This week, RIM showcased BlackBerry OS 6 running on its gorgeous new Torch 9800 touch/QWERTY smartphone. The new operating system was described by RIM President Mike Lazaridis as “not only fresh and exciting but also familiar”.
Familiarity is something that we’ve seen a lot of from recent BlackBerry OS updates and it often gets interpreted as a failure to innovate. However, there are enough changes in BlackBerry 6 to back up Lazaridis’ promise of something a little more different this time out.
The new operating system features a WebKit browser, designed to provide a quicker and more reliable web browsing experience. It will also support tabbed browsing for the first time, making it easier to flick between pages on the web. The browser will include an auto-wrap text zoom feature that reformats articles to fit the size of the screen.
Other features of OS 6 that Lazaridis highlights in his presentation of the Torch include the new Universal search and Universal inbox. The new search system will allow you to search feeds, email, contacts and settings all from one place, simply by typing keywords. Continuing the theme of integration, Universal inbox pulls together both email and feeds from social networks such as Twitter and Facebook into one place. Open a piece of communication and it will open instantly in its native environment. Click on the Back button and you’ll be taken straight back to your inbox.
I was also impressed by how the new multimedia environment looks on the Torch. All the album art flicking, scrolling thumbnails and the like bring the BlackBerry OS much closer to more leisure-based mobile platforms such as the iOS and the forthcoming Windows 7 Phone.
RIM also revealed this week that BlackBerry OS 6 will also be made available for three existing handsets: the Pearl 3G, Bold 9650 and Bold 9700. We’ll let you know as soon as we’ve had the chance to try it out. For now, here’s the full length video of the BlackBerry Torch announcement.