s loaded with great stuff. In fact, its keyboard is so terrific that I wish every manufacturer had it.
• On-the-fly next-word suggestions: This is probably its most impressive feature. The BB10 keyboard gives you suggestions for the next word in your phrase without your having to type a single letter of that word. It works similarly to Google instant search string guesses.
The phone statistically knows which words are more probable to come after the one you just typed, then it displays those words over the corresponding keys. So if you are writing “I’m going to eat a” and one of the suggested words is “tomato”, it will appear over the T. Swipe the key up and done, the word is up in the text. This has the potential to greatly speed up the typing process.
And like other keyboard solutions already do, it also gives suggestions as you type, placing them over the keys. The entire mechanism is extremely intuitive.
• Simultaneous language support: The operating system supports multiple languages simultaneously. Unlike other phones, you don’t have to click a button to change from English to Spanish or whatever. It’s smart enough to guess the language you are trying to communicate in, correcting it and even giving you suggestions as you go. In fact, you can start writing in another language in the middle of an email and the keyboard will automatically change to that language.
Maybe this is not important for single-language folks, but many people are bilingual. And, in the business world, chances are that international people will have to write both in English and their native tongue.
• The frets: The BB10 keyboard has frets between the key lines, just like its famous physical keyboards do. But this is not a skeuomorphic gimmick. It’s a useful graphical feature that allows the user to focus better on the keys. Once you see it in action, you wonder why the other keyboards don’t make this differentiation.
• Continuous learning: Like other systems, the BB10 will learn any words that are not in its dictionary. Personal names, technical names, anything. But it will also learn from your habits and suggest full names depending on the context of your text. So, if your email or calendar subject line is “Tennis on Tuesday?” it will suggest recipients automatically based on that phrase and previous communications related to tennis. Other platforms do this as well, but it gives BlackBerry a powerful tool in combination with its other progressive features.
Obviously, we will have to get our hands on it for an extended period of time, but based on this first experience, I think these features make the BB10 keyboard the fastest and easiest to use onscreen keyboard. Certainly, one I wish my phone had.